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Burger Barn Grill in Tallahassee, FL

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Episode #: 215
Burger Barn Grill in Tallahassee, FL

Guest: Debbie Ashlin
Topics: Burger Barn Grill, leasing


Chris Ressa 0:00
This is Retail Retold, the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa, and I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC Management.

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Ressa 0:42
Welcome to Retail Retold everyone. Today I’m joined by Debbie Ashlyn. Debbie is a broker for NAI in Tallahassee, Florida. I’m excited for her to be here. Welcome to the show, Debbie.

Debbie Ashlin 0:55
Thank you, Chris. Excited to be here. How are you doing today?

Ressa 0:59
I’m doing well. I’m doing well. The I’m actually coming? Not your way. But I’m, I’m going to the keys next week.

Ashlin 1:07
Okay, nice. I’ve never been there.

Ressa 1:09
You’ve never been to the keys. Yeah. And that’s sad.

I’ve been to Key West only I’m going to marathon key. So yeah, February break up here for the Northeast. So it’s a little warm weather. So I’m excited about that.

Ashlin 1:29
Yeah. All right.

Ressa 1:32
Where were you live in Florida? Where do you go on vacation?

Ashlin 1:35
Yeah, so typically, Destin, it’s two and a half hour drive real quick, real easy. It’s pretty much all Tallahassee. If you’re going to go on vacation for a quick drive. That’s where you’re where you’re where you will go. I’m actually taking my son to Vermont for spring break in March. And for the first time, we’re going to go skiing.

Ressa 1:56
What mountain?

Ashlin 1:58
We are going to stow. Oh, great. Yeah. So I hired a private instructor and he and I are just going to have a full day with him. And the next day, hopefully we’ll be able to go out on our own.

Ressa 2:09
Amazing. That’s good. Do you have any other plans other than skiing while you’re up there?

Ashlin 2:15
We’ll probably do you know, sledding or you know, I’m not sure yet. That was really the main goal.

Ressa 2:23
All the snow activities. Okay. Yeah, he’s very cool. So Debbie, tell us a little bit more about who you are, what you do. How long you’ve been in the business, all this stuff.

Ashlin 2:35
Okay. Yeah, great. Yeah, so I live in Tallahassee, Florida. I specialize in primarily retail leasing and sales. I represent a lot of landlords, a lot of tenants. We kind of do a little bit of everything in Tallahassee, but that is my specialty. I’m lucky I don’t have a lot of competition. Most of the burgers here are seasoned, you know, they’re doing sales and investment. So it’s pretty exciting for me to be in that arena. For retail leasing, I’m always I always know what’s new coming to the market.

very day is a new day. It’s exciting. I started kind of right after college I started a little pushcart in the in a mall that was pretty vacant. had it for about 70 Well, I had the store for 17 years and eventually grew to three locations and I think that that’s been very helpful for me in the retail industry.

So I really connect with a lot of local mom and pop business owners. I know what it’s like to grind 11 hour days work seven days a week and the stress of you know having a great Monday and a horrible Saturday so there’s no rhyme or reason I feel sometimes with retail

Ressa 3:49
Yeah, so what was what was the store that you had?

Ashlin 3:52
Yeah, it was called gadgets clothing boutique. So the mall I actually started a little pushcart and then eventually grew it to two other locations and then eventually had one location and close the other two just with retail trends when the mall kind of started not doing as well eventually closed that location and kept the other two.

When I realized how nice it was to only have two locations and have a life, I decided I needed to just have one location. I had a couple of fires on either side of me with other tenants. So I’ve dealt with a lot in retail, you know, being a retail operator.

Ressa 4:31
What type of clothing did you sell?

Ashlin 4:35
Yeah, so I think with retail you constantly are changing. I started off with linen and a lot of cotton dresses where you could literally just it because it was a pushcart in the center of the mall. I didn’t have a dressing room and women would just come in and slip on over there. You know jeans or their shirt and sold you know small, medium or large pretty much.

I sold a lot of jewelry at the time sterling silver was really popular. A lot of monogram jewelry I’d like during the holidays, I’d have lines wrapped around, you know, from the entrance, although to my cart, and I know people would stop by and say, Wow, are you giving away something for free? And these are just, you know, customers coming to pick up their orders.

Ressa 5:12
That’s incredible. That’s fine. It was it was a good run, I just needed you move from a cart to you know, for wall store.

Ashlin 5:21
Yeah, so I found like a cute little house and was driving by and I said, you know, this is gonna be my second location, sign the lease, didn’t know what I was doing pay full price, you know, all the things that I know now not to do. I did. So and then from that location, which I kept the mall one, then open up a third location on the northeast side of town.

