Charles Reinhart, founder of Ann Arbor real estate company, dies at 96

Charles Reinhart, founder of Ann Arbor real estate company, dies at 96

ANN ARBOR, MI – Charles “Chuck” Reinhart was a businessman, sports fan and a father.

Reinhart, who died Sunday, Jan. 3 at 96, was full of life, a “special guy” who started Reinhart Realtors in 1971, said daughter Sally Malnor.

Reinhart first opened the firm with Richard Caldwell as Caldwell and Reinhart Co. before buying out the company in 1981 and developing it into one of the area’s top home and commercial agencies before selling it in 1994.

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Reinhart often aimed higher to achieve success with his company, said Dave Lutton, who took over in 1994. He praised Reinhart for achieving “a more dominant position in its market” and that “the principles that he played to are what led all of us to help build this terrific company.” The company also engages with the community by promoting local business guides and activities in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.

Reinhart grew up in the Dearborn area and was drafted in the Navy in 1943 after his freshman year at Michigan State University, according to his obituary. He served on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where he met his future wife, Betty Jean Armstrong.

One of Malnor’s favorite stories was how her parents met. At the time, Reinhart was in the Navy and her mother worked as a nurse for the United Service Organizations.

“… They met and Michigan State was playing Washington State in football. And those were their two schools. They immediately had a connection with football. The next day, my dad was on the bus and he saw her walking down the street and he made the bus driver stop. And they reconnected,” Malnor said.

They were married 40 years and had four daughters. Reinhart worked for the Stouffer Corp. in Detroit and Cleveland after finishing up at Michigan State after World War II, according to his obit.

He eventually made his way to Ann Arbor.

Before real estate, Reinhart dipped into the restaurant industry. In the early 1950s, he ran “The Parrot,” located at the current site of Ashley’s in Ann Arbor, Malnor said.

“On the opening day, he didn’t have any money for the register so he had to go upstairs to his landlord to borrow money to give people change that day. He loved that job because he hired all the hockey players that would run the diner and he got to stay in touch with all the young people from U of M,” Malnor said. “That’s when his allegiance changed from Michigan State to Michigan.”

But after working arduous hours, he decided to dive into real estate.

“He said many times, he had nightmares about getting the food out to people and having the right change. He decided then between accounting, banking and real estate,” Malnor said.

People were his number one priority.

“He was … optimistic. He took joy in just talking to people. He was super hardworking,” Malnor said. “He always thought women could do anything men could do…He had a thing where he would have people take a test about their personality. He had really great success in using it to pair it with their likelihood of success. He had a lot of people who stayed for a very long time with him.”

Employees like Marsha Volchoff and Dave Lutton, who took over the company, have been with Reinhart Realtors for several decades.

“He was very humble himself. He never put himself in the spotlight. He let everyone around him shine and brought the best out of them. It was a transformational style of management as opposed to a top-down approach,” Volchoff said, adding “he was a father figure“ to his employees.

Reinhart was still a presence at the company, even after he sold it.

“The remarkable thing to everybody who knows him is he was still coming to work until two years ago,” Volchoff said. “He was coming to the office pretty much every day, giving us advice… He hasn’t owned the company since January 1994.”

He was never one to seek chair or board president positions. He was actively involved in other projects with the Ann Arbor Community Foundation and helping expand the Glacier Hills Retirement Village. At one point, he was the president of the Barton Hills Country Club, when he led a project to knock down the original clubhouse and build the current facility, Lutton said.

” The club couldn’t have had a better person overseeing this massive project and here was Chuck Reinhart, (a) steady hand, running the project,” Lutton said. “We always joke ‘Charlie doesn’t have any enemies.’ They all loved Charlie and that was true through the whole community. He took an interest in people that was extraordinary. He was intellectually curious and wanted to hear about what you did.”

Reinhart loved sports and frequented University of Michigan softball games with his friend Howard Cooper, who died in 2019.

“Howard had some kind of VIP pass. I think they would get in a golf cart and they would take him right up to the stands. My dad was so happy,” Malnor said. “Howard was a huge influence on him.”

Reinhart was also an avid tennis player and at 60 picked up golf, Lutton said.

“If there was a dollar at stake, he was competitive and always strove to win. But he played clean. Getting a dollar out of Charlie on the golf course was hard work,” Lutton said. “The wicked sense of humor that operated on the golf course was another. He was so strong with his short game. He wouldn’t waste strokes on that portion of the game.”

To stay in touch with other community leaders, he would plan weekly meetups at Knight’s Steakhouse.

“They did it for years. That was a regular part of his routine here,” Lutton said.

He was always thinking about ways to help people with their careers and within the larger community framework. Lutton said Reinhart will be remembered as a gentleman who was “so loved and respected” by the larger community.

“Chuck Reinhart marched into my office and said ‘you really ought to explore the (Ann Arbor Area) Community Foundation. That was Chuck Reinhart to a tee. He was always recruiting,” Lutton said. “He cared deeply about the health of this community. He was just connected and always was a force for good and for progress and doing things the right way…He was very comfortable with the notion that change was inevitable and work to understand where things are headed in society because they’re going to impact your business.”

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