Michael Pollack stood before his third-grade class in San Jose, California and gave a report about how to read construction blueprints. Four years later, Pollack spent his weekends working as a construction laborer with carpenters, electricians and landscapers.
At 15, he opened his own painting company, hired 10 teenagers and made profits painting commercial structures.
At 18, Pollack graduated from Lincoln High School in San Jose and — an hour after receiving his diploma — he started building his first house after borrowing $5,000 from friends to buy a lot and another $40,000 for materials and other expenses.
Pollack continued building homes and live-in structures, including condos, until 1985 in California — then moved to Texas, where his profits began to soar.
At 21, he retired — for one day — after having constructed 10,000 residential units.
He found a new direction in life and decided to stop building homes and focus, instead, on revitalizing declining shopping centers and commercial structures.
That was more than 30 years ago.
‘‘I always knew I was going to be in real estate,’’ Pollack said. ‘‘Lots of kids dream about what they want to be when they grow up, but that was never an option for me. I always knew I was going to build things.’’
In 1991, he moved to the East Valley and continued looking for shopping centers that needed improvements.
Today, at 51, Pollack is among the most wealthy real estate entrepreneurs in the Valley and, he readily admits, among the most colorful.
He never attended college, but he is proud of his achievements.
‘‘I went to the most expensive school in the world,’’ said Pollack. ‘‘The School of Hard Knocks.’’
Pollack is founder and president of the Michael A. (Alan) Pollack Real Estate Investments, Inc., a Mesa-based company with more than 20 employees that is directly and indirectly involved in more than $1 billion worth of mostly commercial properties in Arizona, California and Nevada.
Pollack, the father of three, including Daniel Pollack, 26, a vice-president in the family firm, said he learned his determination, working skills and business ethics from his father, Robert Pollack and grandfather, Sidney Gambord.
Robert Pollack developed industrial and multi-family residential projects. In 1964, Michael’s father and grandfather merged and formed Pollack and Gambord Development, which for the next several decades grew to become one of the major development firms in the San Francisco Bay area.
‘‘From my dad, I learned to be conservative,’’ said Pollack. ‘‘not to get over-leveraged.’’
His grandfather moved to Arizona and lived across the street from his grandson for several years until his death at 94. He regularly visited the Mesa office, Pollack said.
Pollack, known as the ‘‘Plastic Surgeon of Real Estate,’’ through the years has purchased dilapidated shopping centers and renovated them, including his current headquarters which formerly was a declining former Reliable Furniture store and today is a plush office as well as a 6,000-square foot museum.
Pollock has collected more than 8,000 three-dimensional advertising items, including the original Chesterfield Cigarette Lady, Elvis Presley and Bob’s Big Boy.
He regularly conducts tours of his museum for students and seniors.
And when he’s not making profits on real estate sales or collecting valuable museum pieces, he plays drums for a band that performs for fundraising charitable events, including many agencies he supports such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley, Junior Achievement of Arizona, Special Olympics Association, Phoenix Rescue Mission, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society and Chandler Education Foundation.
He also openly supports local and national political leaders. President Bush is shaking Pollack’s hand in a large picture that hangs in Pollock’s office and the lobby of his movie theater at Elliot and McClintock roads. The theater also contains a photo of Vice President Dick Cheney with Pollack.
‘‘I consider it a honor to meet with a sitting president,’’ Pollack said.
‘‘I support politicians who are the most qualified. Their political affiliation or party doesn’t matter. I’m interested in how a person is doing their job.’’
When asked about the sudden resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the election, Pollack replied that there are ‘‘some things’’ in this country that have to be mended because ‘‘they’re broken.’’
Meanwhile, he said he will continue to invest in the real estate market, mostly in Arizona and Nevada because he sees a market trend that in the past has helped him make money when he purchased properties at reduced prices, renovated them and later sold and leased the space at a high profit.
‘‘The market is in for a correction. I don’t see doom-andgloom, but I do see a change,’’ Pollack said, referring to the decline in property prices combined with rising interest rates.
He also sees a move toward more high-rise residential areas in ‘‘Live Work’’ districts that contain retail shops and condos atop the shops.
‘‘I can’t see myself retiring,’’ Pollack said. ‘‘I enjoy the business. I love to create. And I don’t have to answer to anybody because our company owns all or part of everything we do.’’
MICHAEL A. POLLACK
Family: Wife, Cheryl; three sons, Daniel, 26, and two aged 7 and 13.
Resides in: East Valley.
Occupation: Real estate entrepreneur with headquarters at 1136 W. Baseline Road, Mesa.
Business: Michael A. Pollack Real Estate Investments.
Key Achievements: Since 1991, his real estate investment company and its affiliated entitities have become one of Arizona’s largest, privately-held shopping center owners and operators with more than 90 centers and investments and properties estimated at $1 billion.
Success philosophy: Watch the market closely, work hard and be creative. Suggestions: Always build high-quality projects you’re proud to have your name on. Don’t shave corners, don’t seek false economies, and don’t build ‘‘me too’’ developments.
Information: (480) 888-0888 or www.pollackinvestments.com