YOU CAN'T miss him: He parks his silver Harley-Davidson
right out front on the sidewalk, adjusts his black leather jacket to fit
jauntily on his 6-foot-2 frame and heads for the Plaza Caf� on the corner,
where his regular morning order-one paper cup of coffee, milk, no sugar, with
lid on-is waiting.
As soon as his slick black cowboy boots start striding down the street, people
in the neighborhood come running up and follow him wherever he goes.
They wave, they shout hello from the opposite side of the street, they shake
his hand, they give a hug, they stop him and ask him how his family's doing.
Just who is this guy, anyway? Some celebrity? Nah, he says. Just Demetrius
Partridge-as in Partridge Realty, a family-run business at 29-38 30th Ave. that
has been an Astoria institution for more than four decades.
You can't miss Partridge Realty any more than Partridge himself: It's the
building on the corner decorated with the psychedelic mural of the Parthenon
rendered in acid colors.
And Partridge, a Manhasset resident, is not the only family member involved in
the metropolitan area's real-estate industry. His wife, two brothers, a sister,
sister-in-law, niece, nephew and cousin are all in the business, spread among
four firms. Together, the Partridges own more than 800 rental units in Astoria,
Jamaica and Brooklyn.
Demetrius Partridge, who runs the original family business, doesn't like fancy
titles or even full names, so visitors just call him what everybody in the
neighborhood has called him all his life: Demey.
"Hey, Demey," calls the guy from across the street who wants to buy a second
house. "Have you found me anything? No? Please keep something good for me."
"Hey, Demey," says the elderly woman taking a morning constitutional as she
launches into a seemingly endless conversation, in Greek, with her favorite
native son of Astoria.
"I usually have to say hello to about 18 million people who stop me on the
street," he says in English as he finally breaks away from her. "A lot of my
tenants pay rent in person, so I recognize them."
Knowing the neighborhood and knowing the people in the neighborhood is all part
of the real-estate business in Astoria.
Partridge, 44, has not only worked around 30th Street and 30th Avenue for
nearly 30 years,he was born here, baptized here, attended elementary school,
junior high and high school here, got married here and continued to live here
until 14 years ago, when he moved to Manhasset.
That's why he can tell you that the butcher lives in this house. The Swiss
family owns the house on the corner. There's a Greek family over there, and by
the way, did you ever hear of Christopher Walken, the actor? Well, his family's
bakery used to be on the corner-that one right there -and Christopher used to
work behind the counter.
"I pretty much know every family on the block," he says. "Not only do I know
them, I've sold most of them their properties."
Although the Partridge firm does sell properties, most of its business has been
in rentals since its founding in 1957 by Demey's father, Harry, a Cyprus
native who settled in Astoria in 1925.
As a start, Harry Partridge bought a big two-story house with eight bedrooms,
filling the first floor with his family and the second with renters who paid $5
per week. He made that house the family homestead(his son Harry Jr. still
lives there)then bought some more rooming houses and eventually sold them so he
could buy apartment buildings.
That Harry would make his mark was certain: With his big bow tie, bowler and
Cadillac Fleetwood, he was every bit as flamboyant as Demey, his youngest son,
has become, with his leather jacket, cowboy boots and Harley.
By the time Harry Partridge died in 1988, three of his four sons had entered
the business and expanded it: Right around the corner from Demey's Partridge
Realty in Astoria is Chris Partridge Realty; Michael Partridge Realty is in
Their sister, Katherine Partridge, and Demey's wife, Victoria, are agents for
Aug Millang Inc. in Manhasset. Chris' wife, Carmen, and Chris' son,
Christopher, work with Chris; Diane Partridge, Demey's niece, works in Demey's
office; and Demey's cousin, Melani Zaharis, is the manager of his five-person
"The Partridge family is the typical American success story," says City Council
Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria). "I've known them all my life. The
Partridges are the class of the [REAL ESTATE]field ... I know of cases of
people who really needed a home, and they came to the rescue."
