Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 2, 2023

An extrovert decides to go solo

Wilson launches Vertical after 10 years with CBRE

Aaryn Wilson has launched Vertical Commercial, which he says will concentrate on retail representation, though “in a market like Chattanooga, you can find yourself working on a little of everything.” - Photograph provided

For more than a decade, commercial Realtor Aaryn Wilson was in his element as he and the 100,000-plus employees of CBRE – a Fortune 500 commercial real estate services firm – served clients around the world.

“As an extrovert, I like to surround myself with people,” says Wilson, who worked for the Chattanooga branch of CRBE. “I don’t do well when I silo myself off.”

Wilson now works alone for Vertical Commercial, the Chattanooga-based commercial real estate services firm he launched in November. This make him the CEO, COO, CFO and every other C-suite acronym at his company, he jokes.

“When you ask to talk with someone from Vertical Commercial, we send you to the top.”

Although Wilson works alone (he doesn’t count the people who provide the indispensable din of background activity at the office space he shares with other entities as co-workers), he brings more than 10 years of intense commercial real estate experience with CRBE to Vertical.

Wilson spent his first seven years with CRBE selling off excess square footage for a national bank that was right-sizing itself in the wake of the housing crash. After disposing of about 2 million square feet and helping to create a source of revenue that rivaled the bank’s top loan portfolio, he became a broker.

Stepping into a sales role allowed Wilson to focus more on local clients and made him part of the team that represented the selling of the 112-acre West End site Urban Story Ventures is now redeveloping into The Bend, a mixed-used community.

Other career milestones for Wilson include his part in the sale of the Edney Innovation Center and the Terminal Station building at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Wilson had tallied $100 million worth of completed transactions in five years when he decided to step away from the masses at CRBE and launch Vertical as a solo endeavor.

The move came as a surprise to some of his colleagues. As a husband and father of four children under the age of 5, life was not easy for Wilson. But it was never going to become easy, he says, and he had a vision of building a company of his own.

“Our twins had just turned 1, and things were busy at home. But something will always come up, whether it’s the next deal or life event, and make you kick the can down the road. So, I decided to just do it.”

As an aside, Wilson says he and his wife didn’t know twins ran in her family until their third child became their third and fourth. But he was undeterred, not in spite of his family but because of it, he adds.

“I had a blessed childhood; I wanted for nothing,” he says. “Now I want the best for my children and to model that there are opportunities out there. They can start their own venture, whether it’s real estate or something else. They’re already pretty good at negotiating for fruit snacks.”

Wilson says Vertical also gives him an opportunity to focus more on local deals. Although he was born in California and grew up largely in Florida, he made his way to Lee University to complete his business degree and then stayed in Chattanooga after “falling in love” with the area, he says.

“When you work for a large corporation like CBRE, you work the company’s work; you don’t build your own relationships because you’re only one person. Now when I start work in the morning, I’m already excited about telling Chattanooga’s story to people who live and work outside the city. I might be a transplant, but I love this city and have grown deep roots.”

Vertical will focus on retail representation, Wilson notes.

“In a market like Chattanooga, you can find yourself working on a little of everything – an office deal here, an industrial deal there, and then a piece of land. I want to be an authority in the local commercial real estate industry, and I feel like the only way to do that is to specialize.”

Wilson’s initial exposure to real estate came at a young age, first through his great aunt – a pastor who supported herself with investment properties – and then through his father, who built a successful career in commercial real estate.

As Wilson worked his way through his college years, he considered multiple careers, including computer programming, mechanical engineering and business. Business appealed to him more than the others because of the impact it had on the lives of his family members, he says.

“I like the business world. It’s all I saw growing up.”

After graduating from Lee, Wilson worked in store support for Check Into Cash. After two years of “skinned knees and developing street smarts in the business world,” he says, his father hailed him from CRBE.

Wilson said he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work for a major corporation. He also liked the idea of continuing the family tradition.

“I’d always been an outsider looking in but now I was an insider looking out. And I saw that real estate is important no matter where you are on the totem pole. It’s a vital component of the business world.”

As the sole proprietor of Vertical, Wilson says he’s taking what he’s learned over the years and perfecting it. His life didn’t become easier after he started his own company, he adds, but he’s become a master plate spinner and is eager to start growing his venture at a slow and steady pace.

“I can’t imagine doing anything other than commercial real estate. And I’m looking forward to what tomorrow brings.”