MARK FRITSCHLE WAS AN OCEAN CITY REAL ESTATE PIONEER. HIS WIFE, LORA, AND SON, GRANT, CONTINUE HIS 40-YEAR LEGACY AND LOOK TO THE FUTURE AT CONDOMINIUM REALTY.
Known as a gentle giant, a 6-foot-3-inch Mark Fritschle loved the slopes of Beech Mountain, NC, where he worked as a part-time ski instructor and full-time ski bum in the early 1970s. His friendly, easygoing personality was infectious, and his large circle of friends thought he’d missed his calling as a salesman. By sheer coincidence, the resort’s townhomes weren’t selling as well as expected, and Mark was asked to join the team in an effort to strengthen sales. It took just one week for Fritschle to outsell the veteran group’s total output from the previous month — and a real estate career was born.
About that same time in 1975, Len Frenkil, a prominent Baltimore real estate developer, and his father, Victor Frenkil, an influential international contractor, had just completed construction on the Golden Sands condominium project in Ocean City. The 360-unit luxury building was introduced at a time when the resort’s market was oversaturated with properties, so much so that at least seven other condominium complexes were in foreclosure. Undeterred, Len hired a couple of salesmen from North Carolina to market the properties, including a humble yet confident 28-year-old named Mark Fritschle.
“Mark’s presence, charm and confidence was obvious from the moment he was onboard,” said Len, an octogenarian who remains busy today with a boutique development on the shores of the Potomac in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. “He and Victor became an instant team. While surrounding projects in foreclosure were busy slashing their prices, Victor and Mark were actually able to sell theirs for 5 percent more than the original list price. Mark sold more units than all the other salesmen on the team put together. In fact, given the condition of the Ocean City market at that time, it is more than likely that Mark sold more condominiums than anybody in Ocean City altogether.”
After his success at the Golden Sands, Fritschle founded Condominium Realty, Ltd. This began an entrepreneurial career that would span four decades — one that would transform the resort’s real estate landscape and leave his indelible “Mark” on the industry.
“You’ve got to live this business. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job,” Fritschle had once said. “The most important thing is credibility.”
By the early 1980s, Mark had used that drive and determination to create two thriving real estate ventures. Condominium Realty was a leader in the sale of resort condos and single-family homes, and Central Reservations was his full-service property rental company, which controlled a majority of the vacation rentals in town.
Although his companies were flourishing, Mark saw yet another opportunity to enhance the overall experience for his buyers and sellers, so he merged Condominium Realty and Central Reservations with Coastal Realty owner C. Terry Hough in 1985. The partnership brought the three largest real estate companies in Ocean City together to form one dominant brokerage.
“By combining budgets, the economies of scale offer us a lot of benefits,” Mark said at the time. “Before the merger, neither of us was big enough to do all that we wanted to do. We were never able to provide the full management direction we needed. Now we’re able to spend more time in training our agents, and that makes us more professional.”
Operating from six Ocean City offices, three on Coastal Highway and locations inside the Carousel Hotel, The Plaza Condominium and the Golden Sands, Coastal/Condominium Realty had 85 full-time agents, 15 office staff and an inventory of 1,300 rental units. The company’s growth continued when Fritschle and Hough merged with O’Connor, Piper and Flynn in 1986.
Fritschle was successful due in large part to his team, and he not only provided each access to the latest training and continuing education, he personally took pride in their achievements. Mark was always known to have had an open-door policy and readily provided agents with aspects of his experience and knowledge. Even his secretaries and bookkeepers were licensed Realtors, not because they were expected to sell properties but because Mark wanted them to be experts in real estate to properly handle the volumes of information coming through the office on a daily basis.
“By doing that,” he said, “they give the individual agent in the field the opportunity to be with the client longer, to help match them with the perfect property that fits their needs and budget.”
Technology was always important to Mark, who believed that utilizing the very best computers and software platforms would reap his agents and clients tremendous benefit. Even in the 1980s, Condominium Realty managed a database of 12,000 renters through a sophisticated data network. For its day, this computer system was unrivaled in Ocean City and was widely considered to be the most advanced real estate system of its kind on the East Coast.
Fritschle’s philosophies and practices were embraced by his agents.
“Mark Fritschle was an island when it came to Ocean City real estate,” said longtime fellow Realtor, broker and onetime real estate company owner Wayne Phillips. “I worked with Mark for over 30 years. He took Ocean City real estate very seriously, and he always made sure we were prepared for any situation, but he still took time to smile, laugh and joke with all of his agents. His dedication to our industry was unlike anyone else in Ocean City.”
“Mark was able to bring together a staff of real estate professionals to service the needs of developers and investors in Ocean City and northern Worcester County like no one else could,” said attorney and longtime friend Randy Coates. “Mark developed a staff that was loyal to his vision of Ocean City, and through that staff, he was able to reach the pinnacle of success as a real estate broker.”
In 1990, Fritschle was awarded the Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB) designation, the highest award real estate brokerage managers can receive for experience and educational excellence. Worcester County Commissioners President James G. Barrett took note and sent Mark a congratulatory letter of accomplishment. This was one of many awards Mark earned during his distinguished career.
During the 2008 recession, the company was reduced to a team consisting of just six agents and three staff members. Undeterred, Mark directed the company’s resurgence under its new moniker, The Mark Fritschle Group at Condominium Realty, and quickly returned to the pinnacle of local real estate.
