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Cushman & Wakefield's Pamela Mendelsohn On Her Re-Creation of S.F.'s Retail Districts

Cushman & Wakefield senior managing director Pamela Mendelsohn has shaped the way retail has grown in San Francisco, making S.F.'s retail districts as unique as the city itself.


As a commercial real estate broker, she's helped bring an eclectic assortment of retailers from all around the world to the San Francisco Bay Area, giving a bit of an edge to San Francisco’s retail districts.

Mendelsohn (above right with Cushman & Wakefield senior associate Sarah Brett Schwartz) loves breaking retail districts away from the norm. For example, Hayes Valley used to be all shoes, she said. She’s helped rejuvenate and transform Jackson Square to attract a younger crowd of shoppers and reshaped Fillmore Street, Valencia/Mission District, NOPA, Union and Chestnut streets, and Sacramento Street.

She worked with Lululemon back when it was an international company with five stores in Canada and helped bring them to the US. She’s also worked with Blue Bottle and helped with its expansion and placement of its roastery in the Produce District in Oakland.

“I love bringing tenants that add value to a neighborhood and that the tenants and landlords can be proud of,” Mendelsohn said. “I give 150% when I work on something. I care about this city.”


She's now part of Cushman & Wakefield's next big retail leasing project. Mendelsohn, Cushman & Wakefield vice chairman Kazuko Morgan and senior managing director Vikki Johnson have been tasked with filling up the newly constructed Cypress Equities’ 6X6 multilevel shopping center in San Francisco’s Mid-Market district. The 250k SF six-story retail shopping center is in the heart of Mid-Market and is one of largest retail centers since the Metreon.

Seeing The Whole Block And Not Just The Store


Mendelsohn typically sees the big picture when it comes to placement of retailers. Everything along a block or within a shopping center feeds into one another.

“I tell people retail merchandizing is like a football field. Something needs to be exciting on the 10-yard line to attract people from the 50-yard line,” Mendelsohn said.

Mendelsohn said San Francisco’s retail and restaurant industry continues to thrive even with some restaurants facing high turnover. She said there are plenty of replacement restaurants waiting in the wings and sometimes it comes down to restaurateurs incorrectly profiling their customers.

“Every time a merchant opens, they are optimistic about their chances for success,” Mendelsohn said.

She's been seeing a lot of interest from artisanal chefs who want to use smaller spaces. Chefs are also looking at expanding into second locations or opening up in not-so-pristine areas where rent is more affordable.

Tenants are becoming more open-minded and are OK with backfill concepts. Tenants are also preferring totally built out spaces that they can make their own quickly. Customers also want to go out to eat somewhere away from where they live or work.

She said a lot of the restaurants she and her partner, Cushman & Wakefield senior associate Sarah Brett Schwartz, who was brought onto the team in October, rep end up becoming Michelin-starred and Best Chef restaurants, such as State Bird and The Progress. She’s brought Nico, Monsieur Benjamin, Boulevard, Lord Stanley and a re-tooled Tosca to the city. Mendelsohn recently repped the landlords in the Saison and Petit Crenn transactions.


Mendelsohn’s life has always revolved around retail. She was a merchant’s daughter and has worked on the landlord side and for many developers and knows both sides of the business.

Mendelsohn and Schwartz are very hands-on with their clients and will help in any way they can.

“I treat tenants as I would treat my own family,” Mendelsohn said, which sometimes means hand-holding and offering them marketing and tips about the business.

Over the years, her process has evolved into one that favors trailblazing, unique stores and she has had success in encouraging her clients to break from the norm. One landlord wanted to bring in a regular athletic retailer, but Pam convinced him to take a chance on an international lingerie store from London instead. The move paid off and later attracted other high-end retailers such as Paul Smith, Alexander McQueen and Acne Studios.

“No deal is too small for me. I like creating something interesting and edgy whether that’s a new restaurant or retail,” Mendelsohn said.