In today’s Four on Friday, we talk with Jay Douglas of metro Atlanta-based S.J. Collins Enterprises, a firm that specializes in the development and acquisition of grocery-anchored shopping centers in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Jay gives us the lowdown on his duties at the company, talks about the brisk pace of leasing at S.J. Collins’ properties and details why he experienced a particularly strong bout of schadenfreude recently.
Many thanks to Jay for his time.
Give us an overview of your duties at S.J. Collins.
Douglas: We don’t have actual titles at S.J. Collins, but if you were to give me one, it would be something along the lines of director of leasing. As part of that, I work with potential retailers to bring them through the letter of intent and lease negotiations.
Ultimately, I spend a lot of time with tenant brokers and lawyers. As an attorney myself, I am able to speak the common language and bridge the gap between the business objectives of getting the deal done and the legal priorities of protecting the company as landlord.
How would you describe the pace of leasing at your properties – are you noticing an uptick as the economy and CRE markets continue to recover?
Douglas: Leasing at our properties has always been extremely strong. With high-end organic grocers as the anchor tenants, retailers know that we are bringing in a customer base that has disposable income and is willing to spend it on their health. Nail and hair salons, pet stores, athletic studios and quick-service restaurants that focus on high-quality/organic food are in every single one of our centers.
Our last several centers have opened up 100 percent leased, and we are well on our way towards that goal on the four projects that are currently under construction. I don’t know what this says about the economy as a whole, as we really focus on one subset of the larger market, but we are definitely not seeing things slow down.
The one bright spot that does seem to be universally applicable is the return of the banks. Lenders seem to have finally processed the majority of their bad loans and are now refocused on growing their portfolios. That and the historically low interest rates allow us to do what we do on the front-end with acquiring properties and constructing the shopping centers.
When you're not at the office, how do you like to spend your time?
Douglas: I like to maintain an active lifestyle. Back when I was in law school, I played racquetball on the school’s club team, and almost 10 years later, I still try to play on a weekly basis. Now that my oldest son is 8, I have started introducing him to different sports like golf (though I am probably just cursing him to a lifetime of bad mechanics and frustration).
We noticed you're a graduate of Brigham Young University. How big was the grin on your face after the Cougars' recent 41-7 thrashing of the Texas Longhorns?
Douglas: What’s funny about that game is that my first reaction wasn’t amazement at how good BYU had become, but rather wondering how Texas could have gotten so bad. Regardless of whether we are particularly good this year or Texas is particularly bad, it doesn’t make the schadenfreude any less sweet. It’s nice to see us back in the Top 25. It’s been way too long since we’ve been there.