2008-09-05 / Neighbors
The new man behind the mall
Fresh face hopes to take Town Center forward
Keith Geiger said he was excited to take on management duties for the 600,000-square-foot open-air shopping center, which is owned by Forest City Enterprises, and prepared for the challenges he knows he will face.
"I was involved with this project since the development phase and the construction and the actual grand opening," he said. "So when they told me I was coming back, that I could take on the role of general manager, I was thrilled."
Geiger served as general manager of Forest Cityowned Antelope Valley Mall for two and a half years before coming to the Town Center in July.
The Southern California native and UC Santa Barbara alumnus said moving to Simi was more than a job transfer—it was a homecoming.
"I'm very familiar with the area because I've grown up in Riverside County and lived in Los Angeles County for a long time," he said. "I've even worked in some of the malls that I would now consider competition. I feel like I'm coming home."
Geiger said it is this knowledge of the local community as well as the shopping trends of Southern California that will give him an advantage in positioning the Town Center ahead of the curve.
"I can use my experience . . . to anticipate those trends and use my knowledge of what's popular to help our leasing department go after tenants that would do well," Geiger said.
In the retail game, tenant choice can make or break a mall.
The Town Center is constantly searching for new tenants and in talks with interested retailers, but Geiger said he is picky when it comes to which applicants are chosen.
"The goal is to create a tenant mix that is appropriate for the area," he said. "Stores that complement each other and really bring product that the local patrons desire."
Geiger said he looks for something the mall doesn't already have, that offers something new to shoppers and is at a suitable price point.
"I don't want to oversaturate any certain category," he said. "And you don't want to create a shopping center that is all highend items; you want to have some that are affordable as well."
Aeropostale, a youth clothing outfitter, recently opened a store at the mall, and Peach Beach Yogurt will be opening by the end of the month.
Geiger said he doesn't plan to make drastic changes to the mall but instead wants to evaluate its current performance. From what he's seen to so far, he said, the mall is in good shape.
"Considering the overall economic environment, the mall's doing well. And considering retail trends, we're doing well," he said. "The Simi Valley Town Center is performing better than average, especially in California, so we're happy about that."
He hinted that future plans for the center may include increasing the mall's square footage and adding larger retailers.
Geiger said he also hopes to establish the Town Center as a local gathering place.
"One of my immediate and long-term goals would be really just to nurture the Simi Valley Town Center out of its adolescent phase and its development phase and really turn it into a community center," he said, "a place to bring family and spend time leisurely."
The new general manager admitted he will face some challenges as he moves forward.
"One challenge here is, we have a lot of competition nearby," he said. "One thing we have to do is really take advantage of our uniqueness as a mall.
"We have fixtures and amenities here that you can't find anywhere else, and I think that people will realize that once they come here."
Of specific concern is the remodel and expansion of The Oaks in Thousand Oaks, including a new Nordstrom which opens today.
"It's expected that it's going to create some buzz during the grand opening," he said. "I don't think we can expect that there will be no impact because immediately there will. I do think that our patrons have loyalty and things will return to normal."
At the same time The Oaks has store openings, Geiger said, so will the Town Center, and the most important thing is to keep the community aware of what the center offers.
"With the children's play areas, the common area, the fireplace, the koi pond and the interactive fountains, it's really an experience that you can't get in an indoor, enclosed shopping mall," he said.
"You really can't go to Thousand Oaks and sit by a koi pond outside, and when people pay attention to the detail and the architecture, it really sets us apart from the competition."