Meet the real guy behind anonymous “StripMallGuy” X account

Don Tepman reveals himself in a TRD exclusive

Meet the Man Behind the Famous Real Estate Internet Celebrity: StripMallGuy
Don Tepman (Photography by Paul Dilakian for The Real Deal)

When Don Tepman called a broker in Philadelphia looking for properties to buy, the broker wasn’t especially interested in helping him, a real estate professional who mostly buys in California. 

That was until Tepman, who runs University Avenue Partners, asked the broker if he knew who StripMallGuy was, the internet celebrity that has amassed more than 215,000 followers on X.

“He got excited,” Tepman said. “I told him: ‘I run that account.’”

Don Tepman is StripMallGuy.

He has decided to go public, letting the world know he’s the man behind the brown-haired cartoon in a sweater vest, firing off thousands of posts since he started the account in 2021, dishing out all sorts of advice:

What’s it like having Chick-fil-A as a tenant? (Too much traffic.) What’s a winning skill in negotiations? (The ability to tolerate awkwardness.) What are less obvious red flags when investing with someone? (“If they’re not an expert of just one thing, they’re an expert of nothing.”)

StripMallGuy has the answers.

“For two and a half years now, I didn’t want to reveal myself and it’s because of fear of the unknown,” Tepman said. “I’m coming to realize there are great things on the other side of the curtain.”

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Don Tepman (Photograph by Paul Dilakian for The Real Deal)

His moniker, StripMallGuy, is true to his core. 

Tepman, who relocated from the Bay Area a couple of years ago and now lives in New York, runs a private equity firm focused on buying strip malls. His firm has done 35 deals in the Bay Area, including an $11 million purchase from Blackstone in 2022, but has been expanding nationwide, under the new arm TownCentre Capital. 

“Everybody knows what University Avenue is in Palo Alto,” he said. Tepman decided to focus on strip centers across the country, asking himself the question, “How the heck do I build a brand that will become top of mind with brokers around the country?” 

Enter StripMallGuy. Tepman built the brand in a few short years, quickly becoming a household name among industry players.

Take the conversation with the broker in Philadelphia, he said. The broker started reciting his tweets — he turned out to be a “longtime follower” and went much deeper into what he could sell Tepman. 

The last two deals the firm has done have been because of the account, Tepman told The Real Deal. It’s a way to source leads — brokers, investors and developers will message him through the StripMallGuy account, often leading to relationships. 

“You realize that you’re being followed by heads of different industries and heads of brokerages and other fund managers and GPs from other asset classes, and they want to connect with you,” Tepman told TRD last year, when he declined to make himself known publicly. 

“The more that network grows, the better content I have access to and the more I share. It makes me a better general partner, which encourages my deal flow,” he added.