And then eventually just kept the Northeast location, which is a popular area and you’re fresh market, you know, the right side of town where everybody wants to be now. Sure. Any retailer. And I really got myself into the business, I would say I did some specialty leasing for the mall. I really got to know the mall management team when I had the pushcart. And they asked me hey, would you be interested in working part time and doing some short term leasing? Wow. Yeah. So that’s kind of how I…

Ressa 6:17
So did you sell the stores is that we did or just close them?

Ashlin 6:20
No. So the agreement was I couldn’t run the mall location. While I did the short term leasing for the mall. It was really easy. I mean, it was pretty much a cart was 650 a month, you know, an online store. You know, there was no negotiating. It’s this is the price, you sign a little one page agreement and the rents be paid every month. So it wasn’t difficult, but it was it was a good stepping stone for me.

Ressa 6:46
So yeah. You left the retailing moved into the landlord leasing side, you were doing short term leasing. What happens next?

Ashlin 6:53
Yeah, so new developers bought the mall that I was, you know, working at. They kept me on board said, Hey, we want you to be a permanent leasing person, which I was really excited about. But the property will just project never really took off. I was doing a lot of tours with a lot of the brokers that were coming. We had a little trolley. And then a couple of the brokerage firms reached out and said, Hey, would you be interested in joining our team?

And I’m like, I don’t know how to do commercial real estate. And they’re like, Well, you kind of are doing that now. You’re just working for developer and you’d have all of Tallahassee as your playing field. So take the jump, he might notice and came over to Tao Corp.

I interviewed you know, at some of the local brokerage firms, and this was the best fit for me. They are the largest locally owned brokerage firm. And we you know, they have locations they have one in Panama City want to do with an Alabama. great company to work for. Everybody’s always helpful.

Ressa 7:56
And how long have you been doing this now?

Ashlin 7:59
So I’m in my fifth year. I’m rocking and rolling. Last year I did over 50 lease transactions. This year. I’m no sorry. 2021. I did over 50 And then last year, I did almost 50

Ressa 8:17
Wow. 50 lease transactions. That’s incredible. A lot of Tallahassee must be doing pretty well then tell us about what’s going on in Tallahassee from a retail perspective.

Ashlin 8:27
Yeah, so I mean, Tallahassee, really? We’re four hours from Orlando, we’re four hours from Tampa, two and a half hours to two hours and 45 minutes to Jacksonville. We’re kind of in our little bubble. I wouldn’t want to say we do a lot of local mom and pop leasing a lot.

Would you get nationals looking a lot of them did you skip over market just because there’s just not enough population here. We’re about 450,000 with the outer lining areas. So it’s a lot of new business startups. We recently had Amazon well not recently they should be open sometime this quarter. They open to 123,000 square foot facility are opening I should say would bring it about 1500 jobs which is really exciting for Tallahassee

Ressa 9:22
Amazon’s in a lot of different business this is a warehouse facility,

Ashlin 9:26
Yeah, warehouse, and they actually bought another property on the opposite side of town to open but another distribution center got it. I’m not sure the size of that one yet. They haven’t broken ground yet. You know, we have a lot of new exciting activities.

Cava just recently opened here one of my shopping centers, and I have a lease with them. We’re fingers and toes crossed for them to take a second location and hopefully wrapping up the lease this week for a one of my target properties. Redevelopment, and I’m about to be 100% leased on my face too. With this property with raising canes and Aqaba, which is really exciting for Tallahassee,

Ressa 10:07
Amazing. So, Tallahassee right now, is there a lot of vacancies? Well occupied?

Ashlin 10:13
Very little vacancy. Very tough to find space, which is great that I’m so connected in the market. Yeah, I mean, most, you know, we have pretty much our A centers, which we don’t have a lot of them are, you know, it’s going to be a Publix anchored shopping center. Or it’s going to be, you know, the whole foods anchored shopping center or the fresh market.

We just got a total winds here, which is amazing. Right near my side of mine near my house. But yeah, it’s hard. I mean, typically cheerful. I know I’m in there all the time. I love those $10 gift cards, you know, $10 off $100 purchase. I’m like, yeah. So I mean, here, if a space opens up, and it’s in a good a center, there’s multiple ello eyes on it to three.

Ressa 11:00
Great from a landlord perspective.

Ashlin 11:02
It is great. Now, I will tell you what’s interesting is the rents have not increased.

Ressa 11:08
Interesting. Well, yeah.

