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VOL. 126 | NO. 103 | Thursday, May 26, 2011

Duo Helps Strengthen Colliers’ Retail Face

By Sarah Baker

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After being historically thought of as a driving force in industrial real estate, Colliers International is becoming a rising star in the retail arena.

The retail team of Andrew Phillips and Ed Thomas has been involved in three of the largest retail lease transactions in the last six months with the 45,000-square-foot Habitat for Humanity, 24,000-square-foot Memphis Judo and 14,000-square-foot Jack Wills Co.

In 2010, the duo sold more retail centers than any other brokerage firm in town. That’s because closing deals in tough times is a matter of determination, Thomas said.

“There’s really no secret to this business. It’s really follow-up and persistence and making sure that you take care of any lead that you may have that could turn into something,” he said. “It’s just taking care of our clients and figuring out who’s out there that could fill these spaces.”

Thomas joined Colliers in 2007 after working in the restaurant kitchen business, designing and selling commercial equipment. Both sides of his family dabbled in the CRE business, and his fascination for the trade eventually led him to join Phillips and help grow the firm’s retail division.

“(Ed) is known around our office as being the hardest worker in our shop, so it was a no-brainer that he was the guy who could help grow the Colliers retail division in Memphis,” Phillips said.

The Habitat deal was the first cold call Thomas made when he got into the business. He would stay with them for three and half years, constantly sourcing and working within the nonprofit’s means.

“We tried to help them find the right space on the right location for the right budget, but it finally paid off,” Thomas said.

A lot of the business the team has picked up is a result of foreclosures. They have a particularly compelling success story with The Shops at Rock Creek, 2362-2382 Germantown Parkway, that was heading into foreclosure in 2009 after being in receivership for some time.

First, Phillips and Thomas were able to find a buyer and complete the sale of the center to investors. After partnering with Joe Montgomery and Tony D’Ambosio in Colliers’ Atlanta office, the firm was awarded leasing, management and the eventual disposition for the servicer. Within seven months, The Shops of Rock Creek’s occupancy went from 60 to 100 percent.

“We actually took on three centers for that group at the same time,” Phillips said. “Prior to the property sale, Ed and I had to work with the existing tenant base to stabilize the properties’ occupants and also began marketing the property for lease. The signing of Genghis Grill really gave the center new life as it is hard to even find a parking space out there during lunch and dinner hours.”

Phillips began his career working for Eddie Saig in 2002. Being new to the business in a down cycle, he didn’t have the luxury of specializing in any “one food group.”

“I worked on retail, office, industrial and some limited multifamily,” he said. “This was good as I was able to figure out where my strengths were in each of these areas and knew just enough to be dangerous.”

After a brief stint with Lehman Brothers, Phillips chose to join Colliers because of its founders and active partners.

“Colliers, an industrial and office powerhouse, had limited retail services, and I knew that this was an area of brokerage that the company could grow and that I could actively participate in,” Phillips said. “The Colliers national retail platform is strong and continues to pick up momentum as we continue to expand around the country.”

But it’s not just the future of Colliers that’s promising. With Memphis’ recent successes of national retailers choosing to set up shop here, Phillips is bullish that the city is on a tear.

“We are seeing new deals coming to the market and we are starting to feel real pride in our town,” he said. “While some of the groups had been circling our market for months, their entering the market can be attributed to finding the right space at the right price at the right time. All of the tenants are filling voids in our market that consumers wanted and are responding well to.”

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