Shenehon Center for Real Estate

Research. Education. Outreach.

2012 Inductee: Philip C. Smaby

Providing 51 years of dedicated involvement to the Minneapolis real estate community as well as national and international real estate organizations, Philip Smaby’s impact was felt by many. Never forgetting the importance of ethical business practices, he set a standard of integrity in his work.

Smaby was born in Rushford, Minnesota. After graduating from high school, he attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, then later transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business in 1941. While working for Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, Calif., he married Margaret Hagen, then joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, serving in San Francisco. After his release from the Navy in May 1946, the couple returned to Minneapolis to start a new life and a new career in the field that became his life’s work.

Smaby and his partner Ben Bermel co-founded Bermel-Smaby Realty in 1946. By 1984, Bermel-Smaby had become Minneapolis’ largest real estate firm. While he enjoyed his business success, Smaby was most proud of his 51 years of dedicated service to the real estate industry. He served with distinction as president of every major organization in his trade, including the Boards of Realtors of both Minneapolis (1957) and Minnesota (1964) as well as the National Association of Realtors NAR (1976) and International Federation of Real Estate (FIABCI) (1980). His 42-year term of service as the only lifetime member of the powerful NAR Executive Committee continued until his death. From modest beginnings, Bermel-Smaby became the industry’s ethical gold standard, admired for the simple principles it espoused: Ethics are number one; don’t prejudge – treat everyone the same; train employees well; and get involved in the community. Smaby embodied these principles throughout his life.

“He had the ability to lead other people to be the best they could be,” said Ben Bermel’s son Bruce, of Minnetonka, an industrial-commercial real estate broker. “He let people run with the ball.” (Star Tribune)

By the mid-1980s, when Bermel-Smaby Realty was sold, it had 17 offices and more than 350 sales associates in the Twin Cities.

While Smaby was successful in business, he told his family, “It’s not how much money you make, it’s the friends that you make along your journey that will bring you the greatest joy in your life,” his son John Smaby said. (Star Tribune)