Have you ever wondered what LBI was like decades ago, just as many of the island’s towns were laying their roots as seasonal resort communities? Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Zack Shore, Realtors—or Zack Shore, as the real estate agency is known on the island—can tell you. Celebrating their 95th year in business in LBI and surrounding towns, this third-generation, family-owned firm is just as much a part of local history as they are historians.
Today, under the leadership of Kevin Thomas, President and Owner, along with his daughter, Seton McKeon, Vice President, Broker Manager, and working closely with family member Aileen Kidd, Broker of Record, Zack Shore sells more real estate on Long Beach Island than any other broker, in both units and volume.
Their secret to nearly a century of success? Loyal, experienced agents empowered by the trust and support of the leadership team, and dedication to their community.
Thomas puts it plainly: “The reason we’re in business for 95 years is because of our agents, and the work that they do. Our company has a reputation of keeping people. We have some agents who have been with us for decades—30, 40 years. We try to treat people like family.”
95 Years of Family Business
A familial feel is an undeniable part of Zack Shore’s rich history. The story begins in 1925, when businessman Richard A. Zachariae founded Zachariae Realty. A family friend of the Thomas family, Zachariae was known to Thomas and his siblings as “Papa Zach,” even spending holidays and vacations with the family.
“He was an ‘old salt’ from Long Beach Island. He was just one of the guys who ran the show,” Thomas says.
In fact, Zachariae ran many shows: He served as President of Long Beach Island’s School Board, President of the Ocean County Board of Realtors, and as President of the LBI Board of Trade, of which he was also one of the founders. He also found time to serve as Surf City’s mayor for 30 consecutive years, from 1934 to 1964.
It was Thomas’ father, William P. Thomas, who was the first-generation real estate agent in the family. William Thomas was a World War II veteran who landed in Cedar Run—just across the bridge from LBI—with his parents, after a long recovery from a war injury. Ready to make a living, William Thomas started a building company in 1947 called William P. Thomas Builders, focusing on oceanfront homes in the North Beach section of Long Beach Township. He built an office building for his business in Ship Bottom that also housed Zachariae Realty.
A few years passed, and Zachariae and William Thomas, along with Frank Hanle, Zachariae’s son-in-law, teamed up for business, with William Thomas earning his real estate and broker’s licenses in the 1950s. As the real estate business picked up, William Thomas wound down his building company. And in 1964, he purchased Zachariae’s shares of the company, becoming co-owner of Zachariae Realty with Hanle and his wife, Dorothea Hanle.
In 1970, Zachariae passed away in Boca Raton, Florida, where he had retired. Hanle remained an owner in the business until he passed away in the early 1970s. In 1977, William Thomas acquired all of the company shares, becoming the sole owner of Zachariae Realty.
Between the 1980s and mid-1990s, Zachariae Realty saw its fair share of highs and lows, Kevin Thomas recalls. During these two decades, the group relocated from their original office and opened three new locations on LBI—Barnegat Light, Beach Haven Gardens, and Ship Bottom—in addition to a Manahawkin office, with about 50 employees and agents across all locations, some of which are proudly still with the company today. By the 1990s, there were five branches, with a new office replacing the old in Manahawkin, and a Forked River office, all of which are still in business today.
In 1994, Zachariae Realty joined the Prudential umbrella under their real estate business as an independently owned and operated franchisee, officially becoming The Prudential Zack, Realtors. “The way my father expressed it was, ‘The Computer Age was going to change things. People would have access to information remotely.’ It was important to have a name out there that was recognized and respected,” Thomas says.
The partnership proved to be fruitful: By joining a trusted, household name like Prudential, out-of-towners looking for a home in the LBI area found comfort in doing business with Zack Shore. After all, a local broker’s name is only as good as his or her reputation’s reach. Prudential allowed their agents’ excellent track records to extend to clients in the tri-state area and beyond.
Meanwhile, Thomas was finishing up his law degree at Seton Hall Law School in Newark. After being admitted to the bar in 1981, he actively practiced law up until 1998, when he finally joined Zack Shore as Vice President.
“During my last year of practicing law full-time, I was asked to assist with some issues at my father’s business,” Thomas recalls. “I ended up getting involved much more thoroughly than I even imagined! My secretary even pointed out that I was spending more time in LBI than in the law office. The dynamic was interesting to me—real estate is much more of a people business than the law is,” he adds.
The next decade for Zack Shore saw great expansion followed by a return to their roots, fueled by the 2008 financial crisis. “We made an acquisition in Monmouth County in 2006. Well, what looked like a good idea back then, didn’t seem like such a good idea by the fourth quarter of 2008,” Thomas explains. “We ended up closing up shop and moving back down to Ocean County, where we remain today.”
It was around this time that Thomas’ daughter, Seton McKeon, joined the family business, working in between college classes. “I’ve done every role you could do,” McKeon says. “I started as a marketing coordinator, helping agents in the office with different tasks. When the market turned, I started working full-time and got more involved out of necessity,” she shares. McKeon went on to earn her real estate license in 2009 and her broker’s license in 2012.
And so Zack Shore marched on. The firm was offered another franchise opportunity, this time with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, after Warren Buffet and his famed firm purchased Prudential Realty in 2012. After taking time to observe the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices organization as an outsider, Thomas made arrangements to join as a franchisee in December 2015.
“When an astute businessman like Warren Buffet lends his name and feels strongly about real estate services, you know he regards it as an important asset—one he is committed to promoting, growing and protecting,” Thomas says.
Today, across its five offices, Zack Shore holds the largest market share on LBI, but you won’t catch the group resting on their laurels. “The data and our reputation is important to our agents. We use it to attract new people who will be able to keep the business running for the next 95 years,” McKeon says.
Leading through Service
Though the company’s name may have changed slightly over the decades, their commitment to hiring and retaining top-notch talent has remained a constant. Zack Shore’s 115 agents are also empowered to establish their own ways of working, whether it’s independently or in teams.
“We’re here to support our agents. They handle their clients better than anyone else. If they need support, we’re here to offer it. We are all about them,” McKeon says.
Thomas takes this tenet to heart. “Our clients are our agents. We don’t inject ourselves into the actual users of our real estate services—the buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants. The relationship that is most important is the relationship between our agents and their clients. Our priority is making sure that our agents are well-enough educated to meet their fiduciary and professional responsibilities to their clients,” he says.
Giving Back to the
Communities That Built Them
It’s clear that after nine and a half decades, community is a crucial component of Zack Shore’s success. “We believe that community is built by the people who live in it,” McKeon says.
As part of this belief, Zack Shore is a Mission of Hope Giving Partner with David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds to provide financial assistance, wellness services and hope to New Jersey families affected by a cancer diagnosis. This means that for every transaction and lease that is written, Zack Shore and its agents donate a percentage of their money. In 2019, Zack Shore and its agents donated nearly $30,000. “We are happy to support an organization that helps members of our community every day,” McKeon says.
With its rich history, family-oriented culture, and strong community values, Zack Shore will undoubtedly continue to evolve for decades to come, helping individuals and families with all of their real estate needs on LBI and beyond.