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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023


Profile/31/dp1st/mark2nd Louise Marquez Title: General Manager Company: Panorama Mall Born: Camp Stoneman, Calif., 1951 Education: Birmingham High School, Van Nuys Most Admired Person: Jane Boeckmann (prominent community leader) Personal: Divorced; three children By SHELLY GARCIA Staff Reporter A cat named Molly greets visitors to the management office of the Panorama Mall. The calico showed up one day a few months ago and has lived in the office ever since, her wicker bed tucked discretely under one of the desks. Pets aren’t allowed inside the mall, General Manager Louise Marquez says with a shrug, but what can you do? Marquez, who joined the center in 1992, regards Panorama Mall as part of the community. Taking in the stray comes as naturally as all the other community activities at the mall. Marquez, who can often be found in the mall helping kids make ceramics or talking to shoppers, is herself a board member of about a half-dozen local organizations, including the Mid-Valley Chamber of Commerce, Mission Community Hospital, Housing Authority Advisory Council and several police advisory councils. She has taken the mall from a failing enterprise with a sky-high vacancy rate to a thriving center that generates $435 in annual sales per square foot, nearly twice the average for shopping centers nationwide. This despite such setbacks as the loss of the mall’s only anchor, the Broadway, when that company was consolidated with Macy’s; the Northridge earthquake, which drove many local merchants out of business; and a severe gang problem that plagued Panorama City for a number of years. Divorced years ago with three children, the youngest then only 6 months old, Marquez went looking for a full-time job and found one with what was then the Panorama City Chamber of Commerce. She later moved on to chambers in Chatsworth and Granada Hills, and worked as an office manager with then-Assemblyman Richard Katz. Those experiences, she says, instilled in her the idea that business plays a critical role in the wellbeing of the community. Question: Why have you made community involvement such a large part of mall activity? Answer: Because this mall is small. It’s very much a community center type of mall, and you really need to understand the community needs. You are the heart of the community. You’re the biggest thing in town. We’re kind of like the town center, and we bring in a lot of shows and programs and non-profit projects and anything we feel the general public really can use as a service. Q: How much time do you personally devote to community service? A: I can’t say. It’s like if you count up all your hours and divide it by your salary and find out you’re making 20 cents an hour. Do you really want to know that? I don’t think so. Usually I’m here by 8. Probably about three to four days during the week I’ll get home by 9:30 (p.m.) or 10. The other two days I might get home by 7 or 8. Q: How have you balanced your professional and personal responsibilities, especially as a single mom? A: One thing that was really nice about being at the chamber was, the kids came with me. I just incorporated them right into what it was I was doing, and they became part of my life. They learned about volunteerism. They learned about community cleanups. Q: Did you ever feel like you were short-changing them? A: They knew I loved them so much, and we spent a lot of time hugging. My son is 15 and his greatest pride is going to the mall and walking hand-in-hand with me down the middle of the mall. I would say, “Your friends are going to think you’re weird.” He’d say, “Holding your hand is everything to me.” That’s nice. By the same token, they respected the fact that I was out there working really hard. I never got any child support, and so I had to work. They knew the hours I had to work because I had to get money, and enough of it to support them. There were three of them, so it wasn’t easy. Q: How have you weathered the ups and downs of the Panorama Mall the loss of the Broadway, the earthquake and the effects of the area economy? A: You’re right, (you start feeling like) enough is enough. You take a big deep breath and you say, “By golly, it’s another challenge.” It’s just one more thing that’s going to make you stronger. Q: The opening of Wal-Mart a year ago as the anchor has done a lot to revive the mall. But initially there was reluctance because the store was limited to using the former Broadway building. How did you change their minds? A: They said, “We don’t do that, we build our own.” And I said, “I know. So?” I think a lot of why people listen to me is because I talk from the heart and not from statistics. I showed them pictures. This is us. And these are houses. People live in them. We’ve got the masses. And it’s a great community. You’ve got middle-income, lower-income people living here. They work hard for their money, and we need to have someone in the community that respects that. We have a lot of young people here. And they need everything. They don’t have cars. They can’t do a big shopping trip. How are (they) going to get it home? And all the big stores are far from here. Why shouldn’t those resources be right here in the community where they can access them and use them? Q: The mall is small, and as a result, your growth potential is limited. How will you overcome that? A: I don’t need to be a super-regional. I don’t need to be a regional. We service the community very well for what we are, and I think that’s a good place to be. You have a lot of people working two jobs and raising a family. They have a very short period of time to go and shop. So if you can give them the most convenient way to do it, get what they want and move on with life, the better off you are. More and more you’re seeing people don’t have that time, and so they’re opting to come to a smaller shopping facility.

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