When banker Tom Quale and his wife, Audrey, were looking for a house to buy in 2000, Realtor Harry Robbins helped them search for the perfect one.
Looking for houses together one day in the rain, Quale says Robbins fell down on the sidewalk and got cut and bruised. Robbins' wife, Lois, patched him up at home, and Harry Robbins was quickly ready to get back out there. “He refused to stop looking at houses,” Quale says. “He just refused to stop until we were happy.” That day, they couple saw the house they ended up buying.
“Harry was a very genuine, kind and honest man,” says Quale, Robbins' banker for more than two decades. “What really struck me was every time you saw Harry, he was glad to see you, and he would always ask about your family.”
A longtime Sarasota area real estate executive and entrepreneur, Robbins died Dec. 6, just shy of his 86th birthday.
Harry Robbins and his wife opened a Sarasota real estate brokerage, Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc., in 1971. Their son, Loyd Robbins, joined the firm in 1973 after high school. Three of Loyd's sons — Kevin, Troy and Derek — now work at the firm, too. Today, the company has 22 agents and handles about 400 transactions a year, both residential and commercial.
Harry and Lois Robbins came to Sarasota from a small town in Indiana, where they grew up. “They were farm kids,” Loyd Robbins says. They got married out of high school and planned to be farmers. But the bank wouldn't let them borrow money for a farm because they were too young.
Loyd Robbins says his parents decided to move to Sarasota after visiting Harry Robbins' grandparents there. For their first year in Florida, Harry Robbins picked fruit at an orange grove. He later worked in construction.
He loved people and sales, Loyd Robbins says, so Harry Robbins went into insurance. In the mid-1960s, he got his real estate license and started selling real estate as well. He worked with different brokers, then launched his own firm. “His approach was he never sold insurance, he never sold real estate,” Loyd Robbins says. “He educated you about the market.”
Kevin Robbins says he always thought of his grandfather as a teacher. “I think that's the thing I appreciate about him the most,” says Kevin Robbins. “He wanted to not only help people, but he had a burning passion to teach people.”
For more than 40 years, Loyd Robbins says he and his father put up real estate signs for the company themselves. Until a year and a half ago, he picked his father up on Saturday mornings to go plant the signs in the ground. He says his father told him, “If we put the signs up, we know every property we ever sell.”
Outside of work, Harry Robbins was president of Kiwanis Club Sarasota South and president of the Sarasota Board of Realtors. He was a long-time supporter of Riverview High School athletics, where he was booster president. He is survived by two children, six grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. He's also survived by his wife, Lois. The couple was married for 68 years.