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HOUSTON-In a slam dunk on the personnel front, the Retail Connection LP has picked up David Stukalin to lead a full-service shop in Greater Houston. Stukalin starts Monday, ending a five-year run as regional president for the Weitzman Group and a 10-year career with the firm.

“I’ve had a wonderful relationship with Herb and the Dallas staff,” Stukalin tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s been a tremendous journey. And, I’m looking forward to working with the most prolific retail group in the state.” The plan is to replicate the model that the Retail Connection has built in the past three years since its launch in Dallas.

Stukalin, who also gets a partnership stake, says he’s finalizing an office lease for a spot in the Park Laurette Building along Memorial Drive to ready the stage to start interviewing brokers. The plan is to have six to eight veterans on board within six months. “My goal is to grow it responsibly,” he says. “With the platform that we’re providing, we feel confident we will be able to focus on hiring experienced personnel in the Greater Houston market.”

Stukalin says “the transition should be fairly swift” as he exits the top slot of Dallas-based Weitzman’s 25-employee regional office. Steve Chandler, city partner for affiliate Cencor Realty Services, will be the team’s acting chief, according to Marshall Mills, president and COO of the sister companies.

“There’s a lot of talent in the Houston market. We’re confident we’ll fill David’s position with another extraordinary broker who’s not only a producer, but a leader,” Mills says. “We enjoyed working with David and we wish him the best in his new endeavor.”

Stukalin’s new job puts him back at the side of long-time business associates and friends, who left the Weitzman camp to start the Retail Connection. Until now, its Houston deals were brokerage-focused, so they were easily handled from Dallas. The full-court press is putting a team on the ground for development and investment as well.

“We certainly plan to be an investor in Houston and our primary platform is development,” stresses Steven Lieberman, CEO of the Retail Connection. The goal has been to open a full-service office in the city, but it was made possible by “the function of David becoming available,” he explains, “and having the right person to build that operation around.”

Stukalin, with a long roster of leading industry awards, has built a coveted black book of national retailers. He actively represents J.C. Penney Co., Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc., LA Fitness plc, JPMorgan Chase Bank and Ace Hardware Corp., all of which have footprints in Retail Connection properties.

Lieberman’s team had a weighted collection of national retailers when it began and has beefed up the roster to more than 125 names. Within three years, the seasoned retail team amassed more than 17 million sf in leasing assignments, bought six retail operating companies, built a 600,000-sf-plus investment portfolio and is developing more than 1.5 million sf in four projects. The firm also has an office in San Antonio, but Lieberman’s not saying if Austin is next. “Stay tuned,” he says. “You know there’s going to be a next chapter.”

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