Five years earlier, while preparing for a real estate transaction, Mark crossed paths with Lora Mae. This chance meeting would be unlike any of the thousands of settlements before it, as it set the tone for a life-changing relationship. When Lora relocated to Ocean Pines in 2005, they soon became an inseparable couple. Mark and Lora had their first date aboard Len Frenkil’s yacht that fall; she joined the company as a Realtor in 2006, and they were married during a sunset ceremony in 2009, forming a dynamic team personally
and professionally that they cherished.
“I married a man who was kind, giving, had a passion for real estate, loved family, and he loved me unconditionally,” Lora said. “At the very core of who he was, Mark loved this business, the profession and the agents in his company. The satisfaction he gained from providing a professional home for the agents in his company was a major driving force in his life.
“He was always even keel, always tried to solve problems,” she continued. “He would say to anyone who came to him with a problem, ‘You have told me the problem; now tell me the solution.’ He was respected and a perpetual teacher who could be intimidating and caringly embracing all at the same time.”
Away from the office, Mark enjoyed spending time with his family, his dog, Sophie, fly-fishing, skiing, golfing and traveling. He was a sushi connoisseur and ate it three times a week. He could also be found riding his bike on the Boardwalk and watching sunsets with a Pearl vodka drink.
Unknown to most, Mark was no stranger to near-death experiences. According to Lora, when he was 18, Mark and his sister, Jan, were both declared dead at the scene of a tragic family-car accident. While both survived, Mark lived with its ramifications daily, including limited vision in one eye and one leg that was three-quarters of an inch longer than the other.
In 2015, Mark sought medical advice, following an extended period of labored breathing and fatigue. Fifteen days of testing at the University of Maryland Medical Center ultimately concluded that he needed a lung transplant.
“We didn’t know what was wrong, but we never expected to hear those words,” Lora said.
Mark’s family, personally and professionally, entered a time of uncertainty, while he himself did the same. Unexpectedly, after just 13 days on the recipient list and on Father’s Day, a donor was found. The complex surgery ensued, as did numerous complications, which resulted in his hospitalization for more than three months.
“He told me on numerous occasions that he knew that every sunrise was a blessing; every day was a bonus day; and he was going to cherish every single moment he had,” Lora said.
Mark’s son, Grant, and Lora’s daughter, Heather, ran the company, so Lora could be with and care for Mark. Fritschle would return home and regain his strength through rehabilitation. But as often occurs with organ transplants, complications arose, and Mark was admitted again to the University of Maryland on Valentine’s Day 2017, suffering from chronic rejection. He passed away three months later, on May 29, at the age of 69.
“He was my rock, my shoulder to cry on, my companion, my love, my Mr. Wonderful,” Lora said.
“Spending 20 years working side-by-side with anyone can be a daunting task. Doing so by the side of a family member might be considered by some to be impossible,” said Grant, whose credentials as a Broker, Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) and Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) are some of the most respected in the industry. “Yet, after 20 years of working, learning and hustling by my father’s side, I can’t recall a single moment where I wasn’t happy to be there. I cherished every moment and wish that I had more.
“Twenty years later, the greatest gift he passed along to me is knowing that he lives on in me and through me. His teachings guide my every decision. His life lessons live in my every thought,” he continued. “His voice resides in my head and in my heart, keeping me strong and focused on the future. My father was a man of vision who always looked to the future, to be one step ahead, and that’s where this company will strive to always be. I know that I’ll never fill his shoes or follow in his footprints. More importantly, I know that he never would have wanted me to. I’ll fill my own shoes and I’ll walk my own path and I’m honored to do so with his name, with his teachings, lessons and his guiding hand at my back, pointing me in the right direction.”
“I’ve worked for Mark my entire career and I consider myself extremely lucky,” said Kevin Decker, one of Condominium Realty’s top producing Realtors. “I admired his work ethic so much, but more importantly, it was his calm demeanor that impressed me most. In 15 years, I never saw him rattled. He never let the pressure of this business, which can be extremely intense, get to him. He was more than my boss; he was my friend. If I had my way, he’d still be here, but I’m glad I got to share an office with him and learn from the very best. I believe I’m better for that, and I’m grateful.”
Mark is survived by Lora; sons Grant, Drew and Chase Fritschle; daughters Heather Engler and Sarah deStackelberg; seven grandchildren and two sisters, among many other family members.
Lora and Grant have forged forward at Mark Fritschle Group/Condominium Realty in Mark’s absence, carrying on the principles and values set in 40 years of stone by its founder. Their plans for the future are quite simple: “We will continue to pride ourselves on providing our agents and clients with the highest-quality services and relationships in the business,” Lora said. “At the end of the day, we recognize this business isn’t about concrete condominiums or single-family homes. It’s about people. And we’ll do our best to take care of each one of them with every ounce of energy and support that we have.”
Today, the brokerage has over 65 full-time agents and nine employees and recently expanded to open its first Delaware location. Mark Fritschle Group/Condominium Realty property listings appear on over 75 websites, including Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and MarkF.com, the company’s comprehensive website. Condominium Realty continues to invest in new technology, software and programs, too, which helps to make the buying and selling processes more efficient and successful.
Mark’s legacy also lives on through the Mark & Lora Fritschle Pulmonary Research Fund, an initiative of the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Created by Mark and Lora, the fund supports research, new treatments and therapies needed to provide hope for patients suffering from lung and respiratory disease.