Deb Abraham Spalding
If you’ve lived in the Catoctin Region for any length of time, chances are high that you or one of your neighbors have used J&B Real Estate to buy or sell a home…maybe even more than once!
Through good economic times and bad, J&B Real Estate celebrates 40 years of service and a trusted reputation.
Bonita Smith, J&B’s founding Real Estate Broker, shared that while she and her husband Jim (late) were both raised in the Catoctin area (Jim was one of the Hillside Turkey Farm family), they moved back from Glen Burnie in 1981 and, soon after, started the firm. They operated the fledgling business out of their home on Emmitsburg Road in Thurmont. Though Bonita wanted the name to be “B&J Real Estate,” Jim suggested that “J&B Real Estate” would be more memorable because of “J&B Scotch.” The decision stuck.
The Smiths also had a seafood carryout business in Laurel that was operated with a partner. That business was sold a few years into the real estate venture, as the Smiths’ focus shifted to full-time real estate.
When they opened, Bonita was the broker and Jim was an agent. In the fall of 1981, J&B became incorporated, and in a few short years, the business was moved from their home to its current location in the former Weighbright Store at 13 ½ Water Street in Thurmont. In those days, Jim Bittner, Holly Clabaugh (late), and several other agents helped carve the solid foundation upon which J&B stands. Jim Bittner is still an active agent today.
In J&B’s tenure, locals have come to depend on J&B Real Estate’s vast experience to navigate the buying and selling process. Having roots, family, and heritage in Sabillasville, Emmitsburg, and Thurmont, the Smiths not only grew their business but also raised their daughters, Jennifer, Jamie, and Anne.
Bonita said that it was her plan to retire at age 50. At this 40th anniversary, she deserves some teasing since she still keeps a consistent part-time schedule as an active agent and Associate Broker, and she just might have passed the 50-year mark.
In January 2018, J&B was purchased by veteran J&B real estate agent, Cindy Grimes. Sadly, Jim Smith passed away on December 17, 2020.
Today, Cindy leads J&B’s continued success with 11 licensed agents, 9 of which are active. “We’re a hometown boutique brokerage,” she explained, “Though we’re not a big brand, we have just as much to offer.”
“I’ve been here for fifteen years and believe most of my success is because of her [Bonita]. They’ve [Jim and Bonita] always been good to me. I love it here. In the beginning, although I had a mortgage background, my knowledge of real estate was limited, and I was running Main Street Groomers [with her twin sister, Judy Cochran],” said Cindy.
“Holly [Clabaugh] was a great mentor, too,” Cindy added, “Though she passed away soon after I started, she was always very helpful and shared a ton of knowledge with me.”
Bonita laughed, remembering, “Holly was in the office one day when Andy Rooney walked in to ask questions about Camp David. He wanted to know how much it was worth.”
Cindy shared that the J&B team has great camaraderie in the office. “You don’t feel competition, just support in the J&B office. It can be a very stressful career, but it’s very rewarding and it really helps when you work with such a great team of agents. It’s a customer-service job more than a sales job. We are most interested in what is best for our clients and doing the best job we can for them.”
A shared characteristic of J&B’s agents is that they know the area extremely well. Cindy said, “When someone calls, I typically know exactly what house they’re talking about if it is located in Northern Frederick County. We know so many people in the area. I think it makes people more comfortable.”
Cindy wants the community to know, “We’re not planning on going anywhere. We love this community and we’re here for you. As a small boutique brokerage, we try to offer a more personal experience for our clients.”
Today’s active agents include Cathi Miller, Diane Bowers, Bonita Smith, Cindy Grimes, Elle Smith, Beth Ohler, Vinny Testa, Jim Bittner, Deb Gartner (licensed in PA), and Vonnie Frazier. Most all of the agents are licensed in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Reach out directly to any of the J&B agents for more information or to buy or sell your home.
Standing from left are Judy Cochran, Cindy Grimes, Diane Bowers, Cathi Miller, Deb Gartner, Jennifer Phillips, Elle Smith, Beth Ohler, Vonnie Frazier, and Vinny Testa. Seated are Bonita Smith and Jim Bittner. Photo by Deb Abraham Spalding