When it comes to business, who you know is almost as important as what you know. As general manager of a business that employs 5,000 employees and serves 24 million customers each year, Robert Stark, general manager of Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, has plenty of opportunities to connect with people. "Being general manager of a shopping mall is a little like being mayor of a city." he said. "You're in charge of providing utility service, trash service and other services to the tenants and customers here, and you're responsible for responding to constituent complaints or concerns."
One major concern he faced head-on had to do with the 35-year-old mall's aging infrastructure. Under Stark's leadership, the mall was recently renovated and now features a contemporary look and feel with wireless Internet access, new furniture and new signs and entrances. While some of the old fixtures were overdue to "retirement," Start realized the mall's outdoor steel benches were still in good shape.
"The benches were nowhere near the end of their life expectancy, and we thought it would be good if we could find them a new home." he said. He contacted someone at the Fairfax County Office of Public/Private Partnerships and that person connected him with the Fairfax County Park Foundation, and before he knew it, the businessman and avid golfer was able to locate a new home for the mall's former benches, trash receptacles and ash cans - Burke Lake Golf Center and Greendale and Twin Lakes golf courses. The next task was moving the furniture, and the Park Foundation's executive director, Bobbi Longworth, knew just who to call.
"Bobbi and I have worked together on other projects in the past," said J.D. Morrissette, president of Interstate Van Lines in Springfield. "When she contacted me about moving furniture from Fair Oaks Mall to Twin Lakes, we were glad to help. It's part of our company's mssion to give back to the community, and we appreciate the opportunity to be a good neighbor."
During the mall's year-long renovation, Stark says he had no time for golf. Now that the project is complete, he looks forward to seeing some familiar surroundings this summer when he tees off at Twin Lakes Golf Course. "It will be fun to be able to sit down on my old benches," he said.