Michael Pollack

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Spotlight Issue: August 2014
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Michael Pollack loves attention. The commercial real estate redeveloper’s name adorns many of his properties (most notably Tempe Pollack Cinemas) and he’s appeared on numerous television shows. He plays drums in his own namesake band (Pollack’s Corporate Affair), and even booked Blood, Sweat & Tears at Chandler Center for the Arts to celebrate his 40th year in business last November. In addition to his penchant for remodeling old buildings and strip malls (his company, Pollack Investments, has face-lifted more than 100 such sites in Arizona), Pollack is a hardcore collector of slot machines and 3D (animatronic) ad memorabilia. We recently talked with Pollack in his 3D advertising museum (take a virtual tour at pollackmuseum.com), among an army of whirring mechanical figures, including a giant spinning Hamm’s Beer bear.

On his 3D advertising museum:
There are over 8,000 pieces dating back to the 1700s. It’s the largest museum of 3D advertising in the world, second to none. Here in the museum, we have pieces from everywhere in the world... and just about every state is represented. The amount of history that goes into the 3-dimensional advertising room is mind-boggling.

On reality TV star Barry Weiss, who hePhoto by Garrett Cooklped him find Baranger machines (motion displays used primarily in the windows of jewelry stores from 1925 to 1959), on the A&E reality show Barry’d Treasure:
Barry’s a character, there’s no question about that. He actually is a really funny guy. He’s a lot like what you see on TV. He’s always got a new one-liner joke. You’ve got to listen closely with Barry, because things will go past you quickly if you don’t. He’s quite the negotiator. He’s quite the entrepreneur. Barry will always try to put two people together to make a buck.

What drew you to slot machines?
I was fascinated by how they worked. To me, it was cool, because  how do you have a piece of equipment that you as a person trying to win, you never win? It’s because of the way they’re set. It’s a set-up.

How did you get into real estate?
I’ve been in real estate since I got out of high school in 1973. I’d already worked in the real estate business, as far as working for others. I did every job there was. I started out sweeping buildings. From that I went to hanging sheet rock, to carpentry, floor covering... I wanted to learn, hands-on, everything I possibly could about building a building. And then when I started in the business, I started as a developer. I put the money together to build one house. And then I built more and more, and... by 1985, I’d done more than 10,000 units. Starting with one house. And then I just got tired of doing multi-family. I got tired of doing residential... I decided I was going reinvent myself in the world of commercial and industrial.

Why renovate rather than new-build?
I won’t build anymore from the ground up because you could get caught in a bad economy. Anything can happen. It’s a whole long story. But when I renovate, I know where I’m starting and I know where I’m going to end up, and usually I can predict the time frame. One thing I can say is, in new construction, everybody’s a critic. Everybody wants to put in their 10 cents or two cents, right? In redevelopment, I’ve never had a complaint.

What’s the secret to your fabulous trademark hair?
You know, so far I’ve been lucky. So far, it’s stayed with me. A lot of people have asked me at different events I’ve done, “So is this the Donald hair, where part of it’s yours and part of it’s not?” No, it’s all really mine. So far it’s lasted. I have no idea why. But I don’t change it, because then people won’t be able to sit there and ask me about it. I’ve had the same hairstyle for probably 35 years. It’s easier to remember how it’s supposed to get done that way.