Seated at his grandfather’s desk with scores of family photos visible under its glass top, John E. “Jack” Redefer IV is mindful of his ancestors who forged the family business while he sets his own path forward as owner of Rehoboth Bay Realty Co.
“They built the foundation; now it’s time for me to finish building the house,” Jack said. “This is my blood. This is what I do, and this never feels like work to me.”
Ownership of the company was within the family and officially transferred to Jack on May 25. Bruce Vavala is broker of record, Jack said, and after he takes his own brokerage course this fall, he will become a broker/owner.
Jack said he values the fact that his family built the business on service, not sales.
“Our family grew up bringing people together in this great area, especially Dewey Beach,” he said. “Do it the right way and do good by people, and it makes the community a better place.”
Jack’s office is a family room of sorts, filled with heirlooms and memorabilia, blueprints, aged newspaper clippings and a framed map of Rehoboth City, the town name which predated Dewey Beach.
In 1925, Jack’s ancestors purchased land in Dewey and turned it into Rehoboth by the Sea, a community of oceanside cottages, some of which still stand. Later, the property was turned into a land-lease operation.
Jack’s father, the late TJ Redefer, opened Rehoboth Bay Realty Co. in 1986 with Jack’s grandfather and namesake. The father-and-son team operated locations in Dewey and at Peddlers Village on Route 24, working side by side for 35 years. After his father’s death, TJ vowed to keep the ship going forward, Jack said.
As a child, Jack spent mornings in the office with TJ before catching the bus to school. TJ never asked him when he wanted to go into the family business, Jack said, and in fact, Jack’s career started much differently.
After graduating from Wesley College as a political science major, Jack spent time working as a lobbyist and special-interest advocate on Capitol Hill. While vacationing with fiancée Kirstin Lockwood in Savannah, Ga., the pair decided to stop by an open house held by father-and-son realtors.
“They were the spitting image of dad and me age-wise,” Jack said. “It was a weird parallel, and it hit me at that time that this is what you need to do. You need to come home and work with Dad.”
Jack put in his two weeks’ notice with his office as soon as he returned from his trip and joined TJ in the business, earning his realtor’s license, taking care of 60-plus rentals and helping with his father’s first successful campaign for Dewey Beach commissioner in 2017. TJ served as mayor of Dewey Beach from 2017 to 2020.
Every morning, before tackling the day’s work, father and son talked about the issues facing Dewey Beach and the world at large. From his father, Jack said he learned to be a good steward of the community and his family, and to focus on becoming a better person each day who leaves the world a better place than he found it.
A few years after joining the business, Jack said he started seeing signs that something wasn’t right. TJ was losing weight, Jack said, and was experiencing pain. After a short battle with cancer, TJ passed away in April 2020. The day after his father’s death, Jack went back to work and started calling clients, just as TJ did when his own father died in 2011.
“He was my best friend,” Jack said. “He was supposed to be the best man at my wedding in October. Dad set me up for success, not just in business, but in life.”
The past year has been rough without TJ, Jack said, but he is grateful for the support of friends who helped motivate him while he grieved, notably Graves Carey, Jen and Brian Barrows, Justin Healy, Steve “Monty” Montgomery, Jimmy O’Conor, Bruce Vavala and Adriane Gallagher, as well as his fiancée, uncle Chris Redefer, aunt Beth Caruso, mother Bobbie Redefer, and sister Leigh Ann Redefer Winslow and her husband Thurman.
“Without any of them, there’s no way I would be here,” Jack said.
The best part of being a realtor, Jack said, is helping people and welcoming them home, one of his father’s favorite sayings. Jack said he is ready to welcome home anyone from first-time buyers to those buying luxury homes in all of the Delaware beaches, from Slaughter Beach to Bethany Beach.
In the future, he said he may consider volunteering on a town committee or commission like his father, but right now the focus is on his family and making the business a success.
“We’re going to continue the light that Dad shined so bright,” Jack said.
Rehoboth Bay Realty is located at 2400 Coastal Highway in Dewey Beach. For more information, go to rehobothbayrealty.com or call 302-227-1232.