“Queen of Retail” Faith Hope Consolo Dies

Faith Hope Consolo

Faith Hope Consolo, who as the chairwoman of Douglas Elliman’s retail group was one of New York City’s most prolific retail real estate brokers, died last week at her home in Manhattan.

Total Food Service readers knew Faith Hope Consolo well. Her retail trends column graced the pages of TFS for many years. “We were honored to share her unique insight into retail with our readers,” noted TFS co-publisher Leslie Klashman. “She brought the City’s neighborhoods to life and really understood how the right mix of restaurants was so crucial to bringing a new area to prominence.”

A mainstay in the clubby world of New York real estate, Consolo was responsible for luring numerous luxury retailers to Manhattan. Among her clients were Cartier, Versace, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent; she also represented some of New York’s best-known landlords, including Donald Trump and Larry Silverstein. The properties she handled included the Cartier mansion, on Fifth Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets, and the nearby Zara flagship store.

“Faith was a driving and iconic force in New York City’s retail sector,” Steven James, president of Douglas Elliman’s New York City region, said. “Her contribution to the real estate world was immense.” Ms. Consolo was on the board of the Association of Real Estate Women and founded the AREW Charitable Fund.

Ms. Consolo, who called herself the “Queen of Retail,” was known for her outsize personality and her love of publicity. Her name was splashed across vacant shop windows from Madison Avenue to SoHo. Her ubiquitous tagline, “You Need Faith,” was imprinted on everything from her business cards to the pink nail files she sent clients for the holidays.

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But despite her larger-than-life persona, Faith Hope Consolo was exceedingly private, and many details about her personal life remain unknown even to those closest to her. An only child, she was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on July 25, 1945, and moved to Westport, CT, as a young girl. Her father, John, who ran a real estate business, died when she was 2; her mother, Jill, a child psychiatrist, died when she was 12; and she was raised mostly by her grandmother, according to Joseph Aquino, who was her business partner for 26 years.

Ms. Consolo studied art history at New York University and also attended Parsons School of Design. In the late 1970s, she married and moved to Malibu, CA. While there, she opened an interior design business in Beverly Hills, decorating movie studios and the homes of film stars, according to an interview she gave in 2005. But the marriage was short-lived, and after her divorce Ms. Consolo returned to New York.

Aquino said: “She was a world-class shopper, she knew all the stores in Europe, and she wanted to go into real estate. So a friend suggested that she work with retailers.”

In 1985, Ms. Consolo met the owner of a firm called 2001 Real Estate and took a part-time job there cold-calling landlords and retailers, hoping to find vacant stores and shopkeepers who wanted to lease them. So great was her knack for deal-making that she was soon recruited by the retail powerhouse Garrick-Aug Worldwide. She remained there for nearly two decades, eventually becoming vice chairwoman. She joined Douglas Elliman in 2005.

Faith Hope Consolo
Two examples of the many columns on restaurant real estate that Faith Hope Consolo wrote for Total Food Service.

Early in her career, Ms. Consolo met Jerome Sidel, a Wall Street broker and financial consultant, when she showed him a rental property and then offered to walk his dog. The pair were together for decades, although Ms. Consolo rarely discussed their relationship.

“She was relentless in her pursuit of her brand; that was her world, her brand in real estate,” said Adam Sidel, Jerome’s son from a previous marriage, referring to Consolo’s constant efforts to publicize her business. “Aside from that, it was my father. They were deeply committed for more than 30 years.”

Faith Hope Consolo understood what it meant to be part of a community. She took leadership roles and was active in the Commercial Real Estate Women network, Association of Real Estate Women and the International Council of Shopping Centers. A recent recipient of Mercy College’s Trustees’ Medal, she helped support the New York City Opera, Citymeals-on-Wheels, the American Heart Association, Women in Need, Dress for Success and the Association of Real Estate Women Charitable Fund.

When she died, Consolo was in the midst of several deals. “We were actually in negotiations for a Madison Avenue property,” said Norman Sturner, the chairman of MHP Real Estate Services. “She was a force – a retailing force. If you wanted to get a store, you had to have Faith.”

Her legacy will be marked by the impact she had on the revitalization of many of the City’s neighborhoods. That included a very early vision for the rebirth of Harlem as a retail destination.