As a former sales and marketing staffer for the Memphis Grizzlies, Chris Scott could drop enough sports celebrity names to keep a broom salesman busy.
“I met Shaq,” says Scott, 40. “And Lorenzen Wright was a good friend of mine.”
But he’d rather drop the names of the local men and women who encouraged him to change careers and then helped him make that shift.
“As I was tending bar for an event at Berkshire Hathaway in 2019, people like Doug Lawrence, Marcus Holt and Doug Edrington would ask me if I’d ever thought about what I was going to do when I stopped serving cocktails,” he remembers.
The question the Realtors and brokers asked Scott that evening was rhetorical. If he ever stopped bartending, then he should consider selling real estate, Lawrence and the others suggested.
The queries might not have been subtle, but they were effective. “I started thinking about real estate as I was driving home,” Scott continues.
Scott was as plugged into the local bar scene as one could be. In addition to serving drinks during events at Songbirds, Memorial Auditorium and Tivoli Theatre and mixing cocktails during events at The Tennessee Aquarium and The Signal, he helped the owners of Square One set up bars at State of Confusion, Stir and elsewhere.
When Scott took the gig serving drinks at the Berkshire event, he was on tap at nine different Chattanooga bars.
“I like to keep myself busy and I enjoyed what I was doing,” he notes.
But bartending was not – as the people who spoke with Scott that night intuitively intimated – what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“The bar business was good to me but I was ready for a change,” he explains. “And I felt like the people skills I developed as a bartender would help me in real estate.”
Scott became a Realtor faster than he could mix a martini. After registering for classes at TREES the following day and then becoming licensed in a matter of weeks, he was training with the Edrington Team at Berkshire.
Scott had just sold his first house when Bill Panebianco, vice president of sales and marketing for Pratt Home Builders, invited him to lunch at Hennen’s. The restaurant’s signature steak was not the only appetizing thing on the table that afternoon.
“I’d taken care of Bill and his wife many times while tending bar at Stir, and certain things in terms of customer service had stood out to him,” Scott recalls. “He told me he could see me in real estate because I know how to take care of people.”
Panebiano invited Scott to join a small team of new home consultants who usher Pratt’s customers through the home buying process. From walking clients through a model home, to perusing floor plans with them, to learning what they wanted in a home, Panebiano asked Scott to do what had come naturally to him as a bartender: listen.
The offer was too good to refuse, Scott says.
Panebianco initially placed Scott at Creekside at Hampton Meadows, Pratt’s Ooltewah development. Despite supply chain issues and material shortages, Scott sold 49 houses his first year with the company.
Scott says the work has been “a blessing.”
“I like giving people what they want. When I was tending bar, I’d try to make people the perfect drink; now I try to help them create the perfect home.”
Scott says he found the perfect hometown after moving to Chattanooga in 2008. He grew up in Memphis, where he played high school basketball and developed what would become a lifelong affection for the sport.
“I was always the shortest kid on the team but I loved it.”
A visit to Soddy Daisy in 2001 to train lifeguards introduced Scott to Chattanooga, but he was not yet ready to leave Memphis. Rather, he pursued his passion for basketball and found work with the Grizzlies.
Although Scott says he enjoyed his time with the team, he ultimately chose to not remain in that business. As he contemplated moving to either Austin, Texas, or Chattanooga, he realized he wanted to stay in the South.
Plus, Scott adds, he had an easier time seeing himself living in the Scenic City.
“The revitalization of downtown and everything that’s transpired in Chattanooga over the last 20 years has been really cool. I felt like the best years were ahead for the city and I wanted to be a part of them.”
Scott has become a part of the fabric of the city through more than home sales. In addition to working for Pratt, he’s become active at Greater Chattanooga Realtors, where he completed the Leadership Academy and has become a member of the Community Partnerships Committee.
He’s also found outlets for something he calls “sort of a hobby.”
“A girl I was dating a few years ago collected Tom Brady sports cards. That renewed my interest in collecting.”
Scott began collecting baseball, football and basketball cards as a boy. His father supported his pasttime and gave him what remains his prized possession.
“My dad traveled all over the U.S. as a pilot for FedEx. As he was killing time in the cities, he’d visit local card shops and look through the boxes.
“When I was 10, he was flipping through a box of cards in Omaha, Nebraska, and found a Michael Jordan rookie card – which he bought for a dime.
That card is worth a lot more money today. It’s the only card I have that’s absolutely not for sale.”
Sort of a hobby indeed.
As a bachelor, Scott has enough free time to devote to card collecting and other leisurely pursuits, including golf and listening to live music. But his thoughts are never far from his new career and the “blessing” it has been to him.
“I begin every day intending to do my best. There will be things that are beyond my control – I might not land a sale – but I can’t let that discourage me from waking up the next morning and taking the same approach.”