Catching Up with Joseph and Randi Brazen

By Risé Hirsch

After building a business, starting a restaurant, and getting 3 kids through college, most people would be thinking about retirement and enjoying the proverbial “fruits of their labor”. If it was me, I would be lounging in a hammock in Tortuga, drinking rum out of coconuts and finding creative ways to spend my kids inheritance. But for Joseph and Randi Brazen, they’re just shifting into 2nd gear.

I caught up with the Brazens at the 520 Bar and Grill where we shared a round of drinks and dished on all the irons they have in the fire. In case you’re curious, I had a Moscow Mule, Joseph had a Michelob Ultra, and Randi had a Bud Light. If I had been a tad smarter I would have added a plate of nachos…obviously, for journalistic purposes.

I Wish They All Could Be California Girls

The beginning of the Brazen story could actually be a movie script (I’m considering optioning the Lifetime Movie rights as we speak). A real estate visionary from Santa Monica, a young actress from Studio City, they meet, fall in love, and decide to get married 10 weeks later. That’s not a misprint, their romance when from zero to sixty in about the same time it takes the cable guy to show up and install free HBO.

They were both attending a weekend seminar in LA and as soon as she walked in the room Joseph knew she was the one. They got to know each other over the next few days and enjoyed a couple of dinners. After dating for a few more weeks they decided to get married. “I called my friends and said ‘what are you doing Friday? Do you want to come to our wedding?’” She laughs now as she remembers her friends saying, “Wedding? Who are you dating??” They just celebrated 30 years in January.

I was curious how this California couple made their way up to Bellevue. Would you believe a coin flip? They knew they wanted to raise their family outside of the city and with 3 girls under the age of five scampering around it was time. They fell in love with Bellevue on an earlier trip, so they decided to revisit the city. During the visit, a good friend of theirs, Howard Brinton, happened to be speaking at Meydenbauer Center. Surprised to see each other in the same city, they all met for dinner that night and breakfast the following morning. During both events the conversations were consumed debating the pros and cons of uprooting from California and moving to Bellevue.

As they’re leaving the restaurant, Howard signals a cab for the airport and turns and says, “‘I’m tired of you guys whining”, he takes a quarter out of his pocket…”Heads you’re gonna move to Bellevue and start your life here and tails forget about this fantasy and stay in California”. He flipped the quarter and had Randi and Joseph call it in the air, they both yelled “HEADS!” Howard grabs the quarter in midair and puts it into his pocket and just says, “the decision is done”. Joseph and Randi just look at each other, “Well, what was it???” and Howard replies, “It doesn’t matter, you’ve made your decision.” They went back to California and put their house on the market and moved to Bellevue one month later.

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New Places and Fresh Faces

The Brazen name has historically been associated with luxury real estate. When Sotheby’s was looking for a Washington real estate partner to represent their iconic brand, they asked The Brazen Group to come on board. Joseph’s company became the first Sotheby’s partner in Washington state. “This was a real game changer”, Joseph said. This all transpired in the midst of the housing market crash when the word “luxury” was scarcely mentioned. Although challenging, Joseph and his real estate crew persevered.

Playing With Fire

Guess who’s celebrating 10 years? (Besides my 29th birthday) The 520 Bar and Grill has been the favorite meeting place for Eastsiders for over a decade! Personally, I consider the 520 “The Cheers of Bellevue”. Each time I open the door I expect to hear someone yell “Norm!” and pour me a beer. During a trip to Ireland the Brazen’s fell in love with Dublin’s legendary Temple Bar District and were inspired to open a place in Bellevue that offered the same neighborhood vibe, a comfortable space that welcomed everyone. Without any restaurant experience and using their favorite pub as inspiration, the 520 Bar and Grill was born. Randi remembers Joseph saying, “You know, if doesn’t work out one day we can just put a sign on the door that says ‘gone fishin’.” Lucky for us, that sign has yet to materialize. Although originally slated to be called, Main Street Pub, they gravitated toward 520 which is a real estate term referencing everything between the 3 freeways…you know, like the center of the city, and it couldn’t be more apropos. Voted “Best Bar on the Eastside” by 425 Magazine and “Best Casual Meeting Place” by the Bellevue Downtown Association, I think the Brazen’s dream of bringing an Irish pub to Bellevue has successfully come to fruition.

With no signs of slowing down, Joseph and Randi just announced the opening of their new restaurant located at the the foot of the W Hotel which will be part of the Lincoln Square expansion. The name and details are still under construction, but with 3700 square feet to play with we can only imagine great things. Joseph recently stated, “our new concept in the Lincoln Square expansion location will capture that same flavor, but it’s design and vibe will take into consideration the worldwide travelers, upscale shoppers and guests as well as the young, vibrant nightlife that is now prevalent in downtown Bellevue.” The restaurant will also provide a private entrance for people living in the residential towers and will also include an outdoor patio for dining. The only question left is when is the grand opening and who’s taking my reservation?

Within the last year, the Brazen’s opened up their second location and after a huge recruiting binge, doubled the number of agents on the Brazen Sotheby’s team. With last year’s growth of 102% and an impressive caché of real estate talent, it appears the team has found their groove and a nice little formula for success. For updated details on the market, you can always check out Randi’s “Luxury Real Estate” segment on New Day Northwest which airs the last Tuesday of each month.

Full House

Between two Brazen Sotheby’s offices, two Bellevue restaurants, three daughters and a crew of golden retrievers at home, I’m not sure the word “retirement” is even in their vocabulary. I think the only time Joseph and Randi actually slow down is when they are doing Hot Yoga, which they do together daily at 6:30am. Joseph’s alarm goes off at…wait for it…5:20 each morning, I thought he was kidding. He smiled and showed me his alarm. He wasn’t kidding. As we wrapped up our interview, I asked him what was it like living with four women. Randi laughs and says, “…Joe, you know, like having 5 bathrooms but all the girls are in one!” and Joseph starts laughing and recaps his most recent Father’s Day. “All the girls were in town for the weekend and they’d only get ready together…and only in the master bathroom! I walked in and it was like a Victoria’s Secret with all the lingerie, makeup, and shoes everywhere!”

Watching them beam with pride as they talked about their daughters was charming. Randi describes her girls as, “One who wants to rule the world, one who wants to heal the world, and one who wants to save the world”, which is a great analogy when you consider their professions. Joey, the saver, worked for Teach for America and is currently teaching for an at-risk school in Dallas. Cody, the healer, works for Hyperice which is a company that develops sports recovery equipment, while Taylor, the ruler extraordinaire, is pursuing the family business and recently joined her Mom and Dad on the Brazen Sotheby’s team. They’re a close-knit group, it was nice to see the genuine pleasure that surfaced whenever they spoke about family.

Without Further Ado

As I wrapped up the interview and thanked Joseph and Randi for their time, I left the restaurant knowing this: The Brazens believe in Bellevue. They don’t just say it, they show it. Besides making their home here, they’ve raised 3 great kids via our Bellevue public schools, built several businesses that support the local economy and dedicate themselves to non-profits, like Lifespring, that directly supports Bellevue families. It was refreshing to know I have them in my community corner.

The Brazens are dedicated to making Bellevue the best neighborhood, and it shows.

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