Maria Royer represents prominent property owners as one of downtown Seattle's top retail leasing agents, Real Retail.
Ask Maria Royer of Real Retail if she’s related to Charles Royer — Seattle’s three-term mayor from 1978 to 1990 — and she has a ready response.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am,” she says. “He’s my husband, but not the former mayor.”
Turns out, Royer’s husband, Charles, once delivered newspapers to the former mayor.
Royer represents prominent property owners as one of downtown Seattle’s top retail leasing agents, so while she’s not related to that Charles Royer, she’s well-connected nonetheless.
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When Coldwater Creek closed a large store in early 2010, for example, she helped downtown’s Fifth & Pine building become the first Northwest outpost for London clothier AllSaints.
Royer also had a hand in bringing Swedish “fast-fashion” chain H&M to Sixth Avenue and Pike Street; replaced Old Navy with the newly opened Forever 21 clothing store across from Pacific Place; and put restaurant RN74 of San Francisco in the renovated Joshua Green Building at Fourth and Pike.
She now is working with the Broadacres building at Second and Pine to find a replacement for Nordstrom Rack, which will move to Westlake Center next year.
“Maria has a vision for the Pike-Pine corridor, and she understands that people need to have one great store after another up and down the block,” said Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association. “She tries to get the right retail, not just the first retailer that shows interest.”
Royer, 46, grew up in Seattle and began her real-estate career in Los Angeles after graduating from the University of Southern California. She returned to Seattle and worked for several large companies before striking out on her own in 2005 with business partner Brynn Estelle Telkamp.
Royer recently sat down to discuss retail leasing trends, how she balances a busy career with raising two children, and why AllSaints ended up between Anthropologie and Sephora downtown.
Q: When landlords hire you to find a tenant for one of their stores, do you have a short or long list of retailers you then approach?
A: Typically it’s a very short list, a hand-picked list between the owner and myself. We look at what we think would be the best fit for that location, the co-tenancy, and the immediate district or community. With the AllSaints deal, that was a highly sought-after location, the 50-yard line for retail in Seattle.
Q: How did the deal come together?
A: We interviewed a handful of retailers, and we evaluated their fit based on their merchandise, their credit and their long-term sustainability. This was a long-term lease we were doing, so we wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be a tenant of the moment. In that particular location, the co-tenants are Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Sephora. We wanted something that would be compatible with them. It could be fashion. Or it could be electronics, like Apple. But it had to generate cross-shopping with the other retailers on the block.
Q: Do you see yourself as a tough negotiator, or trend spotter?
A: I see my role as an adviser. Some clients are about pride of ownership, and they want the top chef restaurant in the city. Others want a solid-credit tenant. My job is to execute their goals. I’ll negotiate the letter of intent and the business points of the lease. And the attorneys negotiate the legal terms of the lease. But every client is different. Some clients prefer to negotiate the business points of the lease themselves. Others have me do that for them.
Q: How did you get started in the real-estate business?
A: When I was in college at USC, I thought I wanted to be a film producer, and I got an internship at New World Pictures in their marketing department. I was 20 years old, and I was working in this very eclectic, creative, unstructured environment. I loved it, but I figured out it wasn’t for me. Then, I got an internship for an industrial commercial real-estate firm in Los Angeles, and I really liked it. After college, I went to work for the Seeley Company, which is now Colliers. I worked as what they called the runner. I worked for the top office broker in the South Bay office and I worked my ass off. I was the first woman broker hired, so I had to prove myself, and I did.
Q: Does being a woman in your business help or hurt?
A: It definitely helps. I think there’s an intuition we have in historically being the lead consumer in the household and seeing consumer trends. When I was a broker in L.A., it was definitely a good ol’ boys club. But that’s not the case here or in the retail industry. It’s changed dramatically.
Q: How many hours a week do you work?
A: I don’t work a lot of hours, but when I do work, I work intensely. I try to maintain a balance. I usually take Friday afternoons off to be with the kids. I’ll check email and things like that, but I usually leave work at work, and home is home.
My family and all my friends call me Dolly. When I’m home, I’m Dolly. Nobody knows me as Maria. Maria is my professional name, so I can easily shift into my social and home-life personality just by the mere fact that I’m now Dolly.
Q: What are the major trends in retail leasing right now?
A: The Walmarts, the Kohls, the J.C. Penneys of the world are looking to expand into urban centers. It’s where the population is. It’s where the work force is … Another trend is that retailers are figuring out they can do more with less, so their footprints are getting smaller.
Q: Do you see anything missing from downtown?
A: I’d like to see more independent boutiques, but it’s really difficult for that segment of the industry. We also don’t have a lot of small spaces available.
Q: What’s been the key to your success?
A: I really do care, and my clients know I care about their livelihoods, and the livelihoods of our communities.
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org