“I’m big on reinventing myself with everything that I do,” says Corcoran associate broker Gino Filippone, who entered the real estate business only five years ago, after a successful career running an event-production company.
Drawing upon the communication skills he honed in the weddings and event business—and earlier in his career as a tour guide and an actor—Filippone has achieved tremendous success in real estate in a short amount of time. He’s part of Corcoran’s Multi-Million Dollar Club, and has built a roster of elite clients that include public figures, performers, and prominent international buyers.
A self-described animal lover and theater enthusiast, Filippone is no stranger to spectacular New York residences. Together with his partner—television and Broadway producer Flody Suarez, whose latest production is The Cher Show musical—Filippone maintains a pristine Upper West Side penthouse apartment. It was his experience shopping for—and purchasing—this historic co-op, which features Central Park views and an expansive private terrace, that led to his career change.
Filippone talks about making the leap from wedding planner to broker, how he created a sense of home at his own place, and why—when it comes to real estate—”everyone wants a piece of the Big Apple.”
INHABIT: Where are you from originally and what first drew you to New York City?
Filippone: I grew up in Westchester, New York, and my parents were both originally from the Bronx. I was introduced to the city at a very young age because my grandfather ran a well-established lithography business—he did all of the major billboards in New York City. His office was down on Spring Street and every Saturday as a little boy, I’d visit the plant with my father. We’d go to Katz’s Delicatessen for lunch or one of the Italian restaurants on Spring Street, and I remember being so fascinated by the buildings, the smell, the texture of New York. It was so appealing to me as a young kid.
INHABIT: You didn’t end up living in New York City for quite some time, though.
Filippone: After finishing acting school, I wondered if acting—or bartending and going on auditions—was right for me. I decided to use some money left to me by my grandfather to buy a one-way ticket to Europe. I started in Greece, then lived in Italy and became fluent in Italian, and also lived in London, where I handled talent in a jazz club. I feel that I really found myself through travel.
INHABIT: What ultimately led you back to New York?
Filippone: I got licensed as a tour guide working mainly with Italian and British clients. I found as I worked with these large crowds of travelers that they were inspired by the same things that inspired me when I was a kid. They loved the blueprint of New York—the history, the buildings. I then started my own business, Ultimate U.S.A. Tours, and ended up doing thousands of these tours.
INHABIT: You then went from the tour business to the wedding business?
Filippone: On one of my tours, a couple asked if I could help them get married. It seemed like a strange request at the time, but my motto has always been, “Listen to the client because they’ll always take you to the right place.” After going down to City Hall with them, I started to toy with the idea of a wedding business. Like clockwork, a contact of mine reached out to let me know that there was a need for these services for people looking for destination weddings in New York. I then became a wedding planner and officiant, and I ran this business from the Empire State Building from 2002 to 2011.
INHABIT: What attracted you to real estate?
Filippone: I was always obsessed with New York real estate—I loved walking into apartments and had recently bought a new home for myself in the city. It just felt right, like a natural progression.
INHABIT: What traits have contributed to your success in the business?
Filippone: Showing up. I show up early. I remember being late once in my life in the tourism business and my clients looked at me like I was the plague. I’m also a firm believer in listening to the client—they’ll always tell you what they want, even when they don’t know what they want.
INHABIT: As someone who focuses mostly on Manhattan, how do you explain its constant appeal?
Filippone: Everything is a wow factor in New York—everyone wants to be here. Real estate-wise, everyone wants a piece of the Big Apple.
INHABIT: What are some of your favorite shops and restaurants in your own neighborhood?
Filippone: The Leopard at des Artistes is one of our favorite places to be. My partner refers to it as “the commissary” because we’re there so often. We meet there, we recap our days, we love the history and the food. We also see tons of theater, so we often go to theater restaurants, like Bond 45 and Bar Centrale.
INHABIT: How did you know your place was right for you?
Filippone: I remember feeling that this place was mine—my partner and I just loved it. The apartment itself is the penthouse unit in a historic Rosario Candela building, and it has a wood-burning fireplace that still has its original mantle and an amazing terrace. To live with our dogs at the foot of Central Park—and to see snow falling over the park from our terrace in the wintertime—makes the apartment a magical place to be.
INHABIT: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Filippone: My partner is definitely more of a first dibs, flea market-find kind of guy, where I prefer the less is more approach. I’m drawn to functional, elegant comfortable furniture, and fabric and texture are very important to me. It’s definitely a push-pull between our tastes.
INHABIT: Please complete the sentence: Home wouldn’t be home without…
Filippone: …waking up to my rescue dogs—Dude and Fred—and walking them, making coffee for myself and my partner, and having our morning together.