How Did Billy Grippo Become a “Top Eastside Producer”?

And how has he maintained such a tight grip on the TriMet bus stop ad market?

Billy Grippo advertising, as seen in the wild. (Devon Essick)

How has Billy Grippo maintained such a tight grip on the TriMet bus stop ad market? And what the hell is a “Top Eastside Producer”? I promise I’m not trying to get the Gripster a free ad here, but his name and title have been living rent-free in my head for far too long. —Kira H.

I daresay you’re not the only Portlander to have Mr. Grippo’s name seared into your memory, Kira. It certainly helps (or doesn’t help, depending on your point of view) that “Billy Grippo” is an attention-grabbing moniker—it always makes me think of someone tightly gripping a billy club. (Longtime readers know my inner 12-year-old well enough to guess where my mind goes after that. But hey, at least it’s not PETER Grippo.)

What is a real estate “top producer”? It’s like asking a stripper her real name: What do you want it to be? Real estate firms sometimes bestow the title on their best-performing employees—but other times the designation is handed out by trade groups or industry publications, any of which may or may not define it in terms of percentile or total dollar amount sold.

As to Grippo’s apparent lock on the bus bench market, he says it’s a simple matter of renewing his ad contracts and paying the bills on time. He won’t say how much he’s spent on the ads over the years, though he says the sum is “substantial,” and my back-of-the-envelope calculation puts the figure at over $1 million (adjusted for inflation).

Still, if you ask 10 Portlanders to name a real estate agent, probably seven would think of the guy with the funny name. That’s exactly what Grippo was hoping for when, as an unknown newbie, he bought his first bench ad way back in the early ‘90s. “I ordered one, and I got a listing. So I ordered another one,” he says in his mini-documentary Billy Grippo: The Man Behind the Bench. (Yes, there is a mini-documentary called Billy Grippo: The Man Behind the Bench.) “I’m a little superstitious, so I don’t think I’ll ever stop, unless I move or die.”

Are Grippo’s feelings hurt by folks like us snickering at his bench ads? The answer appears to be no. “There are very few folks in our region with my last name,” he says, “so it has certainly stood out for people and played to my advantage.” In other words: He cries all the way to the bank.

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