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Developer avoids 'hot button' issues

Asad Ghattas owns a number of properties in Washington County. On Maugans Avenue, he owns a car wash, a gas station and more.

Asad Ghattas owns a number of properties in Washington County. On Maugans Avenue, he owns a car wash, a gas station and more.

August 19, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Some developers make splashy news with building projects.

Asad Ghattas has a quieter approach.

Ghattas has established himself both on Maugans Avenue, where a substantial road improvement project is under way, and in other areas of Washington County.

He owns Fountainhead Plaza and has three Penske truck rental branches in three states.

On Maugans Avenue, his list of properties includes a strip mall, a car wash, an equipment rental shop, a gas station, and a truck sales and service shop.

He works out of a headquarters on Crayton Boulevard, off Maugans Avenue, the home of his office furnishings and supplies business, called Office Suppliers Inc., or OSI.

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In the same complex, he's marketing 20,000 square feet of office space that was the corporate headquarters of Garden State Tanning.

He owns about two dozen rental properties throughout Washington County.

In the Beaver Creek area, in his housing development called Pemberton, most of the 20-plus homes in the first phase have been sold. The second phase, with 17 lots, is being sold and custom built. Houses are in the mid-$200,000 range.

Another housing development, Rosebank Way, is off Robinwood Drive.

Ghattas recently bought the building that formerly housed the Red Horse restaurant on the eastern edge of Hagerstown. He plans to tear the building down and put up a multistory office building.

Avoiding problems

State property records list about 70 parcels in Washington County under his name, either individually or through Ghattas Enterprises.

By design, Ghattas tries to steer clear of properties that will require substantial changes, such as a new zoning classification - anything likely to cause an uproar.

"I navigate my life so I stay away from all these hot-button issues," he said.

Ghattas said sales of residential development have been "very, very flat" for about a year.

"I think we're taking a pause ...," he said in general about the local market. "I think we overbuilt."

The commercial development market, though, remains active, he said.

When he needs to relax, Ghattas plays golf. He and his wife, Velda, spend the winter in Naples, Fla.

Ghattas, 58, was born in Bethlehem, Israel. While growing up, he learned English, Spanish and French, along with his native Arabic.

He said he came to the United States in 1968, after becoming friends with a New York journalist who invited him to his wedding.

He also got to know Maurice Martin, the owner of Martin's Food Market, in the Pennsylvania Avenue building that most recently housed Playland.

Giant Food Stores later bought the store. It became the foundation for the Martin's chain under Giant.

Ghattas bagged groceries at Martin's Food Market. He studied engineering at Hagerstown Junior College.

And Ghattas met Velda, Maurice Martin's daughter. They were married in 1972.

They have three children - Treva, 33; Trent, 31; and Todd, 29.

Todd manages OSI and Treva is in charge of the office furniture division.

Trent oversees residential properties that his father owns.

Ghattas planted his business roots in Washington County in 1972, when he bought an office-supply division of Hagerstown Bookbinding and Printing (now HBP).

He said OSI is flourishing.

Thanks in part to his children, business has doubled in the last four years, he said.

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