New business hopes to 'keep things lighthearted'
On the outside, the new Real Living Messina and Associates office in Two Harbors looks relatively serene, but behind the glare on the big windows the scene is a a bit more chaotic.
Agents Dee Furo and Jarrett Mickelson purchased the green building to house their new offices in February. They briefly worked together at Odyssey Real Estate Group in Two Harbors and struck up a friendship that has continued for more than seven years as the two have worked together on a number of sales and eventually led to a business partnership and the purchase of the building on First Avenue. As they looked for a potential partner, they wanted a stable partner with a good track record, which is exactly what they found in Real Living, one of the top agencies in northeastern Minnesota.
"Dee and I were both looking for a change," Mickelson said. "We were looking for something with a little more ownership over what we were doing, so we purchased the building in downtown and talked to Frank Messina with Real Living and got on board with him and the whole Messina crew.
"It made sense to us, it was an opportunity for us to branch out our business and was more of a long term move."
When Mickelson and Furo purchased the building, it had been empty for several years and the entire office had to be gutted and remodeled. Currently, they are about three quarters of the way done with the remodel, but with all the work going on the pair are working on folding tables in the front while their offices and conference space toward the back of the building is still being finished. The two are working around the mess, but it's a bit hectic with everything that's going on.
"It's just been a process trying to sell real estate while flipping a building at the same time and maintain a life," Mickelson said.
The business is moving into an area of downtown that until a few years ago was really lacking in businesses of any sort. First Avenue, particularly the side of the street Furo and Mickelson's office is on has had a number of empty store fronts and buildings.
"Dee and I actually talked extensively about whether or not we felt we could be off Seventh Avenue or not because it does get so much traffic and tourism," Mickelson said. "We really looked at where our business comes from and for Dee and myself, it's local business and locals come down to First Avenue. Once we figured that out and felt like we could get a good deal on a building with historic charm to it, it just made sense."
Furo, a Two Harbors native, said she remembered coming down to First Avenue as a bustling center of activity in town and she hopes that adding more businesses to the area will begin to attract more retail businesses back to the area as well. Several new businesses have opened on the block in the last few years, particularly Castle Danger Brewery, PureDriven and McQuade's Herbs, Spices and More, and soon the area will gain two more businesses. Amy Jordahl State Farm and Dan Gilderman's Century 21 plan to move to the building next door in the next couple of months.
"The community of people on this block are really supportive of what we're trying to do," Furo said. "More than anything we're happy to be where we are at. We think that we're in a perfect spot."
The building itself will eventually give Furo and Mickelson their office space and they already have another agent, Julia Shepersky, that rents space from them as well. The conference space in the back gives them a space to meet with clients and eventually, they plan to offer classes for first time home buyers so their clients can learn about the realities and potential pitfalls of owning a home. In addition, the pair are planning to offer classes at Two Harbors High School to educate students about using credit and, more importantly, maintaining good credit.
The pair are looking forward to being done remodeling the office early in the summer and being able to focus on sinking their teeth into something they both have equity in and, almost as importantly, having a little fun, too.
"It's easy with Dee, we both have kind of the same personality," Mickelson. "We both like to sell, but we like to have fun as well and keep things lighthearted. We made the joke, if you don't laugh at least once you have to put a dollar in the jar."