Andrea Christenson

Vice president with the Minneapolis office of Cassidy Turley

With two decades of experience and a knack for networking, Andrea Christenson has made a name for herself as a "go to" retail and restaurant sales/leasing specialist in downtown Minneapolis and surrounding markets.

Christenson, 52, got her feet wet in commercial real estate managing big shopping centers. She later transitioned to being a retail broker and has been with the Minneapolis office of St. Louis-based Cassidy Turley since 2001. She was named its "Retail Salesperson" of the year three times. Her clients include Cowboy Jack's, Lyndale Tap House, Masu Sushi & Robata, New Bohemia craft beer bar and Today's Bed. She founded The List, an invitation-only networking group. She's involved with the Downtown Network and Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association.

Q How did you break into sales/brokerage?

A I worked really, really hard. I networked. I actually cut my teeth on C retail properties. ... It wasn't easy. When I started out, I did my share of nail salons and consignment shops.

Q Having negotiated dozens of downtown Minneapolis deals, I think of you primarily as a downtown leasing expert.

A Which has actually been a problem for me because that's what many people think. And it's true. I don't think anybody knows the downtown market better than I do. I've lived and worked downtown for almost 20 years. But the problem is that's just one area of specialty for me, because I can't make a living just doing downtown retail; no one can. I actually do as much work in Northeast Minneapolis as I do downtown. I did Masu's lease, Noodles & Company, Sprint, New Bohemia, Jimmy John's and Wilde Roast Café.

Q What else are you working on?

A I'm closing on the Cowboy Jack's building in Bloomington in December. There's a Toppers Pizza on Grand Avenue and we're buying the building. ... I'm rolling out One, Two Three Sushi. New Bohemia is rolling out a bunch of locations, and I'm doing their work.

Q How much of your work is restaurants?

A 70 to 80 percent.

Q What are today's trends in restaurant space?

A Everyone wants second-generation restaurant space, because vent hoods, bathrooms, HVAC, electrical and plumbing are all very expensive. So you can go into a space and reduce your costs dramatically if those things are in place.

Q Are those spaces hard to find?

A I always try and get out in front of it. I want to know about a restaurant before it actually closes so I'm not competing with other agents. I'm always monitoring who's in trouble. Who's not doing well. I'm always picking people's brains. ... You want to cook your deal before they close, because you want your client to be first in line.

Liz Wolf is a freelance writer in Eagan. She can be reached at