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Who is the Strip Mall Guy? (AKA Real Estate Trent)

An enigmatic guy whose name was masked behind the iconic “Strip Mall Guy” became the talk of social media. His alias was all over the internet but not a lot of people really knew who he was. So, who is this Strip Mall Guy and what’s he doing?
Updated March 18, 2024
a silhouette of a man in suit, made with Midjourney
a silhouette of a man in suit, made with Midjourney

Many people are taking the plunge into the real estate industry for the lucrative opportunities it offers, but only a few find their fortunes, and one of them is the internet celebrity called Strip Mall Guy. Also known as Real Estate Trent, this mysterious and sensational guru has amassed over 220.8K followers on X (formerly Twitter) ever since he created the anonymous account in June 2021.

He’s no longer hiding, though. For people who already know who he is, good job. For those who don’t, his real name is Don Tepman. But he’s more than a name and there’s still more about him to discover. The story of his how’s and why’s? That’s what we’ll unravel in this article.

How He Got into Real Estate

It was 2002. He didn’t have any idea about running a real estate before. But since he’s always been entrepreneurial and the niche market has intrigued him, he took the role of the leasing brokers who weren’t interested in tenants with a small store or business and made the most of it.

He didn’t make a lot of money, though. Since it was only a commission-based job and he only closed a few deals, he got to thinking about ways to make more sales. He realized that putting up a “For Lease” sign and listing the space on LoopNet weren’t enough. So, he chose to be proactive.

Instead of waiting, he made the first move and approached the potential tenants. The result? He’s leased more spaces. He worked on building connections and met some veterans in the field. They became his mentors. He took their advice until he mastered the nitty gritty of the business. In 2006, he found a property for only $1.4 million, which he sold for $1.8 million the year after.

We take tough-to-lease properties and figure out how to lease them. We purchase ‘problem’ properties and turn them around. We identify inefficiencies and address them. There’s no space where we can’t add value.Strip Mall Guy

Becoming the Incognito Strip Mall Guy

Years have passed and Don has already gained experience in the industry. With all the knowledge and wisdom accumulated throughout his career in real estate properties, he had the thirst to share them with people and not just keep them all inside his head.

However, he always thought about what people would think or say if they read his posts, especially his tenants, investors, mother, and friends. So he never got to share his thoughts on his personal accounts out of fear they would be misinterpreted, particularly by those people he knew. Like most of us, he found it quite inconvenient to speak up on the internet.

Fast forwarding to June 2021, he was on a flight and had an hour to kill. Out of nowhere, he thought of opening an anonymous X account and casually created one; he tried Bill, Bob, and David, but those names were already taken until Trent randomly popped into his head and it was available. Now, he’s Real Estate Trent.

What about the Strip Mall Guy name that became a sensation in social media? He shared that it was inspired by another X account called Some Hotel Guy, so he decided to be the Strip Mall Guy then. After he created the account, he had more freedom sharing his views about real estate or anything online. It was just a bonus that its network grew to huge numbers when it wasn’t even planned.

The Controversial Job Posting

Besides doing his business, posting about his experience and prowess in real estate, Don, under his Strip Mall Guy account, occasionally posted job openings on X and LinkedIn. One particular job posting, though, went viral and garnered criticism from most netizens.

So what was the noise all about? Well, his post on November 28, 2023 was calling for candidates who are willing to learn the ins and outs of real estate private equity. And even though the position was open for fresh graduates or those who have no real estate experience, the role was considered “demanding” by many for a base salary offer of $70K. Yes, that’s what sparked the controversy.

Most people said it was ridiculous and unrealistic, and some of his followers even canceled him. There were still a few others who defended him though, thinking that the offer was just fair given that the position offered growth opportunities.

Anyway, that was a few months ago. Now, there’s a more recent update about this guy—something that’s still a bit hot off the press.

Stepping Out From Behind the Curtain

Just this year 2024, in an exclusive interview with TRD on January 22, Strip Mall Guy unveiled his identity. More people discovered that he was Don Tepman when he tweeted about TRD’s published article the following day. So, why did Don finally reveal himself?

Don has been buying and investing in the Bay Area’s strip malls since 2002. It dawned on him that he wanted to branch out and buy some new properties in Philadelphia, so he got in contact with a broker who he thought could help him out.

The negotiation wasn’t smooth at first since the broker wasn’t willing to do the favor for him until he asked him if he knew Strip Mall Guy. That’s when the broker realized that Don Tepman wasn’t just an ordinary real estate specialist asking for some help, but—in fact—the legendary man behind the famous Strip Mall Guy sharing influential posts on X.

Don also found out that the broker has been a long-time follower of the account. After the revelations, the broker willingly sent him potential deals. And that’s the reason why Strip Mall Guy decided it was time to stop hiding behind the curtain.

Strip Mall Guy—A Founder and a President?

Apart from the identity reveal itself, another interesting fact about Strip Mall Guy is that he is both the founder and president of University Avenue Partners since March 2010, which rebranded as TownCentre Capital in November 2021. The firm focuses on acquiring and improving neighborhood strip centers primarily in the Bay Area, and now across the US as well.

Today, the company’s still thriving, having purchased over 35 retail properties since 2006 while remaining debt-free over the years, not to mention that all their purchases are in cash. Don Tepman—as its principal—oversees all operations, investment decisions, and strategic perspectives of the firm, as he leverages the small assets that people in the industry are just passing by.

So, Who Really is the Strip Mall Guy?

Strip Mall Guy is a man who thinks differently. His unique perspectives allow him to see the value in assets like strip malls that other people don’t see. So what’s so special about Strip Mall Guy? He embraces the small niches that often don’t count for others and turns them into something big—something highly profitable, which gives him an edge over those people who don’t.

There are “less sharks in the water”, as Tepman likes to put it. He understands and has what it takes to win, so he became a successful entrepreneur and not just someone who was once hiding behind an anonymous account. More than that, he’s not a gatekeeper—he’s down-to-earth and passionate about mentoring people in the real estate industry, and that’s who Strip Mall Guy is.

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Written by Dianne
Dianne writes about many of the latest trends in artificial intelligence and how they can apply to helping out your business
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