Albert H. Small, Jr.

Sonny Small

Real Estate Developer

My family began here three generations ago. My grandfather was born in Washington and my father was born in Washington and I have a son born in Washington, so we represent four generations of Jews in Washington . . .My grandfather worked in his father’s store, my great-grandfather who I never knew, worked in his store right down on 7th Street, and had a hardware store catering to the building trades . . . My grandfather put together many real estate deals as a broker, and provided mortgage financing for those deals.

My grandfather was primarily a commercial developer; my father is primarily an apartment and commercial developer. I focused on the pure residential homebuilding side, and I actually gravitated to Northern Virginia…. People used to joke, “Sonny, you’re going over to Virginia. There are no Jewish people over there. We don’t even know where the bridge is to cross over the river to get there! How did you find that to begin with, let alone make a career out of that environment?”

And…what’s been fascinating to see in Northern Virginia, which was very true when I started there twenty-five years ago, was the Jewish population was actually quite small. It has grown enormously during the years I’ve been there. We used to joke that if we built a hundred houses a year, we might sell to the one Jew who moved to Northern Virginia. Now 20, 30, 40% of our sales are to Jews moving to the area who are working in the high tech firms that have now been very prolific in Northern Virginia. …I used to drive by to one project on a regular basis, and I saw a sign, “Coming Soon” for a synagogue. And I now go by there, and I see the signs, “We are now on our third addition to the building.” …And now we’re building out in Loudoun County, Virginia, and I’m seeing the same story unfold as you get further out, and here’s a new sign, “Coming Soon.”

June 2, 2005