Marc Strich is overseeing his 12th holiday shopping season as general manager of Woodfield Mall.
What he didn't know two months ago was that it would be his last.
As part of a change of ownership approved in October, Simon Property Group will be taking over management of Woodfield from Strich's employer, The Taubman Co., which opened the mall 41 years ago and has managed it since.
Strich will transfer to the Wellington Green Mall in West Palm Beach, Fla. in January, and continue to oversee Taubman expansion projects in Korea, China and Puerto Rico.
Having cut his teeth in retail at Venture stores in Chicago in the late '70s, Strich has spent most of his career in the metropolitan area apart from a four-year stint in Ann Arbor, Mich.
As he prepares to say his farewells to Woodfield and Schaumburg after a record-setting turnout on Black Friday, Strich spent a few minutes Wednesday amid a busy transition talking with the Daily Herald about the challenges and successes he met there.
Q: How does a mall that is not new keep itself fresh and competitive with newer shopping centers?
A: There's a continuous capital reinvestment in Woodfield that constantly rejuvenates it. One seventh of our tenants remodel or relocate every year. That creates a win-win-win scenario. It's a win for our tenants, a win for management, but most of all a win for our customers. Change is good in retail. That churn is what keeps the mall full. And it's ingrained at Woodfield. People have come to expect it.
Q: How do you make the mall an attractive place to go and draw people away from the lure of online shopping?
A: Bricks and mortar. Shopping is not going away. People want to see, touch and have their other senses engaged by what they're shopping for.
Q: What tenant was your biggest coup?
A: We have 300! But I think the Cheesecake Factory, when I first got here, was instrumental in making Woodfield an entertainment destination. As far as electronics, we were one of the original five Apple stores. Fashion is always evolving, but new stores always want to be at Woodfield first.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced during your tenure?
A: 9/11 will be forever entrenched as one of the biggest challenges of the industry. And Woodfield, it's such a destination. We had to look again at both our public and nonpublic areas. We also had some record snowfalls.
Q: What do you think or hope will be your legacy at Woodfield?
A: I think getting the evolution of the merchandise mix right.