CBRE’s Sandy Golden: Helping to build Milwaukee’s retail corridors

Sandy Golden

Sandy Golden

by Dan Rafter

Shop in and around Milwaukee? Then you need to thank Sandy Golden, a senior vice president with the Milwaukee office of CBRE.

For nearly two decades, Golden has helped bring some of the biggest retailers to the Milwaukee market. This includes such established brands as Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, Petco, Footlocker, Christopher & Banks and Ross Dress for Less.

And for fans of fast-casual dining? Golden works with up-and-comers Noodles & Company and Chick-fil-A to help these clients find prime locations in the Milwaukee area.

How has Golden earned the business — and trust — of these established retail clients? Golden says that she works as a sort of marriage broker for them, connecting them to the locations that will best help their businesses grow.

“You have to really know your clients,” Golden said. “You have to know what their goals are. You have to know as much about their customers and their expectations as possible. You have to continually educate yourself about who the customer is and what they are looking for. When you are representing landlords, you are always looking for the hole in the doughnut. What is missing? What haven’t I done yet?”

Golden treats serving her clients like solving a puzzle. Her job, she says, is to accumulate as many facts as quickly as possible. This includes information about an area’s demographics, traffic patterns, daytime population, how people travel back and forth to work and how many are working in a trade area.

This approach has paid off. Many of Golden’s clients have stayed with her for more than a

Chick-fil-A is one of the up-and-coming companies that Golden represents in the Milwaukee area.

Chick-fil-A is one of the up-and-coming companies that Golden represents in the Milwaukee area.


And these clients have been solid ones that were able to survive even the worst days of the recession. This has helped Golden maintain her business even when the Milwaukee market — like all markets — was struggling.

“My business has been remarkably steady party due to the very stable nature of my clientele base,” Golden said. “It’s not because I have done something magical, but because my clients are maybe magical.”

Golden points to Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. This client has performed well during the economy’s slow times, perhaps because consumers are staying at home more often. And what can they do when they’re at home? Craft projects are one option.

Petco is another good example. Dog and cat owners still need to buy pet supplies, even if the economy is sputtering.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts is another long-time Golden client.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts is another long-time Golden client.

“I wish I could say I did something magical during the slow times,” Golden said. “But the credit falls squarely on the shoulders of my clients. And that’s not just the tenants, but the landlords, too. I work with landlords and developers who have been remarkably far-sighted. I work with one developer in particular who has that can-do attitude. Other people look at a challenge and walk away. This developer looks at a challenge and asks, ‘How can we get it done?'”

So how can other brokers prepare themselves for the next downturn whenever it hits? Golden’s advice is simple: Surround yourself with talented, optimistic and honorable people.

Golden considers herself an optimist. And today she is optimistic about the Milwaukee market.

“Here’s what a company sees when it looks at Milwaukee: We have diverse and interesting sub markets. And they are very stable and well-established,” Golden said. “They’ll see a very stable market. We don’t have the same highs and lows as other markets. We will never be as exciting as Dallas and Atlanta and Los Angeles. But we are not as volatile as those markets, either.”

Golden, then, expects a big 2014. And she expects to bring plenty of new retail clients to the Milwaukee area.

Bringing in these new clients and helping her landlords fill space, Golden says, are the true rewards of a career in commercial real estate.

“I am very proud of any successful transaction that I may have had a part in,” Golden said. “I don’t do it alone, of course. We never do it alone. There is always a team involved. But when the team has been successful and you walk away from a table with happy tenants and happy clients or happy landlords, I think there is a broader reach to that success. The community actually gains something from this. A new tenant is brought to the market. The landlord gets a good tenant. The tenant gets a good location. The community benefits from the jobs and the new taxes. All of those things work together. It’s really exciting to see the impact. It’s like dropping a stone in the water. You watch the ripple.”

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