Like father, like son and darn proud of it, that’s how 35-year-old developer Craig Saur views his role as the new leader of Conrad Properties, the company his father, Robert ‘Bob’ Saur, founded in 1971. In addition to his day-to-day duties as the company’s president and CEO, the younger Saur keeps busy at home with his wife, Stephanie, and 2-year-old daughter, Sophia.
LN: When did you know you’d join the family business?
CS: I always knew this is what I wanted to do. My dad has always been a true entrepreneur, and I was fascinated by what he did, it’s what we knew growing up. When we went on vacations, some of the time would be spent checking out different real estate projects.
LN: HOW did you begin your career at Conrad?
CS: I wanted to get involved as soon as I could, but my dad always told us we had to work somewhere else first. I had just finished graduate school at Stanford with a master’s in industrial engineering and was looking to do something else. But I decided then it was the right time. I officially started in 1996 as a financial analyst and assistant project manager. But growing up, I had already worked the different aspects, from carpentry to maintenance to the front office. I officially became company president and CEO in May 2007.
LN: Aside from it being the family business, what drew you to this line of work?
CS: I had plenty of opportunities to work with my dad, who always told us it’s better to work for ourselves than for someone else. Our family is very close, and we always enjoy talking about the different aspects of the business. I just love real estate, it’s a great entrepreneurial business. Every project we create is from scratch, and we get the opportunity to make the next project better. When we sell out of something, we go back to the drawing board. Building something from the planning to seeing the finished project, it’s not something everyone gets to do.
LN: What is your average day like?
CS: I’m responsible for issues that need to be dealt with immediately, from how to handle the purchase of a condo to capital constraints. I also take time during the day to plan a strategic outlook and shape where we’ll take the company the next five years. I’m busy putting together deals for new projects and working through different leads.
LN: Which current projects are you most proud of?
CS: Maryland Walk, which was completed in November 2007, West Village in Creve Coeur and 4545 on Lindell Boulevard are some of my pet projects. I’m proud of the quality and the great price points. I know we can’t do these any better.
LN: Do you have anything in the works?
CS: We are looking forward to renovating the Daniele Hotel in Clayton, which will be turned into a Hotel Indigo (a chain of hip, lifestyle, boutique hotels). We also are under contract to develop 60,000 square feet of apartment units and boutique office space across the street from it.
LN: Is the lifestyle housing trend here to stay?
CS: Yes, and it’s because everyone is placing a premium on time, it’s the most important factor in people’s lives. This is especially true for couples who don’t have kids and empty-nesters: They don’t want to spend time taking care of a house. They live active lives and travel, and they want to live closer to the city. That, coupled with the digital age, is making people realize that they have more important things to do than sit in traffic.
LN: How do you like doing business in Clayton?
CS: It’s a community that embodies what we often sell, which is the idea of a lifestyle community. We believe in lifestyle housing and in Clayton, we’re in the heart of it. This is also where my family has lived for the last 30 years. I grew up here, and my parents still live here.
LN: What other areas do you keep an eye on?
CS: We’ve already made some investments in the city, such as Metrolofts in the Central West End and M Lofts in Lafayette Square. As the price of construction and land continues to grow, we have to be selective. There’s a bunch of different communities I’m paying attention to. It would be interesting to see how Ballpark Village and the area around it take shape. Also, in Chesterfield, I’m interested to see what will happen with its new downtown area. Kirkwood and Webster Groves have always been ideal places. We’re also trying to expand elsewhere in the country. We have a Phoenix office (Conrad Properties West) run by my brother, Eric, so we’re trying to diversify in terms of products and locations.
LN: what are your goals for the company?
CS: We are in the process of revamping and going back to what’s important: having our employees embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. We also want to focus on quality and become more marketing-oriented. We not only want to sell projects, we want to sell excitement.