Managing a mall in another Columbia

July 18, 2008|By Shayna Meliker | Shayna Meliker,Sun reporter

For Katie Essing, transitioning from one Columbia to another has been quite the shift.

Essing, 33, began work as The Mall in Columbia's senior general manager June 30, leaving her post as general manager of Columbia Mall in Columbia, Mo. She was hired in May to fill the spot left open by Karen Geary, who resigned in April.

"It's a beautiful property. It's got fantastic retailers and restaurants, and it's just an exciting opportunity," Essing said of the Howard County mall, which is owned by General Growth Properties Inc. The Chicago-based company also owns Columbia Mall and Capital Mall, two shopping centers in Missouri that Essing managed since 2005.

She has worked for General Growth since 2000, and she served as group vice president of marketing over several malls in the Midwest and before moving to the general manager position.

"This opportunity came up, and it was just a nice step for me to have a more challenging property and get to live in a different part of the country," Essing said. She lives in the Eldersberg area of Carroll County with her husband, Blake, and two sons, Alex, 7, and Andrew, 5.

"The boys have been to the mall a few times,"she said. "It's a great mall for kids."

Essing said her first goal is getting to know the mall's tenants and customers and listening to what they like or dislike about the mall. She considers communication an important part of the job.

"We've got an accounting team, a marketing team, operations, security, housekeeping, leasing, all of those different functions," she said. "I am really the one that helps facilitate everything, making sure everybody knows what the other person is doing and knows what the big picture is for our merchandising and experience."

As part of the management team, she walks the mall several times a day to make sure it is operating smoothly. She also visits areas that customers do not usually see, including the retailers' delivery corridors, the roof - to check air-conditioning units and exhaust fans - and the security office, where she keeps tabs on the feed coming in from cameras placed throughout the mall.

But Essing said that the mall isn't the only place she can be found.

"I love being part of the community," she said. "When I was in Columbia, Mo., I was very involved in the Chamber of Commerce and was on the board of directors. I was in Rotary, and served on a couple nonprofit boards. One was a theater group for young children, another one was a drug and alcohol treatment program. I'm very excited to get acclimated here and get involved in the community."

As a graduate of the University of Missouri in Columbia, she went back as an adjunct professor and taught a retail marketing class.

"I kind of fell into retail in college," she said. "I was a Sam Walton scholar, and part of the scholarship requirements was to work in retail 10 hours a week. And I just kind of caught the bug. This has got to be one of best jobs in the world if you love retail."

Essing said she is excited about the retail mix the mall offers, and that her favorite stores are Ann Taylor, White House Black Market and Nordstrom. She is also looking forward to what the mall can offer companies that are experimenting with new retail concepts.

New stores set to open soon include Crazy 8, a Gymboree-owned clothing store for kids, and Perfume Mania.

"It's exciting to be able to bring [new stores] into the marketplace and then see how the customer responds, and how the retailer does," Essing said. "It's just really nice to be in a mall that has all this selection."

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