Just a couple years away from celebrating its 50th anniversary, Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg is keeping itself fresh and vibrant in a challenging era for brick-and-mortar retail through the diversity of its tenants and significant renovations, General Manager Laurie Van Dalen said in a recent interview.
"The common media story is that malls are dying, but at Woodfield we have a positive story," Van Dalen said. "Malls aren't just retail anymore. It's an experience."
Home to numerous stores making their companies' first forays into the Chicago market, Woodfield is about to experience a first of its own with Tuesday's planned opening of Shake Shack in a new outlot building along Golf Road. It will be the first outlot business to open under the Woodfield umbrella.
Shake Shack will join an eclectic mix of mall tenants, including the Chicago Improv Comedy Club, Pac-Man Entertainment (formerly known as Level 257), the Blocks to Bricks museum of three-dimensional building toys, the FYE pop culture store, Gamers World and a wide selection of restaurants both in and out of the year-old Dining Pavilion on the upper level next to Sears.
While Sears Holdings' current struggles have been well documented, the repurposing of any of Woodfield's longtime anchors is not on the current to-do list.
"We have five anchor stores," Van Dalen said. "Everyone is open and operating."
New to Woodfield in 2019 is one of only four Wayfair Decor & Inspiration Shops nationwide, Australian jewelry boutique Lovisa, and men's activewear brand TravisMathew's only Chicago-area store. They join recent returnees Charlotte Russe, L'Occitane and Nestle Toll House Cafe.
Even the first-to-market brands that appear at Woodfield are recognizable to their target audiences, with all of them having done extensive research, Van Dalen said.
Van Dalen was named Woodfield's general manager in November, after working at various Simon malls for two decades. Simon bought the Schaumburg retail mecca from Taubman Centers in 2013.
"We don't compare ourselves to the other mall developers," Van Dalen said. "Simon is good at what it does and they know their investments and what they need to do."
For much of her career, Van Dalen managed malls under redevelopment. But she said there are no plans for any substantial cosmetic changes to Woodfield before its 50th anniversary in 2021, following its major overhaul of 2015 and the opening of the Dining Pavilion on the upper level of the Sears wing last year.
Though she's the third general manager of Woodfield in the six years since Simon's bought the mall, Van Dalen said she intends to be around to help plan to malls 50th anniversary in two years.