Steve Chirhart

Co-founder, TaTonka Real Estate Advisors

Before Steve Chirhart and Craig Kirkpatrick founded Minneapolis-based TaTonka Real Estate Advisors, the two were business partners at Minneapolis-based Griffin Cos. for more than 22 years. They were among the most widely respected real estate teams in the Twin Cities. They were also next-door neighbors.

"I was lucky in my first year in the business to recruit my next-door neighbor to join me," Chirhart says. "Craig had been a grain trader and was looking for a career change, which offered more growth and reward."

The two were top producers at Griffin before leaving in 2006 to launch their now eight-person firm, which represents tenants and buyers in negotiations to lease or purchase property. Clients have included Wells Fargo Bank, Michael Foods and Gray Plant Mooty.

Chirhart is serving as the 2013 Minnesota chapter president of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors and is a past president of the Minnesota Commercial Association of Realtors.

QHow did you get into the business?

AIn college, I was studying to apply for dental school when I was told quite bluntly I didn't have the manual dexterity to be proficient in the profession. After visiting with several parents of my friends, I was given the idea of commercial real estate sales.

QWhat drives you in your work?

AThe challenge of finding the perfect space, negotiating the transaction and then getting the positive feedback and reward of an appreciative client. I am by nature competitive, and I enjoy the hunt for the perfect solution.

QWhy did you and Craig go out on your own?

AWe felt that being in a midsize firm that was a generalist serving both landlords and tenants, although successful, would provide challenges in the future as more and more companies were going national. We believed there was a very important niche ... in the area of exclusive tenant and buyer representation ... where tenants and buyers could utilize an experienced adviser to assist them in finding and negotiating the best possible deal.

QHow's owning a company different than working for one?

AOne of the reasons we've stayed small is we really enjoy working on transactions. If our goal was to have 20 brokers, Craig and I would become managers rather than producers. What is different is the many hats you have to wear, from accounting to IT to marketing to public relations to counselor and producer.


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