Residential Specialists

Investing in Communities

in the Southeast

Through trust-based relationships with city leaders, our team of Residential Specialists are bringing affordable homes to growing markets in Alabama, Mississippi, and Northern Florida.

Trusted Partner

The intersection of Location and Opportunity.

Where there is a need, there is a way. We have found a niche in the residential market that returns investment while aiding communities in a time when growth is harder to find.

Contact a Specialist
Our Services

Residential Development Services

We offer services from a team of experienced real estate professionals.

  • Land Acquisition
  • Entitlement
  • Subdividing land
  • Master Planning
  • Phasing Projects
Who we work with

Planning before Achieving

We partner with trusted homebuilders and are currently developing multiple subdivisions.

Cullman County, AL: Kingfisher
Bessemer, AL: Woodlands Trail
Madison County, AL: Harvest
Cullman, AL: Ellsworth

Service with Integrity

Our reputation is our most valuable asset, and our people are empowered to protect it by doing what they know is right.

Robert Jolly, CCIM

CEO/ Founder

Robert co-founded Retail Specialists in 2005. As CEO, he oversees the development, management, and human capital aspects of the company. He is the visionary for Retail Specialists, leading not only the direction and entrepreneurial ventures for the company but also acting as a mentor for many team members.

Robert started his career working for Black and Decker Corporation in Sales Management and Marketing and lived in every region of the United States. In 1996, Robert left Corporate America to pursue an entrepreneurial career in Commercial Real Estate and has since assisted companies like Winn-Dixie, Starbucks, Verizon Wireless, Chipotle, and Dave and Buster’s and many others with their Southeastern market expansion.

Throughout his career, Robert has been the recipient of numerous accolades. Most recently he received the 2020 CEO of the Year award from the Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ). He has been named Who’s Who of Commercial Real Estate by the BBJ several years, Top 40 Under 40 in 2004, Top Small Business CEO in 2012, and the Birmingham Association of Realtors’ Commercial “Rookie of the Year” in 1998.

Robert graduated from the University of Alabama, with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and English. He is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a Life Member of the Birmingham Association of Realtors’ “Million Dollar Sales Club” and has his Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation from the Commercial Real Estate Investment Institute.

Robert holds a broker’s license in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma. He is Board Director at Southpoint Bank in Birmingham, on the Culverhouse School of Business (University of Alabama) Board of Visitors, and is on the board of Urban Ministry.

Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Robert currently lives in Birmingham with his wife and three children. He is an active member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, hunting and playing golf.

Mead Silsbee

COO, Principal

Mead co-founded Retail Specialists in 2005. As Chief Operating Officer, Mead manages and coordinates all day-to-day operations of the company. He also oversees operations of numerous investment and development projects.

Mead brings over a decade of real estate experience to the company. His past experience includes work on the retail team at Eason, Graham, and Sandner, Inc., Hamlet Homes, and Intermountain Mortgage Company in Park City, Utah. He graduated from the Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and economics. In 2008, he earned the coveted Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation from the Commercial Real Estate Investment Institute and is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Mead is a native of Birmingham and is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. He currently resides in Birmingham with his wife, Laura, and three sons. He enjoys playing golf, cooking, and spending time with his family.

Steve Leara

EVP, General Counsel

Steve Leara’s duties encompass all legal work for Retail Specialists and Retail Strategies. He has been involved with all aspects of commercial real estate for over 30 years as a broker and developer, as well as representing national and local real estate clients in all aspects of the industry, including: (i) capital raises and formation; (ii) acquisition, development and financing agreements; (iii) lease negotiations and disputes; (iv) property management; and (v) dispositions.

Steve received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Brown University in 1986. He earned his J.D. degree from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, graduating magna cum laude in 1994. He is licensed to practice in Alabama and Georgia.

In 2001, the Birmingham Business Journal selected Steve as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” when recognizing outstanding young business leaders.

Steve is an associate professor for Mergers & Acquisitions and Bankruptcy Law at the Cumberland School of Law (Samford University – Birmingham, AL). He is currently a board member of the Brown Football Association (Providence, R.I.) and the Holy Trinity/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral Foundation (Birmingham, AL) for which he also serves as its President. He was formerly a board member of the Mountain Brook Sports Corporation (Mountain Brook, AL) and SouthPoint Bank (Birmingham, AL).

Emil Gullia, CCIM


With more than 25 years of real estate experience, Emil brings a unique approach to each of his clients. Given his experience working for public retail companies, in corporate outsourced services for retail real estate departments, and in brokerage and development, he understands the entire retail life cycle from strategy development to store opening. Emil has been the lead on all aspects of real estate rollouts including market feasibility and analysis, site acquisition and design, portfolio optimization and analysis, land and building disposition, and lease restructuring. His corporate services work includes acting as the Vice President of Real Estate or on the Executive team for several retailers.

Over his career he has represented the occupant and opened nearly 2,000 new store and restaurant locations. Since 2012 Emil has completed more than $400 million in tenant transactions in 26 different states. He has been a trusted advisor working recognized brands of all sizes and uses including Hollywood Feed, Cabela’s, Kroger, Dollar Tree, T-Mobile, Guitar Center, Harbor Freight Tools, AutoZone, Core Power Yoga, Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ, Glidden Paints, Fifth Bank, First National Bank and PNC Bank.

Prior to Retail Specialists Emil has worked for three Fortune 500 retailers as well as a private developer. He was a Vice President at Jones Lang LaSalle for Outsourced Occupier Services and worked at Franklin Street.

He has been recognized with many industry awards during his career including CoStar’s Top Retail Leasing Power Broker award for four years. He has been recognized as Broker of the Year for Cabela’s in 2013, and the Client Satisfaction Award for Kroger in 2011. While at Franklin Street he won the Sales Achievement Award for three years in row, the Breakout Award and Leadership Awards.

He is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and has held several leadership and chair positions for ICSC throughout his career. Emil has been a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) since 2003.

Emil is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and upon graduation received the Real Estate Student of the Year award from Roger Staubach. In his personal time he enjoys traveling with his family for new adventure destinations, following rugby, riding motorcycles and nearly everything else outdoors.

Rodney Barstein


As Executive Vice President, Rodney leads a team to develop commercial and multi-family real estate throughout the United States. Prior to joining Retail Specialists, Rodney was President and CEO of Simply Fashion Stores, a ladies clothing store. Rodney successfully led a venture capital group in acquiring Simply Fashions out of bankruptcy in 1993 and his responsibilities included merchandising, MIS, store operations, loss prevention, human resources, distribution center, accounting, advertising, real estate, e-commerce, employee benefits, risk management, and real estate and new store construction. Simply Fashionpeaked at over 300 stores with over $130,000,000 in sales in 22 states. The company was sold in 2013.

Prior to founding Simply Fashion Stores in 1993, Rodney started Barstein & Associates, a full service real estate development, leasing and management firm specializing in retail projects. Founded in 1989, Barstein & Associates developed over 125,000 square feet of retail space including land acquisition, overseeing construction, leasing and management and through the years has managed over 500,000 square feet of retail space, one apartment complex, and office and distribution space. In addition Barstein & Associates handled the sale of over 300,000 square feet of retail shopping centers.

Rodney graduated from the University of Alabama undergraduate and law schools and has an LLM in Taxation from Southern Methodist University. Rodney and his wife Susan have three grown children and enjoy travel, outdoor activities and spending time with family.

Projects Underway
No. of Lots
Development Costs
Lots Sold