Copaken Brooks Wins Kansas City Chamber’s Top Award

The Kansas City Star
Joyce Smith

May 15, 2013

A decades-old real estate company that has given Kansas Citians some of their favorite suburban shopping centers and offices was honored Wednesday by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber recognized Copaken Brooks as its 2013 Small Business of the Year and winner of the Mr. K Award, named after the late Ewing Kauffman, founder of Marion Laboratories and original owner of the Kansas City Royals.

About 520 people attended the chamber’s 27th annual small business awards luncheon at the Kansas City Convention Center.

The Mr. K award is based on growth in sales and number of employees, sustainability, good employee relations and community service. More than 1,090 companies were nominated for the honor, and 85 businesses went through the application process. Then a group of judges narrowed the list to the top 10 companies. Copaken Brooks was then selected for the top award.

Bucky Brooks, principal in Copaken Brooks, with Keith Copaken and Jon Copaken, said receiving the award was completely unexpected since the company is more typically involved in a support role for the success of its clients.

“But it has allowed us to meet so many great businesses and leaders, and it has been a fantastic rallying point for our company to step back and look at what we do and for our associates to be recognized for it,” he said at the luncheon.

The company has played a big part in where people shop and work, having developed more than 11 million square feet of retail and office space in the Kansas City area, as well as in St. Louis, southern Illinois, Long Island and New Jersey.

It traces its roots to Russian immigrant Herman Copaken, who came to Kansas City with his parents in 1907. His mother would buy houses, and his father, a carpenter, would convert the first floor to retail. In 1922, Herman opened his own real estate company, Copaken Kulka, with a partner.

In the 1950s, his son Paul Copaken, along with Paul’s brothers-in-law Lewis White and Irwin Blitt, established Copaken, White & Blitt. By the late 1990s, the third generation — Keith Copaken, Jon Copaken, Jerry White and David Bayer — were leading the company.

The company’s area development projects of note include Oak Park Mall and Renaissance Office Park in Overland Park, downtown’s Town Pavilion and the 1201 Walnut office towers, and the Plaza Colonnade just south of the Country Club Plaza. It also developed such former shopping centers as Bannister Mall and Indian Springs Shopping Center.

In mid-2010, Copaken, White & Blitt merged with First Scout Realty Advisors, teaming their specialties to form Copaken Brooks. Copaken, White & Blitt had focused on property owner representation, development and acquisition, and First Scout specialized in corporate tenant representation and advisory services. Copaken Brooks now has nearly 50 employees at its corporate office in the Town Pavilion.

“We are proud to call Kansas City home for three generations,” Brooks said, adding that it is the best place to run a small business, do business with others and raise a family. Kansas City’s central location and “decent” airport also allow the company to service clients across the country instead of using a national referral network that many of its competitors use, he said.

Copaken Brooks attributes its success to a commitment to “integrity, excellence, accountability, strong relationships and engagement in the community.” Other key components include communicating the company’s vision, goals and objectives, and measuring achievements and growth. At regular company events, each department gives updates on its goals.

“It’s nice to be recognized and acknowledged, but the satisfaction is to have a vision for a property, for a development, and then to execute it so … you have a great project that people can enjoy,” said Keith Copaken.

Copaken Brooks has several sites under development in the area, as well as 2 million square feet in the pre-development phases, including City Center Lenexa, which will include the new corporate headquarters for Perceptive Software.

In recent years, the real estate firm also has put together several investment funds that have acquired more than $200 million of commercial property, mostly in Texas. It leases and manages more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate and provides corporate real estate services throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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