Trio of brokers leave Baum Realty to form own firm

Allen Joffe, Adam Secher, Julie Williams formed First Street Retail Partners

First Street Retail Partners' Allen Joffe, Adam Secher and Julie Williams
First Street Retail Partners' Allen Joffe, Adam Secher and Julie Williams (First Street Retail Partners, Getty)

Three veteran Chicago retail dealmakers have a new brokerage home after leaving Baum Realty Group to start their own firm.

Leasing brokers Allen Joffe, Adam Secher and Julie Williams opened First Street Retail Partners and will bring clients such Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill with them, Crain’s reported. Other clients the new firm will serve include Blaze Pizza, Five Guys, Kay Jewelers and Jimmy John’s.

“We have a good solid customer base that we have been working with for decades that we continue to service,” Secher told the outlet.

Joffe began his career at Baum in 1993 and Secher joined in 2001, while Williams started there in 2020. First Street represents both tenants and landlords for retail properties.

“Having started my real estate career 29 years ago with [Baum founders] David and Doug Baum, I am grateful for the opportunity and vision the brothers had when I started learning from one of the best on the leasing front,” Joffe, who will serve as First Street’s managing broker, said in a joint statement with Baum Realty. “It’s a bittersweet occurrence after having grown the company, built a great culture and worked with so many fantastic clients.”

Secher said the separation from Baum was amicable and there is no bad blood between the firm and the departing brokers.

“We’ve been friends and partners for decades,” Baum CEO David Baum said in the joint statement. “We will continue to be friends and partners, just not under the same flag.”

Two other retail brokers with Baum also recently left the firm to start their own company. Matthew Fetter and Lauren Tucker opened Third Coast Commercial Real Estate.

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The moves to new brokerages were made as the Chicago area’s retail market is experiencing more strength in the suburbs than within city limits, though vacancy has dropped in both geographies from higher marks earlier in the pandemic. Suburbs including Schaumburg and Oak Brook entered 2023 with lower vacancy rates than their year-end 2019 levels, according to Marcus & Millichap’s latest retail forecast for 2023.

It’s a new dealmaking dynamic that brokers may see an opportunity to approach differently than they have in the past, perhaps contributing to some of the career moves.

“Nevertheless, strength (in suburbs) will not be enough to withstand stubbornly elevated availability in The Loop and the Magnificent Mile,” the Marcus and Millichap report said, calling out the downtown areas struggling with more than a quarter of retail space vacant. “Consumer demand from elevated inflation and a softening labor market are diminishing tenant demand, calling for negative net absorption.”


 — Victoria Pruitt 

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