FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Michael Kehoe
November 8, 2016
It was more than just his turn to buy lunch – it was fitting to do an ‘update’ since I last interviewed him:
I don’t usually interview competitors. But there are exceptions to my 'sort-of-rule' about that. People I like and respect, who do something exceptional, who do the basics well – ethical, kind, decent – you get the picture. Some people fit all those criteria; case in point, friend Michael (Mike) Kehoe, President/Broker at Fairfield Commercial Real Estate. I’ve interviewed him in this space before – so this interview will take a different path than my ‘usual’ conversations. We caught up recently over a great lunch at Cibo.
His specialty is ‘retail real estate’ and he’s achieved two notable milestones this year – 41 years in the industry (he started out working for landlords in the shopping mall biz) and his firm is now 25! And he’s very busy in the East Village. And retail real estate, much as industrial is, is often a bellwether of ‘how things are trending’ – a good thing to watch in downturn times like these …
He says, “I’ve spent a lot of the last 20 years focusing a lot of my business on ‘two blocks of Banff Avenue’ and ‘two blocks of Stephen Avenue’. Now I’m focused on East Village – we’ve been very active there – and within three to five years that area will be home to 11-12,000 people, so there will be plenty of retail.”
His work-balance? … “I do landlord’s work and tenant rep. work – 50/50. I’ve made some great friends among Calgary and western Canada retailers, chefs/restauranteurs – and our tenant rep. work has ups and downs – but our longest-standing are Good Earth Coffee House and Panago.”
Mike is going strong – says his workout routine, swimming, hiking and ‘time on the dance floor’ are keeping him young. He’s the youngest of six, and his mother just turned 98 – so I get the sense we will both live a long time if we can find a way to push ourselves away from the table more often. He adds, “I’m in the best shape of my adult life – I have a trainer and I’m feeling really good.” Discussion vacillated between the food, business and the ‘Brewster drivers reunion coming up in Banff’. Mike is a long time part-time resident of Banff. “I sold my place in Banff last year. I’m just not as keen on highway driving in the winter as I used to be.”
So, how is ‘retail real estate brokerage’ business right now? “Brisk. I find retail work is counter cyclical. When things turn down, I get busy – tenants get more intensely focused on ‘getting the right terms’ and landlords with holes to fill are more focused on ‘getting the right tenants’. There is lots of churn in the market right now – and many tenants who’ve not entered the Calgary market before are seeing this as a good time - Calgary is now affordable!”
And five years out? ...“There will always be a need – retailers and restaurants especially. Many sectors of our industry have been disrupted/altered by technology. But what data-sources alone cannot provide, that we do, is protecting clients from danger by identifying and analyzing best opportunities. And relationships. I find I am re-inventing myself every couple of years – asking myself ‘what are my skill sets required to stay relevant?’ I don’t do monster deals very often. I liken myself to Cal Ripken – lots of base hits."
And ‘last works’ or tricks of the trade to pass along? “I like working where other brokers aren’t – the niche they haven’t found. And building a team, which I am, and planning for transition.”
Transition? … “I’m looking at more travel – I have a hiking trip in Spain planned for next fall, continued work with ICSC as an Ambassador for Western Canada, networking with new retailers and young people looking to go into the business. Also for ICSC I’ve been recently selected as a judge for the Community Support Awards.”
“and one more thing … the Calgary Drop-in and Rehab Centre needs National Geographic magazines … just drop them off, they will be appreciated.” Or, call Mike.
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