Strike up the brand

WHILE ELLEN KOEPPEN and Alex Zabel have switched roles, Green Lake Real Estate’s commitment to customer service will be unwavering, new owner Koeppen insists.  Ian Stepleton photo

GL Real Estate’s new owner pledges continued marketing leadership

by Ian Stepleton

Some businesses change hands with pomp and circumstance.

Customers of Green Lake Real Estate may have hardly noticed the difference.

Little has changed at the company, located at 610 South St. in Green Lake, since Ellen Koeppen took over from owner Alex Zabel March 1.

And that’s intentional.

Koeppen, who worked for Zabel for the past three years, wants to run with the strong brand Zabel created — and possibly grow it as the market allows.

“I was not even thinking about owning a real estate company, but through the conversation [with Alex], I said, ‘Why not?’” she said. “I’m excited about the challenge and being the owner of Green Lake Real Estate … I’m looking to build the team over the next two years, or however the market will sustain it.”

“[The ownership switch] couldn’t go any smoother,” Zabel added.

He proposed the sale to Koeppen because of a desire to shift his attention more squarely on another venture of his.

“My plate was pretty full. I own ZA Commercial Real Estate and I owned Green Lake Real Estate,” he said. “ZA Commercial has been doing so well I couldn’t do both justice, so I talked to Ellen, and it worked out for both of us.”

As was the case under Zabel’s ownership, Green Lake Real Estate’s hallmark is its strong marketing approach.

“When we started out, eight, nine years ago, the market was very strong, and we went out to create a solid brand at the time and I think we accomplished that,” Zabel said. “[Green Lake Real Estate] does marketing better than anybody.”

How does Green Lake Real Estate do a better job of selling homes than competitors? By getting homes in front of more eyes, they explained.

“[The business] belongs to three multiple listing services (MLS) so that we can really reach out to the fringes of this market. We say it a lot: we don’t care how we sell your house, and being in these MLS’s is a big part of that,” he said of belonging to services in Madison and the Fox Cities, in addition to the Green Lake/Ripon MLS. “[Green Lake Real Estate] spend a lot of time on our websites, and we have a very strong website. That’s the future of marketing [real estate].”

It’s a focus Koeppen will retain under her ownership.

“I really want to focus on the internet presence, since that is where our buyers are finding us,” she said, noting she’ll utilize “memberships through some different entities on the web. Those memberships offer additional exposure for our sellers.”

It’s a tried-and-true plan for Green Lake Real Estate.

“We are getting a lot of our buyers from out of our area, and they have done a lot of research on the internet, so when they contact us they already have a pretty good idea of what they want,” Koeppen said. “So the website is really important.”

Those buyers don’t necessarily fall into any single niche, either.

Green Lake Real Estate is willing to help home buyers and sellers at all points on the home-sales spectrum.

“[Green Lake Real Estate is] more of a generalist —we’ll work with just about anybody, take on just about any challenge,” Zabel said. “We get the local folks who are just starting out, wanting to get their first home, which is entirely different than someone who wants to come up and get a second house on the lake or a getaway. It requires quite a bit of expertise.”
It also requires someone who is capable of listening to clients and hearing what they want as well.

Koeppen, a former executive director of the Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, explained this is an area in which she’s always excelled.

“Even though I’ve only been in real estate for three years, my background of 15-plus years has been in customer service, customer relationships … so I bring years of successful customer management,” she said. “Communication is the biggest thing — letting people know what’s going on.”

She later added, “The real estate transaction is a big deal and can be scary if you don’t have good communication. We are here to guide clients through the process so they know what to expect along the way.”

Zabel agreed this is a strength for the company’s new owner.

“I  am very confident in Ellen’s experience at the chamber,” he said. “It’s been a great asset. The way she handles people and challenging situations is really her strength. The glass is always half full with her. She’s not afraid to get out there, and chase down [solutions to problems].”

“Real estate is a process, and you really work very closely with people,” Koeppen said. “It can be a scary process, because getting into a real estate transaction is a big deal. It’s real neat at a transaction when they are either buying their first home or buying their dream home on the lake, and also the sellers, handing over the keys to a new owner who will enjoy that home.

“You work so closely with the people, and then at the closing you see the different emotions. It’s a neat thing to be a part of.”

With some hard work and maybe a little luck, she hopes she can help even more of those customers enjoy that experience.

She aims to add to the business, but acknowledges that “The market will determine the growth.”

For now, she’s happy to be owning her own business in the area, after years elsewhere.

“I grew up in a small Wisconsin town,” she said. “My career took me to Arkansas, six years in Chicago, Milwaukee and then to Green Lake. I’m enjoying being part of a Wisconsin small town with so much to offer.”

She later added, “I’m very excited, because I want to stay in the Green Lake area. I’ve been here for 10 years, so it’s very exciting to have ownership in something right here in Green Lake that I can grown and own and sink my teeth into.”

Green Lake Real Estate serves Green Lake, Waushara, Marquette and Fond du Lac counties.
For more information about Green Lake Real Estate, call 294-3004 or visit it online at


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