Northwest suburban realtors' podcast, videos put spotlight on local businesses
Jason Stallard and Mike Mollerdino call themselves "community-first realtors."
"People don't buy their house for the four walls," Stallard said. "People buy for the communities."
"We are building our business by putting our community at the forefront," Mollerdino adds.
The two are partners in The Stallard Group, based in Barrington and about to move to Hoffman Estates. Stallard runs the residential side of the business while Mollerdino runs the commercial side.
And lest you think the two are merely spouting off feel-good slogans, take a look at Love Local -- OFF 53, a social media-based enterprise they run. It consists of videos, produced by Stallard, and a podcast, produced by Mollerdino, featuring interviews with businesses, organizations and nonprofits located around Route 53 in the Northwest suburbs.
The videos -- more than 50 so far, garnering thousands of views each -- are posted on Facebook and YouTube. The podcast, launched earlier this year, has 14 episodes so far and is available on Spotify and other platforms.
Stallard and Mollerdino make no secret of the fact that Love Local -- OFF 53 started as a way to make connections and grow their business. But it has turned into a labor of love that has enriched them as much, or more, personally as it has professionally, they said.
"We really fell in love with the stories," said Stallard, a Palatine resident. "I like the story of the human spirit and being able to talk with people, and being able to understand where they are coming from and why they do the things that they do."
"You drive by these businesses every day but you don't realize the hard work and ethics that it takes to create that business and stay viable for decades," adds Mollerdino, of Arlington Heights.
The two met in 2014 when they worked as health care service contractors. They partnered three years later, after discovering they both had obtained a real estate license. They started creating video content around 2018, initially with the name OFF 53. The COVID-19 pandemic was a turning point in realizing that local businesses needed all the help they could get, and they changed the name to Love Local -- OFF 53 in May 2020.
Stallard is the optimistic visionary who pushed for the enterprise, while Mollerdino is the realist with the "how do we make it happen?" attitude.
The content of Love Local -- OFF 53 is about the human experience, they say.
"I don't care how great their burger is," Mollerdino said. "What I care about is their story. The person who immigrated and who had to take out loans and now is a booming business ... that's the story."
"We get to see the heart and soul of these businesses," Stallard said.
So what are their favorite videos and podcasts so far?
"As a creative, it's always the last one for me," Stallard said.
Mollerdino points to podcast episodes about Clearbook, a nonprofit based in Arlington Heights that serves people with disabilities, and Betsy Skibinski of Palatine, who owns Betsy's One of a Kind costume jewelry shop.
The latest video, to be released Dec. 3, spotlights B's Shrimp & Fish in Schaumburg, owned by Kenton and Elizabeth Bradley of South Elgin.
"(Stallard) brought a lot out of us. How long we've been in business, what brought us to the area, where we get our recipes," Kenton Bradley said.
The interview got emotional at times, he said. It delved into the story of the Bradleys as teenage parents raising three children, and how they achieved their dream of opening the restaurant in September 2020, after a delay due to the pandemic.
Thanks to Love Local -- OFF 53, "we go places and people recognize Jason," Mollerdino said. "It makes me super uncomfortable," Stallard said.
Certainly, the enterprise has helped grow their real estate business, the two said.
"For sure. It's allowed us to build deeper and stronger relationship," Stallard said. "But people ask, 'what is the ROI (return on investment)?' and I just laugh. What's the ROI on the human spirit?"
Mollerdino agrees. "Has it helped people know who The Stallard Group is? Yes. Have we been recognized? Yes. But I'd say it's more of an act of giving and serving than it is feeding our income."