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What mall pros across the country say about maintenance: Inside & Out

Mall managers across the country each have their own opinions on the methodology behind mall maintenance. Some prefer to outsource most maintenance activities while others prefer to use in-house maintenance staff. Some perform routine maintenance tasks on a daily basis, while others choose a weekly schedule. But one thing they all agree on is the necessity to keep the appearance of the mall in top-notch shape.

Appearances start with cleanliness, according to Patricia Frisaro, general manager of Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury, Conn. "In order to keep customers returning to your center, you have to concentrate on cleanliness and keeping the center in good repair," she says. "Eye appeal is of the utmost importance." A location that consistently is clean and in good repair also discourages abuse of any type, Frisaro adds.

"We recently performed numerous upgrades, including renovations of our public restroom facilities and the addition of more efficient and brighter lighting, and our next goal is to replace the furniture in both the food court and common areas," she says. "They're not major things, but the customer looks to the mall owner to keep the shopping atmosphere inviting, and that's what we're charged to do."

Consistent, ongoing maintenance activities are top priority, agrees John James, general manager of Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Ariz. "I've found you need to perform maintenance consistently," he says. "It just doesn't pay to do a whirlwind effort, then let it go for awhile and come back to it. The task at hand will get ahead of you if you miss a beat." The same rule goes for both the inside and outside maintenance, James says.

Indeed, preventive maintenance is key to most mall managers. "It's my big thing," says Kelly Marfyak of preventive maintenance activities. The general manager of Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Md., Marfyak understands how common area maintenance (CAM) budgets can grow, often pushing the mall manager to put off maintenance tasks. "But skirting the issue in that way ends up costing the center a bundle in a few years," she says.

An example of a preventive maintenance task is the need to walk a mall's roof regularly, checking for damage, picking up debris left by service people, noting wear and tear. "It's a huge expense to replace a roof, and it is a relatively simple task to keep a close eye on it in the first place," Marfyak says. "That helps keep it in good shape from the start." HVAC systems, too, need to be checked regularly to ensure that they're operating properly and efficiently, she says. Keeping a good chief engineer on top of that activity is crucial, Marfyak says.

Putting off maintenance activities costs everyone in the end, adds Charles Cope, general manager of Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. "Many centers have been in a cost-saving mode for a long time, but now we need to look places we haven't because of that deferred maintenance habit," Cope says. "You can cover up problem areas if you want to, but it just ends up digging deeper and deeper into the overall value of the property."

Attention to detail, too, is important in maintaining a mall, according to Dave Duebber, general manager of The Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek, Ohio. "The biggest thing that has always been instilled in me is the need for attention to details," Duebber says. "That's what really makes or breaks a mall." Housekeeping, for instance, is one area where the necessary attention to detail can easily slip, he says. "We can see it from one center to the next - those that pay attention to cleaning in the corners, etc.; it makes a huge difference."

In addition to housekeeping, the maintenance agenda includes landscaping, pavement (curbs, sidewalks and the parking lot) maintenance, and keeping the doors clean and in good working order. "We continue working toward those little details day in and day out," Duebber says.

When mall management works closely with the maintenance staff, all goals are easily accomplished, adds Lloyd Miller, general manager of Northridge Fashion Center in Northridge, Calif. "You can be only as good as your people," Miller says, emphasizing the need to work together as a team to accomplish maintenance tasks that improve the overall appearance and quality of a center.

"Whether it's contract maintenance or an in-house staff, maintaining a close relationship and working together toward a common goal is key," Miller says. At Northridge Fashion Center, several of the mall's maintenance tasks are outsourced, including janitorial activities, landscaping, sweeping, and maintenance of elevators and escalators.

"A good staff is indispensable," agrees Montgomery Mall's Marfyak. "Choosing a quality maintenance staff with a good engineer on board can make all the difference," she says.

Brian Hejmanowski, director of operations for Walden Galleria in Buffalo, N.Y., prefers to assign most tasks to an in-house maintenance staff. In fact, 85 to 90 percent of the maintenance work is done by in-house personnel, he says. "I've found that the maintenance of a shopping center is better managed by utilizing an in-house staff," Hejmanowski says. "It's easier to manage and schedule in-house people rather than fitting into the schedule of a service provider," he says. Yet some tasks are better left to professional maintenance services, he says. Snow removal and major site repairs such as blacktop repaving are tasks best outsourced, Hejmanowski admits. "But, generally speaking, it's more cost-effective and time-efficient to use in-house services," he says.

"We're in an era of expertise," adds Cope of Tysons Corner Center. "There are experts available for every aspect of the shopping center, from marble floors to parking lots. They know their area from A to Z." It's well worth a manager's time and money to call in specialists when necessary, he says. "A good general manager knows he must call in help to manage a project properly."

Scottsdale Fashion Square's James agrees. "Outsourcing is a current trend, and often mall managers find that the professionals can do the job better, but that depends on finding the right company to handle those outsourced activities," he says. His center currently keeps near 100 percent of its maintenance tasks in-house, although he is looking at outsourcing some of them.

One of the more difficult aspects of mall maintenance is in finding the products that work best for each facility, adds James. "What worked in other malls may not be right for this mall," he says. He advises seeking expert advice. "Good advice will get you started, then by keeping up regular, consistent maintenance, finding the right products for the job is easy."

Seeking surveys and demonstrations of maintenance products is extremely helpful to mall management and maintenance staffs, adds Hejmanowski of Walden Galleria. "These demonstrations and recommendations of equipment and products are proven, absolutely," he says. He's found several products which work perfectly for his mall, from parking lot sweepers to floor scrubbers and cleaning products.

