Shenehon Center for Real Estate

Research. Education. Outreach.

2013 Inductee: Helen Brooks

As one of the first female leaders in the Twin Cities real estate community, Helen Brooks paved the way for women in commercial real estate.

When she first embarked on a career in commercial real estate, finding a company that would take a chance on hiring a woman was a challenge. At that time, women simply were not in the industry. Brooks got her feet wet at Premiere Realty when they hired her in 1965. She spent four years at the company before venturing out on her own and founding Brokers’ Exchange in 1969. After working for nine years on many successful deals with clients such as Pizza Hut, White Castle and McDonald’s, Bill Reiling and Fred Lamb of Towle Real Estate offered her a position. Brooks quickly became known industry-wide as “that woman at Towle,” successfully working with many satisfied clients while representing the industry exceptionally well.

After settling in at Towle, Brooks sought to enhance her credibility. She became a member of the reputable, but male-dominated, Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR). When she applied for membership, only two of SIOR’s 1,600 members were women. She went on to serve as president of the SIOR Mid-Continent Chapter and the SIOR district vice president. She has been involved in several professional associations, holding leadership positions in the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks, Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors and Women in Real Estate. She has won numerous awards, including the NAIOP’s President Award for distinguished service to the real estate industry. Brooks was named Commercial Realtor of the Year in 1997 by the Organization of Commercial Realtors, won the Robert Boblett Award by SIOR in 2000, and in 2010 was the second ever to receive the Milly Award by SIOR International. The Milly Award recognizes one woman’s outstanding achievement in the commercial real estate industry.

In addition to her professional association involvement, Brooks also volunteers in the community. She has served on several boards, including the Cricket Theater and the Zoning Task Force for St. Louis Park and for Maple Grove. Brooks worked with the Service Corps of Retired Executives, helping others realize their dreams of starting their own business. She is a member of Temple Israel and Temple Israel Sisterhood, as well as the National Council of Jewish Women.