Business Q & A

A conversation with Delton Sandefer

Delton Sandefer can both clean out a boiler and sing grand opera.

Sandefer, 59, is the owner of Essential Property Management, which operates a number of buildings downtown, among them the Wichita Executive Centre, 125 N. Market.

He started the firm in 2008 and now has six employees.

The business is based on the 14th floor of Wichita Executive Centre.

He is married to Lyn and they have three grown children.

Do you really sing with the Wichita Grand Opera?

“I do and have for seven years … First tenor is what I sing, and my most memorable moment is as Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. I got to stand at center stage when Romeo is bent over crying over his loss and his father is singing over him.”

How did you start singing opera?

“Another guy who sings tenor in (the church) choir was singing Pagliacci (with the WGO). He said, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about singing opera?’ I said, ‘Not even a chance.’ But a couple of weeks later, he said, ‘Hey we need some choral people, would you consider that?’ I said I could handle being behind everybody. I joined them and singing Italian is pretty hard. For me singing in English is hard enough. It was the hardest thing I’ve done and such a challenge that I liked it.”

Does it take weeks to prepare?

“Months. We are practicing every weekend and then practicing at home getting prepared for the Sunday practices with the opera and the conductor. Then a month before the show, it’s every weekend and every night after work.”

You also played with your band, Nothin’ Fancy, at the old Wichita Club in this very building, Wichita Executive Centre, didn’t you?

“Rudy Love was playing there one night and they needed an opening act. He came over to me and said, ‘Hey, are you doing anything?’ and I said, ‘Well, Southern rock and rhythm and blues? I don’t know if the crowd will stand all that.’ But we did it and it was fine.”

You’ve worked on this building off and on since 1988, haven’t you?

“I was a journeyman electrician at WSU for nine years and in ‘88 I left there and came here to this building as a maintenance tech. And I kind of graduated up. In ‘94 I left for a few years. Key Management took over managing commercial property in the downtown, hired me back, and I worked my way up over 12-13 years until I left in ‘08 to start Essential Property Management.”

How did you get most of the Real Development portfolio?

“One of the guys that I manage property for had money invested in it and he called me saying, ‘Can you please watch my assets?’ That’s when I started consulting for Real Development. I never worked for them, I was just consulting … and as time went on and the buildings went into foreclosure, the owners had seen the type of work that we do and asked us to continue.”

Do you have Exchange Place, too?

“I oversee that for the owner, making sure the doors are locked. The doors were left open too long and by the time I got it there was already an insurance case because of all the copper being stolen … I locked all the doors, boarded it up and have been trying to keep people out ever since.”

Do a lot of people still try to get into Exchange Place?

“Oh yeah. They’ll cut chains and locks. We’ll buy the chains you can’t cut, the best locks, and they’ll still cut them somehow, and they’ll hatchet through the plywood to get in … They’re obviously pros because vagrants aren’t going to spend that much time trying to get a little bit of copper. They’ve gotten down to where they’ll tear the copper out of the receptacles. They’ll tear up the Sheetrock to get it. I’ve said more than once that If I caught them, I’d put them to work because they are hard-working guys for that little bit of money.”

What makes a good property manager?

“I treat people the way I want to be treated. And I take care of property the way I would want my property to be taken care of if it was mine … A lot of times just showing up makes the situation better. I had a water leak in the building one time. My wife and I happened to be in town having dinner and got a call. We dropped what we were doing and ran over and the maintenance guys got there about the same time. My wife’s running the wet-vac and I’m running around trying to get the leak fixed. The tenant could not believe the manager showed up to fix a leak. They thought I’d make a phone call and that was it.”

There’s more money to be made in other lines of work, why this?

“People in property maintenance like doing that type of work. A lot of times they like the buildings. For instance, this building (Wichita Executive Centre) has a personality. Of all the buildings I manage, there is something about this one. It’s got a personality, like the way the pumps hum in the mechanical room, that keeps drawing me back here.”