Feb 21, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
It’s difficult to see where Rob Schoeneck finds any sort of free time in his schedule.
Between being the general manager of Carousel Center, having a family and refereeing Section III high school lacrosse, Schoeneck has a grueling schedule.
But to Schoeneck, who has spent the last few years prepping for the mall’s changeover to Destiny USA, he does it to stay busy.
“There’s so much to do,” he said in a conference room on the fourth floor of the gigantic mall last week. “It’s a non-stop ride.”
That may be the understatement of the month. A typical day for Schoeneck would be a marathon for many. Each day of the week, he has to be up and alert for a 6:30 a.m. conference call with all the general managers of Pyramid’s shopping centers.
The Bishop Ludden graduate attended the Naval Academy and got his flying wings by becoming a solid F-14 pilot, something he did for 10 years. After the stint, he earned his master’s degree in information technology from George Washington University. Upon returning to the area, he landed a job in November, 1991, in housekeeping and operations for Carousel.
Years of dedication allowed him to earn the promotion to general manager in April of 2000. Since then, he’s helped oversee everything that’s taken place at the center.
To be a successful member of the team, Schoeneck says he has to stay on top of what the company is doing.
“Everyone participates,” he said. “We talk every day about the lifeblood behind what we do. It’s a constantly changing process.”
That lifeblood is keeping the mall’s space filled with tenants. Beyond keeping it full, Schoeneck said he has to make sure all the tenants are happy and that the atmosphere is fresh. With technology progressing faster than an Olympic sprinter, Schoeneck said it’s challenging to try and constantly keep up.
“I remember when I was younger we’d have to wait in line at a pay phone to call home,” the father of two sons said. “Now we have 8-year-olds with cell phones. Our laptops today are more powerful than the ones that helped launch the Apollo missions. It’s crazy.”
With the Destiny project, Schoeneck said the goal is to make the mall into a tourist destination — scratch that, the tourist destination — for Central New York.
He touched on the fact that the area has a lot to offer.
“Either people will come here solely for the mall, or incorporate it into their trips to the area,” he said.
There are no current plans to build a hotel on the premises.
Much of the project is modeled in some way after Minnesota’s Mall of America. Schoeneck said the similarities between this area and where Mall of America is are striking: the weather is consistent, there is an airport and bus station nearby and the highway infrastructure allows easy access to both malls.
Location is key. Carousel is located almost smack-dab in the center of the state, allowing for consistent drive times from just about anywhere. A large bulk of the center’s sales comes from Canadian shoppers, Schoeneck said.
The expansion will bring the mall to 2.4 million square feet, which will make it the sixth largest shopping destination in the country. Currently, the center does about $22 million in business, making it the 14th busiest mall in the country. With the expansion, Schoeneck said an estimated $30 million in business will take place, pushing it into the top five. Much of that money comes from the 60 colleges he said are within an hour-and-a-half drive.
“A lot of kids come shopping with mom and dad’s American Express card,” he said.
As of Feb. 16, Carousel Center had 164 tenants, and that’s expected to increase by at least 100 once the Destiny project is completed. It employs about 3,500 people currently, with the number expected to increase by 1,000 by spring.
The mall is located right next to the Inner Harbor, which is getting a facelift from the city. Though the city and the mall aren’t working together, Schoeneck said the projects will be mutually beneficial.
“If you go to Panera Bread, you can sit down and eat and see bald eagles in our tree line,” he said. “How many other places can you see that?”
Schoeneck said the sewage plant across the street has given the eagles a consistent food source, which is why they hang around.
Schoeneck, a Boston Red Sox fan spanning back to the days of Tony Conigliaro, is a fan of CNY as well as Syracuse University. When he does find free time, he spends it with his family or enjoying a baseball game.
But he knows that until the Destiny project is completed, he’s going to be a busy man.
“We have to be relentless in keeping the mall full,” he said. “It’s not an easy job when stores have to move around because they need more space. It’s like a constant, big jigsaw puzzle.”