Chasing Manhattan: Westchester’s Own Chase Welles on Big Plans for Big Apple
Chase Welles never needed a Manhattan office address to execute big deals. But now he has one, and a new firm too.
For years, Mr. Welles has been one of the city’s top retail brokers despite being based in White Plains—an unusual headquarters for such a prolific and successful deal-maker in Manhattan, well-known for its clubby retail industry.
Recently, however, Mr. Welles relocated to an office overlooking Columbus Circle. Meanwhile, the firm where he is a principal, Northwest Atlantic, merged with the Shopping Center Group, a national retail services company in Atlanta.
The changes are not mutually exclusive. Before the merger, Northwest Atlantic (which will now be known as SCG Retail) only did tenant representation work, a specialty at which it excelled. Mr. Welles represents a long list of top-tier tenants, including Whole Foods, for which he just negotiated a new store on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg in one of the year’s most prominent and impactful retail deals. The lease single-handedly put Williamsburg on the map for major national retail chains, and it now appears poised to become one of the city’s next great retail neighborhoods.
Mr. Welles’s business partner, David Firestein, is a legendary tenant rep broker in the city, the exclusive leasing deal-maker for Starbucks; he has handled hundreds of leases in Manhattan for the massive chain, whose presence has so saturated the city that its storefront and logo have become nearly ubiquitous within the streetscape.
The Shopping Center Group handles landlord rep work as well, a new area of the business for Mr. Welles and his colleagues that they are eager to plunge into. Being located in the city is essential for this side of brokerage, where an owner’s leasing agent must be ready to show his space on short notice.
“If Mr. Smith calls up because he just saw your sign in the window of a vacant store and wants to take a tour, you have to be able to tell him you’ll be down there in 10 minutes,” Mr. Welles said. “You really can’t do that from White Plains.”
For a Westchester native like Mr. Welles, the move comes with the typical vagaries of commuting.
“My parking budget has definitely increased,” Mr. Welles joked, glancing at his phone, which was sending him periodic reminders to feed the meter downstairs.
“I fucking love it here,” he declared, sitting back at his desk in the new office, surveying a modestly sized space that was bright and clean, equipped with an open layout of desks spaced around a large Ping-Pong table (for the other brokers at the firm, Mr. Welles tells us). It’s the kind of space that seemed to offer a fresh slate.