Dan Garafolo Sr.
Managing broker and principal, Reno Properties Group
Industry experience: 35 years

Newington-based Reno Properties Group is scouring the New England landscape on behalf of a theater chain looking for new locations for its food-and-beverage-infused concept. Londonderry, New Hampshire-based O’Neil Cinemas is seeking to expand its roster of locations, which feature a Backstage Lounge & Bistro with table service and video walls connected to its movie houses. Reno Properties also represents celebrity chef Zac Young in a nationwide search for locations from 500 to 1,500 square feet for his Sprinkletown donut and ice cream shops’ expansion. Reno Properties Group provides brokerage services for sales and leasing and owns a portfolio of approximately 20 commercial properties. The company takes its name from a Newington manufacturing company that co-founder Dan Garofolo represented in real estate transactions before forming a separate company in 2003 to expand into brokerage and commercial property acquisitions. Reno Properties Group now has 25 employees including an in-house property management arm.

Q: How did you secure the opportunity to represent O’Neil Cinemas in their expansion?
It came through one of our agents’ fathers who referred us to them. We spoke to the O’Neil brothers and they interviewed us and decided to go with us. Right now, it’s focused on if we can find second-generation theater spaces, so there are a couple of opportunities that they are working on in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We are soliciting theaters that are leased to see if they are extending. That’s their first priority because it’s an easy fit for them: it’s less tenant improvement dollars to turn it into what their concept is. They also will consider ground-up construction. Their concept is the big reclining chairs, less seating but more comfortable seating, and there’s the food and beverage aspect to it: a full-blown full and beverage service. We’re focusing on New England and the Northeast. They have a brand-new concept in Littleton, Massachusetts. 

Q: What are some of the other clients you represent on the tenant side?
We represent the Farmer’s Cow Calfe and Creamery: they have one location in Mansfield near UConn and we leased a former Arby’s to them in Berlin. Their concept is fast-casual and they are looking to do another three locations by the end of 2025 and they range from 2,500 to 3,200 square feet.

Q: What is the history of Reno Properties Group and the expansion of its business lines?
I grew up with David Occhialini. He and his brother own Reno Machine Corp., an aerospace manufacturer in Newington. We grew up together and I’ve been in the real estate business for 35 years, so I got involved with David and the properties he and his family owned on the leasing side. We sat down and said, “Why don’t we form our own commercial real estate company?” And that’s what we did in 2003. We formed a full-service brokerage with leasing, sales and property management, and started out managing our own properties, and branched out into our own investment group and acquired several commercial, industrial and retail properties. We have several properties where we are the lead owner, where we raised the money and manage and lease them. We saw the costs of cutting the grass and plowing snow, so we took that in-house as well, with a full-service maintenance, HVAC, plumbing and carpentry [division] on staff. 

Q: What is the current breakdown of brokerage deals by property types?
It’s probably 30 percent retail, 40 percent industrial and the balance commercial office. That’s the toughest sector right now, with all of the work-from-home and the mass exodus since 2020. We took a couple of lumps in our portfolio but we’ve rebounded. We haven’t seen distress at the workout level yet, but I think it’s coming. If you’re in downtown Hartford and relying on the workforce coming in to buy sandwiches and there’s no people anymore, the ripple effect is happening. But in suburbia we are OK, and we are getting more calls and inquiries. You’ve got to be creative with deals to draw people into your spaces and create lower rent, free rent, tenant improvement packages, a combination of things. We see a lot of lateral moves, because tenants feel they can take advantage of the market right now. They can bump up from class C to class B buildings for the same rent. Multifamily is probably the hottest sector, but we are seeing a bit of a slowdown. So much has been built over a short period of time, and some of my colleagues feel in 2026 you’re going to see a big restructuring. The unit costs to build are astronomical.

Q: What are some examples of recent transactions that reflect the current market conditions in your trade area?
We had a mass exodus at 760 Saybrook Road in Middletown. Middlesex Hospital occupied 45 percent of the property and in 2020 they decided to move, so we just signed a 9,000-square-foot lease with PharmCare, they distribute supplies to nursing homes throughout the county. That was a great find. We’re hopefully signing another lease that would bring that property back to where it should be. On the sales side, we sold an office building at 15 Massirio Drive in Berlin for $2.35 million to DATTKO Motor Coach of New Britain, and they are relocating some of their people as we speak.