Entrepreneurialism and commercial real estate development are two words not often used in the same sentence. But for Bernard they’re one in the same. As President and CEO of Birnbaum Companies, Bernard prides himself on translating a vision for his family’s longstanding business and that includes branching out into other entrepreneurial pursuits.
On the real estate side, Birnbaum Companies’ portfolio of approximately 250,000 square feet includes retail, office and industrial properties with most holdings located in Upstate and Western NY. As part of the company’s evolution, Bernard drives the shift from investment grade property ownership to real estate development. Currently, the company is evaluating real estate development opportunities in Canada. In prior years, Birnbaum Companies has been active in New Jersey, Kansas, Missouri and Florida.
For Bernard, it is about more than doing business, it’s about doing good business for the community. “My team and I have been successful in identifying opportunity in the market, capitalizing on emerging trends and recreating the company to capitalize on what clients are actively seeking. Staying relevant is about more than just signing leases; it’s about creating opportunity, jobs, growing the economic base and giving back to the community. Then everyone prospers,” adds Bernard in describing his business philosophy and what drives him. “I take very seriously the legacy of my father, our founder Jay Birnbaum, and I think he would be proud at how we’ve grown and evolved.”
Bernard has been involved with half a dozen local start-up companies that range from technology to education. He holds different positions in startups from investor, advisor to board member. Currently Bernard is a board member for Splyce, Inc, an eSports company, and CypherWorx, a provider of online training.
Bernard also oversees the company’s other interests—The Warrior Factory and Quest House—two entrepreneurial start-ups that represent much promise for the future. When asked about branching out into new lines of business Bernard reflects, “I have been involved with startups as an advisor or an investor, and I finally thought to myself, ‘I invest in other people’s ideas, why don’t I invest in my own?’ We had promising ideas and have worked hard to bring these ideas to life.”
When he’s not re-inventing something in his business, Bernard serves on the Jewish Community Center of Rochester’s Board of Directors. He is also Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Strong National Museum of Play, a member of the Collections and Executive Committee, and chairs the Playmakers Committee charged with bringing more programming to adults within the museum. Most recently, Bernard was appointed to the Building Committee working on the upcoming museum expansion.
Professionally speaking, one of his proudest accomplishments is when he was an honoree of the 2016 Rochester Business Journal 40 under 40. “I will never forget the feeling when my dad, Jay, accompanied me to receive the award.”
When asked what words best describe Birnbaum Companies, Bernard replied, “Legacy and Rochester. We are a third-generation business and our family are sixth-generation Rochesterians. My children go to the same elementary school that I attended. We live, work and play here. I love Rochester and want to see it grow for generations to come.” When he isn’t engaged in one of his many entrepreneurial or nonprofit commitments, Bernard can be found spending quality time with his family.