We recently got a chance to ask four questions of Brian Barnard, the president and founder of Old Towne Enterprises, a development firm active in the Suwanee, Ga., area. Among the topics we discussed: his firm’s future plans, how he got into commercial real estate and his advice for people entering the industry. Read on for his take on these topics …
Barnard: Old Towne Enterprises was founded in 2005 and is an experienced company that focuses on developing projects that offer communities unique shopping and tasteful dining experiences. We strive to make decisions that will enhance the communities in which we develop our properties.
As a company, we make every effort to facilitate a win-win transaction for all of our tenants. We manage all of our own properties, which allows us to be more hands-on and have a personal touch in helping our tenants in any of their endeavors or concerns that may arise.
We are currently leasing vacancies in The Shoppes at Olde Towne, which features a total of 33,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space in Suwanee, Ga., and have purchased a second property on Buford Highway to potentially re-develop at a later date; the space is currently 100 percent occupied by the Suwanee Towne Florist.
We also have begun to venture into a residential development in southwestern Ohio.
HS: How did you decide to make commercial real estate a career – what was it about the industry that appealed to you?
Barnard: Originally I was a small entrepreneur/business owner and was in the process of moving locations and purchased a parcel in Suwanee to move my business to. Due to the opportunity of an overlay district with no setbacks for development, I saw an opportunity to make the change from small business owner to developer/landlord. Growing up my whole life around relatives who worked in residential and commercial developments, I knew I would eventually end up in real estate.
HS: You’ve built Old Towne on your own. What advice would you have for people entering the commercial real estate field who want to emulate your success?
Barnard: I would tell anyone thinking of entering the commercial real estate field to do your research and find a niche — whether it be shopping centers, triple-net-leased properties, multifamily or medical office — and learn as much as you can about the types of tenants you will be dealing with. Networking is the biggest key to success along with following through with everything you say you are going to do. Treating your tenants with respect builds long-lasting relationships, which is where your success lies.
HS: How do you relax when you’re not on the job?
Barnard: When not on the job, I relax by hiking, mountain biking, making jewelry and, most important, spending time with my sons!