J. Lindsay

President and co-founder of the Lindsay Group

J. Lindsay is proof that there's room for smaller entrepreneurs in the big business of commercial real estate brokerage and development.

The 41-year-old Lindsay, president and co-founder of Minnetonka-based Lindsay Group, has carved out a niche as an investor, developer and manager of commercial properties. As a 23-year-old, he took advantage of an opportunity to manage and lease a small portfolio of struggling investment properties for a group of partners, including his father. The properties needed tender loving care, so he rolled up his sleeves and fixed them up. He then started buying out the partners' interests and building his firm, which today employs seven.

He has grown the portfolio to 25 properties in seven states and Canada. Properties include retail, office and warehouse buildings; the portfolio is 95 percent occupied and about half of the properties are in Minnesota. One of Lindsay's niches is redeveloping underperforming -- but strategically located -- retail and office properties, adding high-end architectural design and finishes.

QHave you always been entrepreneurial?

AI kinda like doing my own thing. I had a lawn service through high school, and then my brother and I started a company in college that seal-coated parking lots and driveways.

QYou then got into real estate. How labor-intensive was it to get that portfolio back into shape?

AI made $5 an hour and was doing physical labor fixing up properties and doing leasing. I took over management from the outsource management people and then started buying out the partners. Slowly, I built a bit of a business that I could grow.

QWhat do you like about renovating underutilized buildings?

AI like the architectural design-finish detail side of things. It's kinda fun for me to rebrand, re-image, repurpose properties.

QCan you offer examples?

AThere was a very tired property in St. Louis Park near Knollwood Mall at the corner of Aquila Avenue and Hwy. 7. It was well-located, but underutilized. We refaced the building and cut in storefronts, added new design features, a new roof, and a new parking surface. We put in Jimmy John's, Verizon, Sarpino's Pizza and Pearle Vision. We also did a big deal with Goodwill in Venice, Fla. We repositioned and retenanted an old, dead grocery store that was empty for eight or nine years and put in Goodwill and Dollar General.

Liz Wolf is an Eagan-based freelance writer. She can be reached at wolfliz99@aol.com.