If you’ve never been in an Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL), you’re missing out. The Rhode Island-headquartered staple of the East Coast was originally founded as a discount closeout retailer in 1977, making it a go-to for household essentials, holiday decorations, and pet supplies. The best part of walking the rows of a Job Lot, however, is those unexpected treasures you’d never find anywhere else.
The company’s $800 million in revenue and extensive expansion over the last handful of years is proof that it’s continuing to find ways to attract new customers in search of everything from oscillating fans to inflatable pool loungers.
OSJL’s growth has required the expertise of recent head of real estate hire Jonathan Navallo, whose retail real estate experience is as deep as his commitment to promoting diversity for those whose backgrounds are in the commercial real estate space. A board member of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans and the Northeast Lead for Filipinos in Institutional Real Estate (FIIRE), Navallo is committed to providing more opportunities for people who haven’t had the opportunity to see others with similar backgrounds and experiences in positions of leadership.
It’s been less than a year for Navallo in his present role, but the head of real estate has made significant inroads in a very short period.
“The last 10 months with Ocean State Job Lot could be seen as drinking from a fire hose, but I think it’s been more like drinking straight from the fire hydrant,” Navallo says, laughing. “I’m here to help take an $800 million company into the billions through real estate. This company is full of amazingly entrepreneurial individuals who will get it done no matter what, and I’m excited to be part of it.”
OSJL’s sizable portfolio includes the ownership of shopping centers where its stores are located. Navallo sees the real estate team as the “tip of the spear” for helping scale continued growth. He also sees an opportunity to contribute to the company’s wider ESG efforts.
“We want to be a net-zero (cutting greenhouse gas emissions as close to zero as allowable) company moving forward,” Navallo explains. “It’s not just the right thing; it’s ultimately going to make us a more efficient and profitable company in the long run.”
Navallo says the company is addressing issues ranging from material usage to logistics and supply chain to enhanced recycling operations for all of its portfolio. As the owner of its real estate, OSJL can engage its tenants to become part of the effort.
Additionally, the real estate head is especially proud of Job Lot’s continuing commitment to solar power. The company rolled out 7,500 rooftop solar panels across 10 of its Rhode Island locations in 2021. It’s also working on similar projects for its Massachusetts and New Jersey locations with more on the way.
When it comes to the leadership of his team, Navallo says it’s imperative to drop his ego at the door. That means not just a willingness, but a commitment to bringing in talent that knows more than he does.
“I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room,” Navallo says. “My job is to create an environment where my team can succeed, and if I’m able to do that, then I’m doing my job right. That’s how I’ve always approached management. In today’s environment, how you approach a problem is everything, and I want people on my team who can employ those soft skills to work collaboratively and find creative solutions.”
Navallo clarifies that he’s not as focused on finding hard skills, as those can be taught with time. He’s often willing to look outside the real estate world when sourcing talent, as it provides new insight, perspective, and problem solving approaches.
Both at OSJL and outside of his role, Navallo also displays an intense desire to provide the kind of mentorship he was missing early in his career. He says that coming from a background where he had no connections to commercial real estate, not only finding, but knowing he needed a mentor was a difficult challenge to overcome.
“One thing I think about in my career is that representation matters, and now that I’m a father, that’s become more important than ever,” Navallo says. “The longer you’re in this business, the more you realize you can have a positive impact on other people’s careers, providing guidance and mentorship. I want to provide that for the next generation of real estate professionals.”
That’s why Navallo is continuing to build out FIIRE’s Northeast chapter and provide more visibility for Filipino Americans in commercial real estate. Traditionally, Navallo says, Filipinos have had exactly two options: medicine or engineering. He wants that to change, and he’s helping lead the charge.