Ashlin 11:10
So I mean, I think the reason why is because we do a lot of mom and pop, you know, in the they cannot afford the high, you know, $30 rents. So we do I’m I mean, I’ve got rents in the, in the 40s at my target Plaza, which is breaking records for Tallahassee. But before that, there was only one or two nationals, and they were paying about 38 a square foot. So our average is about 15 bucks a square foot with triple nets. So that gives you an indication of what the locals are paying.

Ressa 11:45
Are you seeing any new development?

Ashlin 11:48
Not really there. They’re trying on the outskirts of town. I mean, you can’t find dirt at all. And if it’s on the market, it’s sold. I just put an office property on the space for sale and sold it within two days and had three offers on it. If you price it right, it’ll sell. I think the days of really pricing it up high or probably slowing down. And I priced it to sell. I didn’t ever price it.

Ressa 12:15
Well, I think you know, the low the low vacancy and the demand seems providing a healthy market, assuming I assume that retailers must be doing well then if they’re opening stores, they’re not closing stores, vacancies, low cal has pretty strong.

Ashlin 12:37
I agree. I think because we were not ever built. I’m hoping that we won’t see a lot of vacancy here. You know, hopefully going you know, you’re hearing about the recession, the recession. I’m hoping that we don’t see that here. I think we’re strong, kind of like South Florida and some of these other markets where it’s hard to find space property. So hopefully it stays that way. It’s exciting. It’s exciting to be in retail.

Ressa 13:00
It’s exciting.

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Ressa 13:56
Well, thank you for the update on Tallahassee. You have a story about Burger Bar and Grill. Coming to Tallahassee. Tell us how this happened. And they’re not open yet, but it’s a cool story. So take

Ashlin 14:13
Yeah, great. So I represent the whole food shopping center the landlord for that property and I think everybody that’s in the retail business knows if you have a Whole Foods anchored center, you’re going to have a lot of exclusive activities, a lot of restrictions and prohibited uses for food in the center and I have a four rivers their college is open there.

I have a Securos so I mean, I’m pretty covered with a lot of the restaurants and I haven’t a vacant burger space that think they vacated February of last year. And I had a couple of y’s on the on the space with some national tenants and it just never made it past lease draft market in our local market. I’ve reached out to too, I feel like every national tenant that I could think of for use and was just struggling, reach out to my sister who lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

And I was like, when you’re just out and about, just start sending me photos of just some new stores, restaurants, I do a lot on Google, but it’s not the same as actually being in another market. So she started sending me photos here and there and emails, oh, you need to check out this place or this place, and I’m in New Orleans. I’m in on vacation for like two or three days. And she texts me she’s like, Oh, you need to check up burger barn girl.

We were just driving over there to a real nice restaurant, you check it out. And I’m like, wow, burger restaurant, I could backfill with my other burger, you know, with this other vacant space. So I go on Facebook, I pull it up, and I’m looking at the photos. I’m like, Oh, this would be a fantastic fit. So I messaged burger barn girl on Facebook. I think I messaged him on Instagram, also private message. And then I also they had an email. So I emailed the owner also.

And about two hours later, I get a phone call from the owner of burger barn grill. And he’s like, Hey, I’m really interested in this property. You know what’s in there? And I you know, tell him yet hood grease trap. You know, give him all the information. He’s like, great. He goes, I love to come by tomorrow and look at the property. Oh, wow. I literally was about to pack my bags and get in the car and had four hours back in Tallahassee.

I was like, Ah, I said, I’m so excited that you are want to come to visit the property. But I’m actually at a talent. I’m out of town. You know, can we see it on? You know, I’m happy to show it to you next week. So he came in town on Monday morning, first thing we met and he brought his whole team up.

And I got an LOI from him like later that week. And yeah, and he’s had, you know, looked in the space and you know, it’s all good. And they’re working on the renovations and it’s exciting. It’s really exciting.

Ressa 16:59
So What an interesting story of how you got it. I hope. I hope your sister got a referral fee or at least a bottle of wine.

Ashlin 17:07
So she’s sporting some really expensive shoes right now. Yeah, oh, yeah. No. So okay, so what this is good. So I actually to celebrate with her. She didn’t know, I need to put it on. I’m going to actually frame the LOI but you know, kind of remove a couple of information from it.

So she has that because I was going to actually give her that along with some gifts. But I went to Jacksonville after the lease was signed, we went to town center. What did take her shopping and some of the things she liked, they didn’t have her size on so I just you know, took photos took mental note. And then we went and weighed the Capitol grill. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it or been there, but it’s amazing.

Ressa 17:46
To know many Capitol grill up into the one down there. Jacksonville. Actually,

Ashlin 17:51
that’s the one we were at. Yeah, yeah, we liked. So we sat at the bar, and that’s when I told her, Hey, we got a cheers and we you know, expensive bottle of wine and we toasted to her helping me or her leasing that space for me.

