Growing up in Central Florida, Amy Calandrino spent every hurricane season following storms and recording their paths on tracking charts. “I was really into the weather, heavy into math and science, and I’m pretty analytical,” she said. “I wanted to become a meteorologist and create better systems for hurricane prediction for the National Hurricane Center
A heady goal, to be sure. And although she veered from that path to work as a paralegal and earn an English degree at Rollins College in Winter Park before becoming a pacesetter in the commercial real estate field, the energetic Calandrino creates her own weather system, one in which the sun always shines.
“I’m very, very organized and driven, and I really thrive when a lot of things are going on,” she said. Even the COVID-19 pandemic, which arrived soon after she gave birth to her first child, has not slowed her down.
The founding principal and broker at Beyond Commercial in Maitland, Calandrino worked with her team of five to grow the company in 2020, and they have already closed more than 20 deals this year. Her company specializes in office and warehouse space, serving business owners, investors and investment groups, and regional, national and international companies.
In tough times, Calandrino said, “I might pause for a minute. Then I look at the facts in front of me and pick a course. If I have to change the direction my sailboat’s going in, then I will.” Where others saw turbulence ahead with the pandemic, she saw opportunity.
“A lot of commercial real estate agents were talking about how they had nothing going on,” she said. “We had a lot of people on the other side not answering phones, so it was hard for us to conduct the deals we did. People seemed downtrodden and pessimistic.”
Her philosophy? “You can’t control what’s going on around you, but you can control what you do. I had the time, so I retooled my team and our processes a bit to make the business stronger, and I worked on the things we could control. And we just pushed as hard as we could.”
Calandrino, 36, recalled how her husband, Phil, a business attorney and owner of the Forward Law Firm in Maitland, had made the same kind of business refinements when she worked with him 12 years earlier at the start of the Great Recession. “We retooled our operations, and 2008, 2009 and 2010 ended up being his strongest revenue years because he stepped back and thought to himself, ‘What do my clients need to get through these times?’”
She also became a resource for her business clients. She had just returned to work from maternity leave after giving birth to son Giovanni in November 2019, and she felt “ready to go full throttle,” pandemic or not. So she began to study everything related to COVID-19 and its effects on business. “By doing that, I’ve helped a lot of people, some of them on a pro bono basis, get through this pandemic and economic downturn. I worked with them to come up with different strategies.”
She also joined a coaching program for commercial real estate boutique owners while virtually attending Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, a top entrepreneurship school where she is earning an entrepreneurship certificate through a grant from Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program.
Calandrino described herself as “very nerdy,” a lover of books and learning. “I like to call it Jeffersonian. I loved visiting Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, in Virginia and learning how he was into farming, into weather, into writing letters. I thought, ‘We could have been friends.’”
Her own life began in a pastoral vein. She was born in the scenic Northeast Kingdom region of Vermont but moved to Winter Garden, Florida, in 1989 when she was 5. After high school, she continued on the meteorology track at Valencia College in Orlando while working in a law office. She became interested in law, then switched gears and went to Rollins College in 2005.
She also began to dabble in real estate, earning her license in 2007. She graduated from Rollins in 2008, put off law school because of the recession and turned her attention to learning about real estate.
“I decided to build a concierge real estate firm to help business owners with their residential and commercial needs,” she said. In 2010, she founded Silverleaf Real Estate. Six years later, she dropped residential to focus on commercial real estate and rebranded her business Beyond Commercial. “I could not be happier with how everything I envisioned has come together.”
Calandrino has earned the CCIM designation as a Certified Commercial Investment Member, and she served as president of the Florida CCIM Chapter’s Central District in 2020. The state chapter named the Central District the best in the state in terms of growth under her leadership.
Her business is certified as woman-owned by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a woman-owned small business. “These certifications are important,” she said. “They show our strength, because there is an underwriting process, and it’s also great to inspire other women to follow suit.” She is active on social media and recently was named to the #CREi: LinkedIn Top Influencers in Social Media in Commercial Real Estate list.
Trends in Office Space
The pandemic has hit the commercial real estate industry hard, Calandrino said. The office space sector will continue to struggle in Central Florida, which has a huge workspace inventory, but she expects employees to keep trickling back to the office. “I am finding some rubber-banding back to the office because not everyone is meant to work from home. I know so many people who are just Zoomed out.”
Orlando has more than a million square feet of office space available for lease, which she said is the largest amount since 1999. “I think the values will continue to suffer until more vacant space is absorbed, since pricing is based on supply and demand.”
Another trend, thanks to social distancing, is more square feet of workspace for each employee, which Calandrino described as a reversal of the open-floor plan, collaborative areas and “densification” that had been popular during the last decade. “We’ll also continue to see more offices wanting to be in the suburbs, rather than downtown.”
On the other hand, the warehouse sector is going strong. “There’s been an incredible need for warehouse space because of COVID. A lot of the supply chain has come back to the United States. You can get anything delivered to your door, and people seem to like that. I don’t see it going away.”
The Calandrino family has grown, too — little Giovanni now has a baby sister, Giulietta, born April 4. “Her father named her after a really cool Italian car, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta,” Calandrino said. “It was his turn because I named our son after the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano.”
She enjoys cooking, sharing recipes via her Amy’s Apron blog, golfing with her husband, and playing poker, which she admits not having much time for lately. “I’m telling you what, as soon as my husband and I get a chance to go to Las Vegas, we will. I am a little granola, coming from Vermont, and I love the outdoors, but I also like going to concerts and shows.”
As busy as they are, she said they have a no-shop-talk rule at the dinner table. “We have a San Francisco trolley bell in our kitchen, and when dinner is served, we ring the trolley bell. From that moment on, all the talk is about our family and the babies.”
Written by Terry Godbey of i4 Business Magazine https://www.i4biz.com/real-estate/beyond-commercial-undaunted-in-storm/