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Executive Diversion

Commercial real estate exec doubles as 7-time perfect game bowler

Tampa Bay real estate VP Melissa Riccardi gets away from it all by rolling strikes.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 8, 2024
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Melissa Riccardi, Colliers vice president of retail services for Tampa Bay, is serious about her diversion: bowling.
Melissa Riccardi, Colliers vice president of retail services for Tampa Bay, is serious about her diversion: bowling.
Photo by Mark Wemple
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Melissa Riccardi. Colliers vice president for retail services for the Tampa Bay region. Colliers is an international commercial real estate giant, with 19,000 employees in 66 countries and 2 billion square feet under management. 


Riccardi is an amateur bowler — but amateur only because professional bowlers require full-time traveling. Make no mistake: Riccardi bowls competitively and makes some side cash in tournaments. She's had seven sanctioned perfect games and has a 212 average. She takes her husband, Sean, on her bowling journeys. He bowls well, too.

Roll with it: "Growing up in the Northeast, there's not a lot to do in the winter," says Riccardi, who discovered the diversion of bowling as a child. But then college at Binghamton University and a career called, and off to work the adult Riccardi went, working in retail rental service in Manhattan. There was no time for bowling. But in 2012, she went to work for Colliers International of Tampa — and discovered she had time to bowl on her days off.

The right lane: Riccardi has lived in the St. Petersburg area for almost 12 years. She lives with her three dogs and Sean, whom she met at a New Jersey bowling tournament before their move to the Sunshine State. Her brother, David O'Sullivan, was bowling that day, as he was a member of Team USA. That's how bowling provided Riccardi more than a hobby, as it also helped her meet her spouse. 

High energy: Riccardi loses her herself in the game of bowling, and for a time, forgets her work schedule and to-do list. She's come to learn the methods to bowl at different lanes, as not all competitions have lanes that would be considered a standard pattern. That is, Riccardi says, there are wood lanes and synthetic lanes. Some lanes have different patterns and are oiled differently. Riccardi isn't thrown by it. And what if she bowls a perfect or near-perfect game? "I usually just yell," says Riccardi. "I am always very high energy."

Strike force: Commercial real estate is also a game of rolling, Riccardi says, comparing it to a rollercoaster. There are highs and lows. And sometimes a deal can take between 18 and 24 months. That means Riccardi, like many commercial real estate agents, has to budget and plan, as she is paid via commission. Sometimes deals fall apart after months of work, she says. So there is a lot of steam for Riccardi to work off. But Riccardi loves the work — and takes the opportunity of her bowling-related visits to other cities such as Nashville to look around at the retail scene, and gather intelligence on the markets.

Big money grip: The hobby is a nice cash flow on the side for Riccardi, who says she can sometimes make back 10 times what she paid to enter a contest. Thus, the hobby often pays for its own expenses, as when the Riccardis have to fly to a bowling contest. Riccardi is also a brand ambassador for a bowling ball company, Roto Grip of Storm products. She is also on staff with Vise Inserts and Peak Performance Pro Shop. Ultimately, it's the fun that attracts Riccardi, she says, and the chance to make new friends. 

Round up: In a competitive work environment that involves months of work on big commercial deals, bowling also helps Riccardi escape for a time, she says. "You have to figure out how to decompress," says Riccardi. "(Bowling) is something I enjoy ... When I am on the bowling alley, all that just shuts off. I get into a zone." That, in turn, helps her return to work fresh and ready to close some deals, she says.

Kinetic energy: Riccardi says she gets the same type of charge from bowling as in her work in commercial real estate. "It's a very similar feeling ... I get from both," says Riccardi. And not surprisingly, the kinetic energy doesn't stop there: Riccardi also does Pilates.


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