Ressa 18:06
That’s incredible. So burger barn grill. Did they have only one location in Jacksonville?

Ashlin 18:12
So they have to. And he said that a few times that I called him just to check in, you know, just while we’re just going through, I really got to know him, which is really nice. And what’s great about Facebook gave him messaging is people get to know who you are.

So I mean, he went on my Facebook probably didn’t make sure who who was this girl, you know, messaging me. So we got to know who I was. And anyways, he was in Georgia looking at opening up other sites. So he is definitely in expansion mode.

Ressa 18:39
And for those who don’t know, just to give reference, how far is Jacksonville from Tallahassee?

Ashlin 18:43
Yes, yeah, two and a half hours. All right.

Ressa 18:46
So two and a half hours. He’s opening up, he’s opening up. He got he got into a pretty awesome Whole Food Center. Were you able to do were the I’m curious on market you were talking about rents a little bit before see paying more rent than the other the previous times back? He is yes. All right. So you’re moving rent some rents are moving slow, maybe slowly into it, but rents are moving.

Ashlin 19:12
Well, we also it’s restaurant and restaurant you can’t find restaurant here. And also, he wanted a bit more ti package to have great landlord so it made sense to crease the rent.

Ressa 19:23
Got it? And he came you got an LOI and a week. Oh, yeah. How long before it was a signed lease?

Ashlin 19:35
Um, probably 30 days.

Ressa 19:38
Wow, that’s incredible. So you sent the the landlord sends a lease. My guess is there’s not a lot of back and forth because if it’s got signed in 30 days, it might have been a little but the guy was pretty motivated to move in.

Ashlin 19:53
Yeah, actually. Now I think about it was less than that. He only had one comment on the entire lease. Wow. Yeah. Yeah, it was pretty good. You know, I have learned to really. I mean, most of my properties are just in general, I would say for Tallahassee, it’s a week, you know, week to negotiate. And lol I mean, it’s quick turnaround, and I really remind landlords time kills to hills.

Ressa 20:21
It’s just yeah, sometimes, right? You’ve dealt with some of these, like you met. You mentioned some national tenants before that, if that I know some of them. If you send them the draft lease, there’s literally triple digit comments that come back.

Ashlin 20:36
Oh, yeah, I’m working with some of them right now, some amazing ones. So I’ll tell you the longest lease has taken me which I just read, which is incredible. But I have so many stories, obviously. But it took me over 15 months to get one lease signed at the property. And but it was static, that they they moved in.

Ressa 20:55
Let me I have some stories for the length of lease time, because it’s sometimes it’s really, really wild. So you mentioned that not a lot of restaurants based in restaurants, bass flying off the fly off the handle?

Probably one of the keys to that is and you mentioned that the infrastructure was there, you had a hood and grease trap when you don’t have those things that makes it a lot more challenging. Was that part of the motivation for this tenant that like the previous tenant left the fixtures and some of the infrastructure in there?

Ashlin 21:40
Absolutely. So one of the things that he did tell me that excited him was the two his two locations in Jacksonville are brand new build outs. And he said he is no longer really interested in doing any more build outs he wants existing grease trap in place existing. I’m not really with a lot of the Nationals when they’re calling now. They’re not looking for a brand new bill. They’re looking for existing infrastructure meeting space. mom and pops definitely, for sure.

Ressa 22:11
So notwithstanding the existing infrastructure, is he going to change the decor? And is it being looking like Burger Bar in Jacksonville versus where the previous data was?

Ashlin 22:21
Yeah. And the previous his flood some of the some of the, the inside interiors a lot like his he does have to do cosmetic changes, but nothing major that requires him to do major permits. So which is great. You tell him see, we’re not really seeing a delay on permits, which is great, too.

Ressa 22:42
That is great. What what is, how long is it taking the data permit?

Ashlin 22:46
You ready for this? I’m ready. 45 to 60 days.

Ressa 22:51
All right. Wow. This is wild. There are some markets that are so hot in the United States that retailers have said mercy. Like, I can’t open up here until it cools down because I can’t figure out when to hire people when when my store is actually going to open because I don’t know when I’m gonna get a permit to build this out.

So that’s great that it’s pretty dialed in 4560 days and and this was you know, probably I’m assuming it’s a pretty simple build out because it’s not doing any exterior changes and it’s gone from burger restaurant to burger restaurant. So is this this is burger Barboza sit down wait service restaurant.

