The president of Barry Commercial Real Estate has plenty of interests, including a new cannabis venture

Karen Barry is president of Barry Commercial Real Estate.

Karen Barry
Karen Barry

What’s your sense of how the Calgary commercial real estate market is faring these days?

Barry: After 28 years in the business of commercial real estate investment sales, I can say that there are a number of significant factors affecting the various markets these days. As an example, multi-family price per unit is reported at levels lower than last year. This, however, is in contrast to the demand for multi-residential rental units from future first-time home owners who can’t quite qualify yet or have opted to rent due to the supply.

In the other sectors, quality investment sale offerings usually attract investors’ interest, however there is a scarcity of product and a reluctance for owners to dispose of their real estate as inflation appears to be on the not-too-distant horizon.

Any trends you are noticing?

Barry: There’s a recent trend in development these days for developers to partner up with multi-residential companies to deliver an integrated mixed-use, live-work-play concept to the prime ‘main streets’ in Calgary. This type of investment and development is happening across most of the buyers’ pool – whether several local firms are partnering, or larger asset management firms are undertaking the complete development ecosystem similar to what we’ve seen along 8th Street and in East Village

Do you feel the Calgary economy has turned around?

Barry: What I will say is that I’m busier than I was last year – however, my busy has included founding BELTLINE Cannabis Calgary, located in a 1908 house directly behind the Safeway on 12th Avenue SW.

I have learned from my notable career that when the world of investment real estate sales is running at a slower pace than usual, listen and fill your time with other things for balance, such as education, art, travel, sports or on investment in yourself on many different levels.

The turnaround that you ask about appears to me to be one whereby the ‘outsourced’ professional of yesterday becomes the entrepreneur of today and tomorrow. I applaud those who have taken necessary pivots in order to continue a purpose-filled, adventurous life.

There’s a slow shift going on with a wave of newer, mature, entrepreneurs who are taking calculated risk in other industries, in some cases quite different than what they may have done in the previous career. This shift takes time, but we’re seeing the green shoots of a new movement of mature individuals trying out new opportunities.

Tell me about your venture into the cannabis industry?

Barry: In 2011, I purchased a lovely little commercially zoned 1908 house located behind the Safeway on 12th Avenue SW. I attempted to lease the building to several different cannabis retailers but was turned down by three significant names in the cannabis community. From there it was a matter of economics – and BELTLINE Cannabis Calgary Inc. was founded.

Why did you decide to enter into this industry too?

Barry: As it turned out, the decision to enter this business has been an ebb and flow of many thoughts, emotions, and either decisions or non-decisions. Several years ago, I was a keynote speaker at a Woman in Leadership conference discussing the five steps to success. In short, step four I entitled “don’t be shy, apply,” meaning if you wanted to be recognized, you needed to first step up and apply.

After the ongoing rejection of the possible tenants, I finally accepted that this path was staring me boldly in the face – so I applied.

It has been a colourful journey. My intention is to finally dust off the manuscript I had written and nearly finished in 2013, and rewrite the final chapter. The book has now been renamed to Accidental Feminist. Stay tuned.

– Mario Toneguzzi


real estate barry cannabis

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