"Shopping around for products and services is a big thing for the mall manager," agrees Duebber of The Mall at Fairfield Commons. He adds that it can be helpful to have people on staff, whether an operations manager or the mall's general manager, to challenge service companies to show them what works best for the shopping center. "Then it comes down to trial and error," he says.

But all the best maintenance products and cleaning solutions in the world cannot take the place of a good maintenance routine, says Brian Peters, general manager of Arizona Mills in Tempe, Ariz. "We have a daily pattern our maintenance staff works with, from reviewing the property to daily tours," he says. "We encourage our staff to be out there looking at the property at all times; that's how we keep it in tip-top condition," Peters says.

Peters' property still is quite new, having opened its doors just a few months ago, in November 1997. "Because we're still fairly new, we're still in the preventive maintenance mode, but we've settled into a routine that works quite well for us," he says. Floors are kept clean every day, throughout the day, by maintenance personnel. The air conditioning units are lubricated monthly, and have filter changes as often. All lighting is maintained with energy management systems that are monitored daily for safety reasons, Peters says.

Mall managers agree that regular, routine maintenance, depending on the maintenance function, be performed. Some floors, such as marble, may need stripping just once a year, while wood floors may need refinishing on a daily basis. Larger maintenance projects typically are performed on an as-needed basis. But whatever the schedule, the key is to remain consistent and to keep up appearances. "That's the golden rule, as far as we're concerned," says Danbury Fair Mall's Frisaro. "And it's a rule we live by on a daily basis."

Maintenance Products Vendor Listing:

Bird Barrier America Inc. 1312 Kingsdale Ave. Redondo Beach, CA 90278 Contact: Mark Thorsell Phone: 310-793-1733 Web:

Bird Barrier's comprehensive line of bird control products is showcased in its 1998 catalog which includes: netting, spikes, coils, wire and pin systems, cleaning products, special tools and systems, and other unique products. Free catalog and certified installer names available at 1-800-503-5444.

CETCO 820 Water St. Racine, WI 53403 Contact: Rick Bencriscutto Phone: 888-826-8846 Fax: 414-632-6145

CETCO of Arlington Heights, Ill., introduces the Aduron line of urethanes to the roofing industry. With more than 20 years of field testing and development, the coatings are designed to simplify solutions to common roofing problems. Aduron advanced roofing technology makes possible a manufacturer's extended, renewable warranty when installed by certified applicators.

Club Car Inc. P.O. Box 204658 Augusta, GA 30917 Contact: David A Turner Phone: 706-863-3000 or 888-CARRYALL (888-227-7925) Web:

Groundskeeping. Maintenance. Equipment delivery. Regardless of the application, Carryall II is the most versatile vehicle in its class. Superb maneuverability and increased speed make Carryall II Plus the vehicle to choose when a full-sized truck would be overkill for the task. Whatever the job, there's a vehicle in our line that will help you get it done right. Quickly. Efficiently. Affordably. Every time.

Defender Services Inc. P.O. Box 1775 Columbia, SC 29202 Fax: 803-776-1580 Web:

Defender Services offers total industrial maintenance - from security to computer services. Services include landscaping, painting, HVAC and floor replacement and refinishing.

Federal Sign 13346 First Ave., N.E. Seattle, WA 98125 Contact: Garth Ruchin Phone: 800-785-1302 Web:

Federal Sign's preventive maintenance programs provide group re-lamping, sign inspections, cleaning and painting periodically throughout the contract period. Group re-lamping reduces the frequency of outages and restores lighting to its original brightness. Inspections with periodic cleaning and painting extend the overall life of signage and lighting investment. Turnkey services can include electrical maintenance, cleaning, painting and preventive services.

Gee Asphalt Systems 4715 Sixth Street S.W. Cedar Rapids, IA 52404 Contact: Daniel Gee Phone: 319-366-8567 Fax: 319-366-5592

Gee Asphalt Systems operates nationally, specializing in asphalt pavement maintenance with emphasis on superior service. Services include crack sealing with W.R. Meadows HiSpec, Seal Coating with GSB-78 and striping with Sherwin Williams paints. Gee's mission statement: to protect clients' investments in pavement by providing knowledge and resources for making informed decisions; to pursue and expand their line of technologically advanced products; and to provide an unparalleled level of service before, during and after project completion.

Southeast Service Inc. 406 Willow Ave. Knoxville, TN 37915 Contact: Mike Gonzalez Phone: 423-546-8880

Founded in 1969, Southeast Service (SSC) is one of the largest employee-owned contract maintenance and cleaning companies in the United States. SSC provides total facilities management services to retail, industrial, education and institutional facilities. Based in Knoxville, Tenn., the company's operations spread across the country, supplying bundled facil ity services and the operational facility management to help customers focus on their core business.

TYMCO Inc. P.O. Box 2368 Waco, TX 76703 Contact: John Jansing Phone: 254-799-5546 Fax: 254-799-2722

TYMCO Inc. manufactures seven models of regenerative air sweepers for shopping centers, municipalities, contractors, airports and industry. Regenerative air means a TYMCO sweeper does not exhaust polluted air into the atmosphere as vacuum sweepers do. TYMCO uses a controlled blast of air to dislodge debris from the surface and direct it into a large hopper.

VIC International Corp. P.O. Box 12310 Knoxville, TN 37912 Contact: Bob Murrell Phone: 423-947-2882 or 800-423-1634 Web:

VIC International Corp. has introduced exciting new specialty chemicals under the StoneMedic(R) label in June. These products are designed for the stone restoration professional, allowing conservative restoration for historic buildings and artwork. Environmental pollution, graffiti, grease and oil can now be successfully removed without degradation of the original material, both restoring it and giving it long-term protection.

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