Ashlin 23:35
Yeah. I went into the one in Jacksonville I mean, you go up there you order it. I believe you walk up and pick it up. I don’t think they take it to your table. Okay. Yeah, it’s it’s almost 3000 square feet with outdoor patio.

Ressa 23:53
I’m presuming restaurant in Tallahassee restaurant sales are doing well right now.

Ashlin 23:59
did really well. And I think because we are a small community. We, the the community they like to shop at local restaurants. We have its facebook group page called Tallahassee foodies, and there’s over 25 or 20,000 members on it now. So they do a lot of plugs. I mean, every time I open up a new restaurant, one of my big things is I stand with every time I do a lease, I don’t show them all on Facebook or LinkedIn but I like to have the tenant sign up there and we do a least photo.

It makes them feel great. I you know, put in a photo send it to them. But I also put it on all the social medias and then I throw it on talsi foodies and that sometimes we’ll get 1000 shares. So that’s huge for these local mom and pop businesses. If they’re struggling, somebody will throw you know post in there. Oh, you need to go check out so and so’s restaurant. It can hurt some of these retailers, restaurant operators too, because then you have 500 people showing up at your restaurant for lunch.

Ressa 25:00
That’s a high class problem I have. So I’ve seen the photos that you put up that say least, and they get great engagement on social media. But it just dawned on me, have you asked one of those retailers, one of those restaurants to tell future prospects about that, because I hadn’t considered that. Like it gets 1000 shares on Tallahassee food eats, and all these things that’s helpful to their business, what a great thing you do for your clients.

And, you know, as me as a casual, you know, observer of social media trends, I’m watching and I’m, I’m seeing you do these and get great engagement. And the two things that caught me is like, wow, it’s actually not just a good feel good moment, it is potentially helping their business when they open, which is a great little thing to have in your services that you when you’re pitching clients.

So have they done that? Have they actually have you actually said, Hey, Bob, can you tell Karen about what happened when? When we did this?

Ashlin 26:20
I really haven’t. I do should try

Ressa 26:23
it? Because if that will, that will help. You should try that.

Ashlin 26:27
Yeah, I definitely need to do that. I do. Anytime I’m representing a tenant or, or talking to somebody, I’m always like, these are some of the tenants that I’ve worked with. If you would like to, you know, I’m happy to introduce you if you want to, you know, get to know who I am.

Or I most people I mean, it’s all about listening and asking questions and engaging too. So you have to learn. I’ve learned a lot, you know, just even with prospecting and canvassing and picking up the phone and talking to people just asking the right questions and getting them feel comfortable to want to work with you.

Ressa 27:02
For sure. And then you said something that was interesting to me, you said that it’s a feel good moment, meaning they feel good. They feel good in when you do that, which is that makes sense. But it wasn’t an initial reaction that I would have thought that tenants enjoy those photo shoots are not that they’re photo shoots.

Ashlin 27:27
But But yeah,you know, I think they’re proud. I mean, a lot of some of these are first time restaurant operators. Some of them are exists have existing locations, too. But I think that I’m more excited than they are. But I mean, I think I because of my excitement, I think that, wow, I didn’t even think about that, you know, I’m like, Oh, I said, um, let’s go get a photo. So we need to let everybody know that you’re opening in Tallahassee, I’m gonna throw it all on my social media pages.

But I also let business owners know, even when I get calls from somebody who tells me their budgets $500 I always know, they don’t know. But I always tell them I’m like, You know what, you did the hardest part you picked up the phone? Right? I mean, seriously, and you should be so proud. You know, I mean, I don’t say it like that. But you know, I just I pumped them up because they don’t know what the rents are.

So when I talk to him, and I talk on the I’m on the phone all day long, and it’s usually me. It’s usually me, you know, giving information explaining the process, you know, if I can help them great if they can increase the rank great. I asked a lot of questions. Beth Azar I took her bootcamp class, when I first started, that is really what made me who I am today with what you know, into retail. I mean, that is how I learned my entire process, which is amazing. I mean, I’ve learned. Yeah, got it.

Ressa 28:57
I’ll make sure she listens to this one. So she knows about it. Maybe she’ll learn something on the holding up the least sign thing I think. I don’t think she knows that trick. It speak to Beth pretty often. So that’s a good one. Well, Debbie, this has been great.

Thank you so much for sharing this story. I really appreciate it. If you’re not following Debbie on social media, give her a follow. You’ll definitely see one of the her least photos up. It’s pretty cool. So Debbie, thanks for coming on. This is great.

Ashlin 29:31
Thank you so much for having me. Appreciate it.

Ressa 29:34
Thank you for listening to Retail Retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show, please reach out to us at This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney Also don’t forget to subscribe to Retail Retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode.

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