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An Interview of John Gallant

Interviewer: Frank Derfler

Q: I understand you have a nickname. Half of Islamorada knows you as “food”, and the other half knows you as John? How did that happen?

“I wish it were more of an interesting story, like how Wood got his nickname. But the short version is that it was given to me by a music producer named Gudis out of Nashville. It was around the time I had purchased a sailboat, a 38’ Island Trader. Gudis started calling me Fast Food Johnny, as I may have been a little bit more impulsive about buying boats than I am today. Or not, who is keeping track anyway? It was shortened to fast food, and then down to just “food”. It’s not the nickname I would have given myself, but I suppose if you pick your own, well… I guess that would be a little weird, wouldn’t it?”

Q: I’ll stick to John. Tell me a little bit about what you did before moving down to the Keys.

“I suppose it’s a little bit of a hodge-podge of things that sound a lot more fun in print. After high school, I joined the Marine Corps in ‘93, and was trained at Keesler AFB in meteorology. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, but had a recurring shoulder injury, and was medically separated in 1997. Whenever I wasn’t needed in the weather station I had been working on or around boats, and had also picked up a yacht broker’s license. From there I was hired by a team of investment bankers as a “toy manager”. I ran their boat, drove their limo, and helped with their events. Somehow I ended up in a Class 14 race car, running the course for the Baja 1000 in Mexico with these investment bankers and their friends, as they put together a fairly large oil and gas IPO. It was a great job for a single, 21 year-old guy. Watching the creation, organization, and promotion of corporations was fascinating. There wasn’t so much as a minute I wasn’t paying attention, or taking notes. Flash forward to now, I truly enjoy functioning as a business broker, although it’s not as intense and challenging an activity as creating and selling a publically traded company to Halliburton.”

Q: So, when did you end up coming back to Florida?

“I returned to Florida in ‘99, and began working as a superintendent for H&G Structures, Inc. building Adult Living Facilities, restaurants, and large box retail stores. I ended my career in construction having worked in over 25 States. The travelling had worn me out, and I had been accepted to The University of Florida in 2007. It was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up, and I am glad I didn’t.”

Q: And you have been here for how long now?

“Almost 8 years I think. It’s strange, I think time actually moves faster when you are enjoying life, and where you live.”

Q: What is one thing that makes you tick that people don’t know about you?

“I love a challenge. Problem solving and conflict resolution is something I am drawn to. There is nothing more rewarding to me than to do what others feel is impossible.

As an example, during college I took a hiatus to Western Illinois University, to research a crop called Pennycress. There were major issues getting the seeds to germinate, and armed with nothing but curiosity and an interest in finding the solution, I ended up developing a seed treatment that took the germination rate from 5-10% to well over 90%. I swear, I’m not bragging, it wasn’t anything but sheer determination to succeed that led me to a solution that people with Doctorates in Agronomy had said was a fool’s errand. Pennycress is still being developed as an alternative fuel crop, but those who are working with it are still using my seed treatment to break dormancy. I like to say I wasn’t smart enough to know it wasn’t possible.”

Q: You came into town and started a real estate business. So, how’s business?

“I have been blessed with an exceptional team of solid and dependable agents. Blue 9 Realty is coming of age, and really, I am too. I admit I was held back initially, thinking there were secrets I didn’t know about how to be a successful Real Estate Broker and support my agents.  A good friend reminded me recently that success in any business is all about relationships, and success in real estate is no different. Success is built through developing relationships based on trust, diligence, and knowledge.”

“Let me add, the business was actually incorporated in Clearwater in June of 2000. The name change to Blue 9 Realty, Inc. was done in June of 2014 when I started a branch office in the keys. Technically we are 17 years old this month!”

Q: You serve as the membership director of The Upper Keys Rotary, but you are new to Rotary, correct?

