2011-10-06 / Business News

Michele Jacobs

FLORIDA WEEKLY’S EXECUTIVE PROFILE
BY SCOTT SIMMONS


Michele Jacobs, corporate director of marketing and operations for The Forbes Company, which owns The Gardens Mall, started her career at Macy’s in the mall. 
RACHEL HICKEY / FLORIDA WEEKLY Michele Jacobs, corporate director of marketing and operations for The Forbes Company, which owns The Gardens Mall, started her career at Macy’s in the mall. RACHEL HICKEY / FLORIDA WEEKLY MICHELE JACOBS LOVES NORTHern Palm Beach County.

She grew up here.

Oh, she went to school elsewhere and worked for a time in Atlanta, but the county has a way of drawing some people back.

Especially for this Palm Beach Gardens High School graduate who worked as a teen at Bressler’s ice cream on U.S. 1 in North Palm Beach before moving on to the University of Florida.

Ms. Jacobs now is corporate director of marketing and operations for The Forbes Company, owner of The Gardens Mall.

It’s not her first stint at The Gardens.

“I did an internship here when I was in college, before the mall opened, and when I graduated college my first job was here at Macy’s, the year after the mall opened,” she says. In fact, Ms. Jacobs started as a department manager at the store as part of the company’s executive training program.”

Before joining Forbes in 2007, she was vice president/general manager at Saks Fifth Avenue. Prior to that, she was general manager of Bloomingdale’s at The Gardens Mall.

You could say retail is in her blood, and not be too far off.

“Every day is different in retail. Probably the most exciting thing is to talk to customers or observe customers at the shopping center enjoying our architecture and the stress-less environment we provide,” she says.

Plus, there is the day-to-day evolution of retail.

“Fashion’s always changing. I think what’s very exciting in our industry is we have the ability and the opportunity to watch the different fashion trends and, particularly at The Gardens Mall, we have been able to bring luxury retailing to northern Palm Beach County, and we have a world-class lineup of retail stores,” she says. “What’s been most exciting is to have been a part of some of the new stores that have come to our shopping center and to our market and now they are here. We have Chanel, we have a Gucci.”

The mall was a little more standard issue when it opened 23 years ago.

“We opened the shopping center in 1988 and it opened with a Burdines, a Macy’s and a Sears, then Bloomingdale’s and Saks,” she says. Nordstrom opened a few years ago.

The area has come a long way from the world in which Ms. Jacobs grew up back in the 1970s.

She is responsible for Forbes’ two other properties in Florida, in Naples and Orlando, but still finds time to serve on the board of directors for Easter Seals of Palm Beach County and she’s on the board of the Honda Classic, plus she works with the soup kitchen at her temple.

That’s how she likes to give back to her community.

“It was amazing growing up here. You know, I didn’t realize how lucky and good,” she says. “You don’t know how good you have it until you come back, and to live somewhere were it’s so beautiful — the beaches are so beautiful — the weather, the climate is amazing. The people are so nice — and then to watch it evolve over the last 30 years has really been very special.”

Really?

“I’m not leaving northern Palm Beach County again,” says Ms. Jacobs. “This is my home. I so appreciate everything we have in our lifestyle now between beaches and shopping and golf and our community. We’re very lucky to live here.”

¦ First job: My first job was when I was, like 15, scooping ice cream at Bressler’s on U.S. 1.

¦ What I’m reading: I’m reading “Dreams of Joy,” by Lisa See. She wrote “Shanghai Girls.”

¦ My personal philosophy: I live my life just realizing that it’s not so much what happens to you but how you handle it. And I believe in trying to give back, so I do a lot of volunteer work. Somehow I feel like it makes a difference.

¦ About The Forbes Company: We’re lucky. The Forbes Company is a family-owned business, and our owners, the founding partner, Sidney Forbes, and his two sons, Nathan and David, they have such a pulse on retail and on real estate. And no matter what’s happening in the economy or what’s happening in the world, they never lose sight of the bigger picture and their long-term goals, and to me, I think that’s amazing, because instead of making knee-jerk, short-term decisions because they’re feeling like the market maybe has been tough, they look at the bigger picture and stay the course. And they have a true vision of where they’d like to see their shopping centers go. And I think that’s very inspiring. They would rather wait and do the right thing then just try to do something to put a Band-aid on it. They really try to solve whatever opportunity or issue there is, so that’s why the shopping center is close to 100 percent leased, because they’re really stayed the course and stayed true to who they are…. I’ve really learned a lot from them.

¦ What do you love about Florida? The lifestyle that you live here, especially since we’re going into these beautiful months now. We’re so lucky in November through May, where we have spectacular weather. I love to be outside. I love to sit at the beach. I love to walk. I love to run. You know, the heat doesn’t bother me, but again I grew up here. And I’d much prefer to be hot than cold. And it’s just beautiful here, if you think about where we live.

¦ Best thing about my work: I get to work with a lot of different people, very interesting people, in a beautiful environment, and no day is the same, and I love that.

¦ My personal mission for the company: I just want to do the best job I can do every day and I just want to learn. Wherever my career takes me, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work at amazing places…. I just want to continue to work hard and do the best I can.

¦ What’s on the horizon: At The Gardens Mall, we feel like we have a responsibility to our guests and to our community, so we are constantly looking for ways to deliver the promise to our customer of bring the best and brightest of new retailers to this market and inspiring the retailers that we do have to put the best merchandise in their stores. So that’s always at the top of our list, and we also want to keep a laser focus on what’s important to the community so we can be good community partners and what’s important to the shopper so we are always providing what they want and exceeding their expectations.

¦ My top tech tool: I guess it would be my iPhone/iPad. I’m equipment challenged. My assistant would agree.

¦ I love: I love my family. To bake — that’s my secret dream job — to be a baker. I love to read and I love to spend time with my friends. I love to shop, actually. I’m here on the weekends shopping, which is, like, a little crazy.

¦ I hate: I don’t think there’s anything I hate. Listen, no job is perfect, but I think I’m pretty lucky. I get to do so many other things I love to do every day.

¦ Finally: I do a little bit of everything at the mall, which I like. ¦

in the know

>> Name: Name: Michele Jacobs >> Age: 44 >> Family: Husband, Bob, and an 11-year-old son, Max >> Hometown: North Palm Beach >> Education: BS/BA in business and marketing from the University of Florida

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