Millennial manager aims to take Augusta Mall into future

Most people who drive to Augusta Mall usually end up leaving with a lighter bank account.

 

Not so for Amy Dalton.

As the mall manager, the 29-year-old Augusta native gets paid to spend the day at the metro area’s largest retail complex. If it’s not a millennial’s “dream job,” it’s pretty darn close.

“It’s definitely a sweet gig,” said Dalton, who was appointed manager of the 1.2-million-square-foot General Growth Properties facility in summer 2016. “I get to find out what’s happening in the world of commerce. I don’t have to sit at a desk all day. If I get upset about anything I can go get a Starbucks and nobody is going to say anything because it’s part of my job.”

The fringe benefits largely outweigh the long hours she and her staff put in running the region’s largest retail destination, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary.

“The downside of a mall is the late hours,” Dalton said. “You’ve got to be available for your shoppers and your managers to make sure the place is running well. You can get a call at any time.”

Part of ensuring smooth operations is understanding the peculiarities of both the market and the property. Dalton knows both, having grown up in Augusta and having worked as a teenager at the mall’s former Strasburg Children store, a boutique that has since become an online-only brand.

“I’ve always worked in retail to some extent since I was 16,” said Dalton, who also worked at Tractor Supply Co. on Washington Road.

She was hired as the mall’s marketing coordinator in 2012 by a previous general manager shortly after graduating from Young Harris College with a communications degree. Dalton said she believed she won out over other, more experienced applicants because she agreed to make a five-hour drive to do a same-day interview.

“I think it showed that I had the drive to do that with no expectation of getting the job,” she said. “I think that was the one thing that differentiated me.”

With the exception of a 1 1/2-year stint as associate general manager at General Growth’s Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, the entirety of her retail management experience has been spent in her hometown.

The Curtis Baptist High School graduate oversees the Wrightsboro Road property from a 30,000-foot-level, but she relies heavily on Administrative Assistant Lynn Weathers and Mall Operations Manager Steven Toole for a boots-on-the-ground perspective. Weathers started working at the mall’s food court two weeks after it opened in 1978; Toole has been maintaining the property for the past 30 years.

“They know this place inside and out,” Dalton said. “They care about it not as a job, but as a home.”

Chicago-based General Growth Properties purchased Augusta Mall in 2004 as part of its $12.6 billion acquisition of The Rouse Co. of Columbia, Md. In 2007 General Growth developed the open-air 180,000-square-foot promenade section which includes tenants such as Barnes & Noble, Williams & Sonoma and Palmetto Moon.

In just under two years of Dalton’s oversight, the mall has added a K-9 unit to its security team, solar panels on its roof, a drive-through at the Chick-fil-A and a parking app designed to let shoppers plan their visits around the mall’s least congested hours.

She said she’s open to adding non-traditional amenities to the mall property, such as fitness clubs, hotels, grocery stores and office buildings.

“The mall of the future is going to be a multifunctional space where one lives, works and plays,” she said. “Malls were the centralized location for the community, now we are again because everything you need can be within super-easy walking distance.”

But such developments are long-term plans; Dalton said what most shoppers care about now is what new stores are on the way.

“Everybody wants a Trader Joe’s and an upscale Mexican restaurant,” Dalton said. “I think if we could ever get a Trader Joe’s, the Augusta community would freak out.”

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.

AUGUSTA MALL

Address: 3450 Wrightsboro Road

Opened: Aug. 1978

Developer: The Rouse Co.

Owner: General Growth Properties

General Manager: Amy Dalton

Anchor tenants: Sears, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods

Retail/restaurant spaces: 146

Square footage: 1.2 million

Source: Augusta Mall

 

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