And, he says, they have made other contributions to the community: It was Harry
Partridge who was instrumental in establishing Athens Square Park, a "little
miniature Greece" filled with columns and larger-than-life classic statues,
right across the street from Partridge Realty.
Real estate was "something I was born into," Demey Partridge says. I started
working for my father at 18. At 19, I rebelled, moved to California for six
months, but came back to the family business."
His first position with the firm was as a super's helper and handyman, whose
duties included fixing faucets. At 18, he got his salesman's license, and at
20, he bought his first apartment building, a 42-unit building in Astoria.
When he sold it, he invested the money in gold, and by age 21 had made half a
million dollars. "My father begged me to buy more property, but I invested the
money in the stock market and lost it all, plus I had margin calls of $30,000
to $40,000. When I told him, I thought he would be mad, but instead he burst
out laughing and said, 'My boy, you just paid for your education.' That was the
turning point of my life."
Through the years, Partridge has watched Astoria, "the melting pot of the
world," change. "When I grew up," he says, "it was Italian, Irish and German,
and we were the only Greek family. Now, Greek restaurants line the streets.
There are a lot of Indians, Russians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Pakistanis,
Ukrainians, Kosovo refugees and a large influx of kids from the Midwest who
think they have discovered Europe."
Elena Kaminskaia, who came to the United States from St. Petersburg, Russia
seven years ago, is one of the newer property owners in Astoria. Before she met
Partridge, she, her husband, her grandmother, two cats and two dogs were
living in a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria. When she told Partridge she
wanted to buy a condo, he talked her out of it and told her to buy a house
instead because it was a better investment. Not only did she buy one house in
Astoria, she got her real-estate license, joined Demey's office and is getting
ready to purchase home No. 2 in Astoria, which she will rent out.
Although Astoria is still largely a blue-collar immigrant area, it is
undergoing a gradual gentrification, with the children of Long Island baby
boomers discovering it.
"This is becoming the Brooklyn Heights of Queens," Partridge says. "A lot of my
neighbors in Manhasset are from Astoria or other parts of Queens. They went to
Long Island to raise their families, and then their families come back here."
One of the newcomers is Telly Karoussos, 24, of Garden City, who just rented a
two-bedroom apartment at Newtown Manor, a circa-1938 Art Deco Partridge Realty
building on Newtown Avenue in Astoria that has 54 units.
"Manhattan is too expensive, and Long Island is too far away to commute to
Manhattan," he says. "I like Astoria because there is good, cheap Greek food,
and I'm good and Greek. I have this gigantic, beautiful apartment for $1,350."
If that apartment were not rent-stabilized, Partridge adds, it would be around
$1,800 because "rents are going through the roof."
Partridge says one-bedroom apartments in Astoria are going for $900 to $1,200;
two-bedrooms for $1,100 to $1,500 and three-bedrooms for $1,200 to $1,800.
"Two years ago," Partridge says, "the rents were 30 to 40 percent less. And we
have 100 people who want to rent each available apartment. We could use another
10 apartment buildings here, no problem."
Even the old-timers, whom Partridge calls the "locals," are cashing in on the
boom, but they are not renting, they are buying. "They always buy more than one
house because it is income," Partridge says. "They scrimp and they save, and
they have good business sense."
As Partridge is leaving Newtown Manor after a quick inspection, he runs into
Emma Marcodes, one of the old-timers.
"Emma, how come you don't come to my office any more? You're doing great," he
tells her. "How old are you?"
"I'm 89," she tells him.
"Don't lie to me, Emma," he teases. "I think you're older than that. The last
time I met you, you were 91," he says as he gives her a hug.
It is because of people like Marcodes, Partridge says, that he loves the
real-estate business in Astoria.
"The neighborhood people are true grit, and that's my attraction," he says. "It
keeps me very real to see people, blue-collar people who are speaking broken
English, who are struggling. People still walk into this office and say, 'If it
wasn't for your father telling me to buy a house, I wouldn't have done it.'"