One of the newest additions to the Mosaic family of brokers is an already-familiar face for many Ashevillians. The originating force behind restaurants Gan Shan Station and Gan Shan West, Patrick O’Cain sat down to talk with us about tackling the new challenge of being a real estate broker.
For folks who don’t yet know you, tell us a little bit about your background.
I actually grew up right here in Asheville — my parents still live in the same Sunset Mountain house — but after college, I decided to experience more of the world before coming back home. I lived in France for a few years (my majors at NC State were English and French), and their historic food culture started me thinking about a culinary career. Then I bopped back and forth between Charleston and Asheville for a bit — I’d enrolled in the culinary program at AB Tech and got an internship at McCrady’s in Charleston. I didn’t finish the AB Tech degree, and chose to stay on working at McCradys to build up my skill set. Eventually, I got the chance to be a part of the opening team at an Asian restaurant in Charleston. A year and a half later, that experience served me well when I moved back home to Asheville and decided to open my own restaurant, Gan Shan Station.
That’s quite a change. What made you want to be a real estate broker?
It sort of happened in a roundabout way. In opening the original Gan Shan in 2014, we converted the space from an old derelict gas station to something fit for restaurant use. The planning and build out process started in June and wrapped up in December. I had never taken on a project like that before and learned a lot about renovation and reuse. Quickly I was thrown into the world of construction – working with architects, designing kitchen layout, communicating daily with contractors. The whole process was a lot to take on but the fruits of that ‘trial by fire’ labor ultimately paid off with the restaurant opening and a subsequent honor by the preservation society of Asheville of a Griffin Award for Adaptive Reuse of an Existing Property.
After we opened the second location in West Asheville, that meant I had two solid rounds of experience with commercial property and renos/reuses. This planted the seed in developing a curiosity and interest in real estate. With restaurants, hospitality is at the forefront. Think of it as customer service on steroids. This allowed me experience in working with people, understanding needs, establishing expectations, etc. which complemented working with people in real estate as they navigate what is quite often the largest purchase of their life. So, I concurrently began a career as a broker in real estate and have been doing that for the last three years.
Oh, OK — so that was a more natural move than it might first appear. Now that you’ve had a chance to get your feet wet, what do you feel are your realty superpowers?
Matching people with properties they may not have considered because they were using only third-party online searches, like Zillow, Redfin, and the like. You need that human element, that professional to help support you in this big life decision and to draw out why you want what you want in a property. It’s really all about understanding the whys, not just the whats and wheres. Also, the contract and negotiation aspect of real estate and helping clients to establish realistic expectations, which can sometimes be a difficult conversation but certainly not one worth shying away from.
What are your passion projects/subjects?
I’m really into cycling — gravel, mountain and road. Everything–long rides, short rides, It’s a great community and we live in one of the best locations in the world for cycling. Also, as you might expect, I still love cooking.
What ways do you enjoy giving back to our community?
I still look at it as a way of feeding the community, not just literally. I’m a big supporter of Asheville on Bikes (you probably saw that coming). And over the past year, while in the process of losing a dear friend, I became involved with the Center for Conscious Living & Dying. Witnessing their community-supported hospice care, I was encouraged to learn how to live life more consciously, not just in default mode, and how to make death more of a celebration of life. I’m also an Asheville Symphony board member and I was on the Asheville Independent Restaurants board for five years.
Do you have certain neighborhoods/communities in which you especially love to work?
I am very fond of helping people find their perfect spot in Asheville and in some of the really interesting, fun satellite communities like Black Mountain, Old Fort, Swannanoa. I really like Lake Lure, also. My family has had a little cabin down there since I was 2 years old, so I grew up on the lake and am very familiar with the area. Cycling allows me to discover a lot of the different communities within an hour radius of Asheville.
What is the most special thing about the AVL area?
It’s simply got a magic, poetic lure that pulls you in. The majesty of the Blue Ridge is hard to quantify, qualify, or whatever you want to call that. It's just a stirring of the soul. Maybe read Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and you just might start to understand it.
Connect with Patrick at Patrick@MyMosaicRealty.com or 828-808-6908