Although Mitchell C. Schneider was born and raised in the area, the attorney-turned-real estate developer did not enter Cleveland’s Jewish community until adulthood.
After graduating from Orange High School in Pepper Pike, Schneider enrolled in The Ohio State University in Columbus and later attended OSU Moritz College of Law with the goal of becoming a real estate attorney. He quickly secured a job at the now-defunct Kahn, Kleinman, Yanowitz & Arnson Co. in Cleveland.
The firm “had some amazing Jewish leaders,” Schneider said. “Growing up, my family was not part of the organized Jewish world and I didn’t really know anything about the Jewish community – Federation or otherwise. So, it was a real eye opener to me that these organizations were out there, the work that they did and the opportunities for being involved with them.”
His colleagues introduced him to organizations such as the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and ORT America, which gives students from undeserved communities access to high-quality education so they are better positioned to enter the job market with marketable skills and eventually invest back into their communities.
Speaking about ORT America, Schneider said it was the wife of another lawyer at the firm who introduced him to the organization. He ultimately helped ORT’s Cleveland chapter in its mission to attract younger members.
“We attracted a lot of young guys that were on pathways towards successful careers and wanted to engage with one another and help raise money for ORT here in Cleveland, and that grew into my being invited to help to start a young leadership division of ORT on a national platform, which I was excited to do,” said Schneider, whose involvement in ORT led to his first visit to Israel in the 1980s.
“It was a great set of opportunities that I’m not sure I really would have found or been exposed to but for not ... a large number of these attorneys and their clients,” Schneider said. “They really were such an amazing example of what it meant to give back to the community.”
Schneider left the firm in 1989 – after five years – to start First Interstate Properties, Ltd. He said his decision to start the business was at least partially inspired by Kahn, Kleinman, Yanowitz & Arnson, as his work at the firm exposed him to the development side of real estate, more specifically, shopping center development.
He said a couple of attorneys and some clients from the firm agreed to partner with him, and with their help, he opened a one man shop on Chagrin Boulevard.
That was 31 years and roughly 4 million square feet of shopping center space ago. The company has now pivoted to residential development.
“I get a lot of pleasure and great personal satisfaction from the physical buildings that we’ve built and the way that they’ve changed the landscape,” Schneider said.
He is also proud of the jobs his developments have created and their impact on local schools.
“The tax benefits to the communities that we’ve built properties in has really become so meaningful to the school systems where these properties are located,” Schneider said. “In many of the places where we built these properties, it was a visible change in the quality of the schools. It’s really felt pretty rewarding.”
First Interstate Properties also makes an effort to support college-bound high school graduates with scholarships and supports charitable organizations with the same goal.
“I try to keep it all in perspective,” Schneider said. “There’s people that have done much more than I have out there, there’s people that have done less than I have out there, but everybody does what they’re capable of (and) it does feel great to get feedback from people that you’ve helped out over the years.”