“Yes and no. Although I am a newer Rotarian, I have been working with Rotary groups for over a decade. I was involved in cleft palate surgeries and dental missions in Peru, as well as some smaller rehab projects at an orphanage in Ukraine. Those adventures were a defining moment in my life, and it is where I developed a love for Rotary International. There are some places you participate in that are sacrosanct; you do it because it fulfills you, not because you expect anything in return.

Q: What other philanthropic endeavors get you motivated, you were vying for The Big Kahuna recently, correct?

“I was! It was a fundraiser for The Good Health clinic. Talk about a great place to donate your time, talent or treasure! What they are able to do with the money they receive is absolutely amazing. The life-ring I was given as a “runner-up” was immediately hung on my office wall, and is something I am very proud of. Although I didn’t win, I am so happy that I participated, and satisfied with what I was able to raise for them.

There is a fundraising campaign I am working on right now, and it’s a sensitive subject. Two of the people who are responsible for my move to the keys are David and Suzy Feder. I love them dearly. Recently, Suzy has been battling cancer, and it has presented a real challenge for them. With as much as they have done for others in this community, I don’t think many people have heard a peep about their struggles. I am working with a company called YouCaring (a no-fee online donation site) to help them with medical and ancillary expenses. Let’s make sure the web address gets put in this article for anyone who wants to repay their kindness and love.”


Q: You mentioned trust as being important to your business.  How does that work?

Since I was young I have worked with both confidential and classified information. In the Marine Corps I held a Top Secret clearance, the reasoning being, that as a weather observer, I would know where the pilots were going before they did. In the private sector, I have worked with clients who valued their privacy, and have been doing so for most of my life.

I’d love to tell you about all the great things I have been able to be a part of, but even 20 years later, they aren’t my stories to tell.  You earn trust through diligence in keeping the confidence of others, and I supply diligence in abundance.”

Q: Where does the name Blue 9 Realty come from?

“I should start by saying that I volunteer with FWCC as a crocodile response agent. There was a crocodile I had worked with, that was subsequently killed in Lower Matecumbe. I was disturbed by the events that transpired that day, and the senseless killing of a Federally Protected Species. That crocodile was identified by a blue tag that had the number 9 on it, and soon thereafter I used that as the name. It was a way to remember a natural resource that was taken from the community by someone who felt their wants were more important than everyone else’s.”

Q: And going forward?

“We need to attract and train more agents who have the same core beliefs. We need agents who can prove their outstanding character and who have been attracted to our firm because of our beliefs and aspirations. I believe in supporting Blue 9 agents with the latest tools and in coaching them with knowledge of the local market, negotiation skills, and etiquette. We will

achieve success through by ensuring that our customers experience the highest levels of service.”

“My significant other, Kali Evans, has run a branch office of Newmeyer Mortgage in the area for almost two years. She has really seen some great successes lately, and I couldn’t be happier to see her business progress! She shares the same care and concern for her clients as we do. It has been a pleasure to watch her develop a depth of knowledge and understanding within that industry, and help buyers navigate what has become a very complex process. It has been really neat to watch her business develop as agents from other companies have reached out to her to help their buyers as well.”

Q:  Most people have experience with a real estate agent. But, what does a broker do?

“A good broker assists agents with anything they need to succeed, be it paperwork, showings, scheduling, or business development. I feel it is my responsibility to do more than build a trustworthy brand and provide an office. If an agent is willing to ascribe to our company ethos, I am willing to give of my time and abilities to help them achieve their goals. I’m not here to just make money off their production. I am here to build the best real estate brokerage I can; a brokerage that agents are proud to work for, a brokerage that people are happy to use and recommend, and a brokerage whose name is synonymous with the highest level of ethics, care and adherence to our customer’s directions.”

Q: It seems to me we have covered a lot of turf, if we go much further they are going to have to use the same font size you would find at the bottom of a pharmaceutical advertisement. Is there anything else you would like to add before we wrap this up?

“I would like to thank you for your time Frank, and to say that it will be great to see everyone at Rotary’s Fourth of July celebration at Founder’s Park!”