Sharp-Dressed Rob Costin Loves Standing Out in a Crowd

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Rob Costin. Photo by Jon Marks

Jon Marks

Rob Costin didn’t set out in life to be Waldo, the guy who stands out in a crowd. It wasn’t in his game plan to be Norm from “Cheers,” whom they immediately recognize and congregate around when he walks into the room.

In fact, the man who grew up in the clothing business before turning to real estate nearly 40 years ago is kind of sheepish about all this attention. But that’s what happens when you show up at services every Shabbat dressed more garishly than anyone in the place.


“He’s someone who wears not the most modest, conservative suits,” said David Glanzberg-Krainin, the longtime rabbi at Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park. “They’re kind of outrageous, so you’re not going to be able to look away when he walks in the room.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear the same thing. Every Shabbat morning, he comes dressed in these incredibly colored suits. He’s always wearing a hat, shoes specific to the suit he’s wearing and unbelievable amounts of jewelry.

“There’s no way you’re not going to notice he’s there.”

Rob and Jodi Costin. Courtesy of Rob Costin

Yet as far as Costin’s concerned, he’s just a kid from the Northeast who happened to find his niche.

“Actually, when I grew up, I had nothing,” said Costin, who grew up in a family of six where his father would commute to New York each day to work in the Garment District.

“Remember Fleet’s, the men’s store on Castor Avenue? I liked to say, ‘One day I want to be dressed like that.’”

Tell that kid one day he’d live in a lavish house in Huntingdon Valley, where he’d have closets on each floor separated by the clothes he’s already worn and the new threads he’s setting aside for shul and he’d laugh. Tell that 14-year-old he’d soon meet a girl at Northeast High School who’d not only become his wife of 46 years but his business partner, and he’d wonder what you’re smoking.

“We’re a team in life and in real estate,” said Jodi Costin, who learned a while back to not compete with her husband’s sartorial choices. “Everywhere we go, everyone wants to take pictures with him and be around him. I’m used to it.”

He is, too.

“People look forward to seeing what I’m wearing every week,” explained Costin, who became a bar mitzvah at Temple Sholom in the Northeast, then took a break from attending synagogue while building his business, before joining Beth Sholom some 20 years ago. “If I come Saturday to shul in a white shirt, black suit and tie, they’d be very disappointed in me, and I don’t want to disappoint them.

“So, there’s a lot of pressure.”

But Rob Costin is more than just the sharp-dressed man in the building: He’s a regular on the bimah.

“I lift the Torah every week,” he said. “They call me ‘Hazzan Shayni.’ And my nickname at evening services is the ‘Ashrei-is.’ I read the Ashrei at evening minion. I have excellent attendance and never miss a Shabbat.”

So, how’d this all start?

“Before I got into real estate, I was in the clothing business,” said Costin, whose parents met in London, where his dad Zelig (a name some may remember from the old Woody Allen movie) was stationed after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. “I was manager of Jeans West and used to open up their stores in all the malls — Oxford Valley, Springfield, Deptford.

“So being the manager, I had to be dressed. I worked there 4-5 years and was going to be promoted to merchandise manager but would’ve had to move to St. Louis. My wife’s parents wouldn’t let me leave, so I opened up my own women’s fashion store in Trenton — Fashion Warehouse. I sold uniforms to these parochial schools, so here’s this Jewish boy going to churches, measuring and sizing up students.”

Five years later, Costin was at a party when Irv Gilbert, owner of Landmark Realty, suggested he try selling houses instead of clothes. Shortly after he started working there, Gilbert died. When a new broker took over, Costin decided to give it a shot.

Rob Costin. Courtesy of Rob Costin

He’s never looked back, recently being named in the 125th anniversary edition of “Who’s Who.” And before you ask, no, he doesn’t wear his off-the-wall synagogue attire to meet clients.

“I’m more conservative,” he said. “I would probably wear something I’ve already worn, like a black suit and white shirt. If I show you a million-dollar house in a shirt and jeans and another other guy comes in in a suit, who are you going to feel more comfortable with? You’ll feel more comfortable with the successful guy in a suit and tie.”

He’s got one other simple secret for success.

“Do something different,” he urged “Everyone has a cellphone and iPad. Everybody has the technology. Mine is customer service, which you don’t get anymore. Go to Walmart or CVS and look for somebody to help you. There’s nobody there. It’s self-checkout.

“I’m there for my customers 24-7. You can call me any time, any day. I’m available.”
That’s because, just like Norm from ”Cheers,” everybody knows his name.

Jon Marks is a Philadelphia-area freelance writer.

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