EAST COUNTY — Although Julia DeCastro moved to Sarasota more than a decade ago for a more relaxed lifestyle, the soccer mom’s career has been anything but slow.
A Virginia native who grew up just outside of Washington, D.C., DeCastro can’t shake the big city hustle she has known throughout her career in residential and commercial real estate sales.
She looks for new challenges and finds ways to accomplish them, such as her most recent feat of leasing 100% of Lakewood Ranch Main Street, she said.
“I’m kind of an overachiever,” DeCastro said.
DeCastro left her position as director of leasing and sales for Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty and property manager of Lakewood Ranch Main Street June 6. Now, she’s focusing on her next challenge — The Mall at University Town Center.
The mother of two started in specialty leasing for the under-construction mall June 16.
The mall opens Oct. 16, giving DeCastro less than six months to build relationships with business owners and secure contracts with them, she said.
Her new job centers on leasing short-term spaces in the mall, such as kiosks and other temporary sales fixtures.
“The kiosk owner doesn’t sign a long lease. Specialty leasing is more of a trial basis,” DeCastro said.
“Owners get to know the area and its demographics to see how well their business would do in the mall before committing to a store. They test the waters first.”
The kiosks often found in other area shopping centers, such as Westfield Sarasota Square and International Plaza malls, sell cell phone accessories, beauty products and a range of other items passersby may need.
Typically, kiosk owners lease spaces for 60 to 90 days and usually no longer than a year.
DeCastro welcomes the change of pace.
“I’ll be working with different businesses all the time. It’ll always be changing,” DeCastro said, noting merchants on Lakewood Ranch Main Street sign three-year leases. “That’s exciting to me.”
Only four days into her new role, DeCastro has already started to set personal goals.
Once she understands the mall’s policies and procedures for acquiring clients, she plans to travel to other shopping hubs to see which kiosks those centers feature.
She also plans to search online stores that don’t have an active physical presence in malls to see if a temporary space might appeal to those business owners.
DeCastro looks forward to finding products online and hidden in stores and having business owners display them in a separate kiosk.
“Taking something fabulous and making it stand out — I just love that,” DeCastro said. “That’s what these kiosks can do.”
Most importantly, she must remember her demographic when scouting out prospects, she said.
“We’re not just going to see people from Lakewood Ranch at this mall,” DeCastro said. “This is one of the only, if not the only, high-end malls between here and Naples. Our customers will be from Sarasota, Tampa, all over.”
DeCastro started her career in leasing and sales in the ’90s, when she worked for The Hanover Co. — a Texas-based private real estate company that specializes in developing high-quality, multi-family residential properties.
After leasing apartments, managing complexes and moving to Houston to be a regional sales director, Florida’s beaches and a sales manager position brought her and her family to Sarasota in 2003.
DeCastro, a University Place resident, joined the Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty team five years ago.
Saying goodbye to coworkers and Main Street business owners felt bittersweet, but DeCastro said her previous position’s emphasis on teamwork prepared her for her new job.
“The timing just worked out,” DeCastro said. “I felt like I accomplished what I came to accomplish (100% leasing on Main Street). It’s time for a new journey.”
Julia DeCastro has two daughters: Savannah, 12, and Emma, 11.
She’s an avid runner and exercises three to four mornings a week.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected]