Commercial property brokers Josh Feldman and Ian Ruel had carved out such a precise niche at a national firm that they decided to break away and start their own company.

The partners formed Feldman Ruel Urban Property Advisors in Bethesda, Maryland, last month to focus on selling developable land, retail and mixed-use centers with upside potential and other properties. Geographically, the firm will focus on the District of Columbia and its close-in suburbs such as Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland and Alexandria and Arlington in Virginia.

Ruel and Feldman spent the past several years at Marcus & Millichap, where they focused on local deals that typically involved players with Washington roots.

"We established a very good brand in the market for what we do,"" Feldman Ruel Co-Founder and Managing Principal Ruel said in an interview. ""We think we're now in a better position to serve our clients."

Feldman, the other co-founder and managing principal of Feldman Ruel, said the business centered on "sort of a hyper-focused market" and companies "that had boots on the ground."

Feldman said their business styles differ and complement one another. He's the more analytical guru who also launched the firm's website, and Ruel is the relationship guy who does more of the client-facing work.  Ian is the guy you want to have a beer with," Feldman said.

"Josh is much more involved in the branding and marketing efforts," Ruel added. "We try to get each other out of our comfort zones."

While a coast-to-coast presence often proves beneficial when marketing single-tenant, net-leased and multifamily properties, that's not the case for the types of real estate Feldman and Ruel specialize in, Feldman said.

"We just felt like a national platform wasn't helpful," Feldman said in the interview. "We're not trying to be a national company."

Several other members of their Marcus & Millichap team joined Feldman and Ruel at the new firm. They include Ryan Smith, associate director; LaMarr Datcher, senior associate; and Tanner Scales, senior associate.

A large portion of the transactions Feldman and Ruel completed at their previous firm were relatively small, between $1 million to $2 million, compared with the mega-deals that get big headlines. The new firm's set-up should allow its team to flourish doing these types of transactions often centered on land entitled for development and vacant storefronts, Feldman explained.

"Not a lot of brokers want to get their hands dirty and do that type of product," Feldman said.

Feldman Ruel has kicked off with a pair of listings in D.C., including 2206 14th St., a vacant commercial building listed at $2.75 million, and 411 Eighth St., a mixed-use property in the Barricks Row corridor. That one is listed at $3.25 million.

Within the next week, Feldman and Ruel said the firm should have several new assignments such as marketing land on Bladensburg Road that's permitted for multifamily development and another piece of dirt entitled for a coliving project.

"We're very actively getting these signed and out the door,"" Feldman said.

It's an interesting time to start a new business, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Ruel and Feldman said. But they're confident their firm will be successful. Real estate investors can take advantage of the "phenomenal [interest] rates right now," Feldman said. "They're not just going to completely withdraw from the industry. There's too much opportunity."