Irma Castor arrived in Miami in April to begin her new job as mall manager at Dadeland Mall, but she is certainly no stranger to the world of bustling shopping centers.
Dadeland is the latest — and largest — shopping center for Castor, who has spent more than 14 years working for Simon Property Group, including 10 years in mall management, working at various centers in Texas before landing in Miami.
Dadeland, one of Miami-Dade’s first shopping malls, has come a long way since it was launched as an open-air complex in 1962. At that time, it featured 60 stores and services in 530,000 square feet of space. After expanding and renovating several times over the years, today Dadeland encompasses 1.5 million square feet and has 185 stores, including the largest Macy's in Florida. Since 1997, Simon has held a 50 percent ownership stake in the mall and has served as its managing partner. The other 50 percent is owned by Morgan Stanley.
Currently, Dadeland said it attracts 17 million visitors annually, with about 40 percent of its business from tourists.
The mall recently added a new Kendall wing, which offers 102,000 square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment space, with an airy, modern feel, thanks to high ceilings and skylights that beam in rays of light.
Soon, more renovations are on the way, including expanding the mall’s restrooms, Castor said.
“We want to focus on enhancing the customer experience,” she said. “That’s how we can differentiate ourselves from other shopping centers.”
We met with Castor at the mall’s new Kendall wing, and then emailed her these questions, to which she responded.
Shopping is about being together with friends and family, or even spending some quality alone time. It’s about the joy of discovery — walking by a shop window and loving a new outfit and being able to have instant gratification when you buy it. It’s about seeing families during the holiday season spending time together. Not on their phones, but actually talking to each other. Even though it is hectic during the holiday season, the part I love the most is looking at our busy mall hallways and knowing I had a part in making sure the shopper’s experience was a great one by ensuring a safe, clean and fun shopping environment. Our new restaurants also offer a brand new experience to many of the local Dadeland shoppers. They are living the changes with us.
Malls are communities in action. Property management also allows me to interact with our shoppers, our stores and our community and hear what they want to see in their local mall. I love that I can have an impact on making these things happen.
The reason I chose Simon is because there is unlimited possibilities for career growth with this company. It’s an exciting company to work for that has so many facets. Simon is expanding globally and consistently offering varied opportunities for career growth. The common thread that I see amongst my fellow mall managers is a desire to be the best leader possible and always seek ways to improve the customer experience, which consists of not only shoppers but tenants, mall staff and the community leaders.
I want to take service to the next level. I want our shoppers to feel that Dadeland Mall is THEIR mall. They will know who I am and who my staff is.
This will create loyalty to our mall, not just for the best retail mix around, but because they are part of the Dadeland family.