Things have changed a lot since Gary Leaman first walked through the doors of Cherry Lane Shopping Centre more than two decades ago.
“I came here for one year, possibly two, said Leaman, who retired today as general manager of the Penticton mall, 26 years later. “At that point there was a Woodward’s, a Woodward’s food floor and 33 stores.”
Cherry Lane has grown a lot since that time; only one tenant, People’s Jewellers, is still in the same spot and size as when Leaman started. Two others are still with the shopping centre, but one has changed locations and another has expanded their store.
“We did a major renovation in 1990. We did a major expansion in 1995, when we added Save-on Foods and doubled the number stores. And in 1996 we renovated what was the Food Floor and added the food court. And then in 2005 we added London Drugs and the medical clinic,” said Leaman.
It’s unusual, he said, for a general manager to stay in one space so long.
“As far as we know, I am the longest serving mall manager in the country. People usually move up the food chain or burn out,” said Leaman, who though retiring, will be remaining in Penticton. “My focus is on my family.”
The community, he said, is what kept him here, with access to amenities like the lake in the summer and skiing at Apex in the winter.
“You get to go home for lunch if you want to. Where else can you do that?”
Leaman’s replacement will be a familiar face, however. Judy Richards, currently the marketing director for Cherry Lane, takes over as general manager.
She has an extensive 22-year history in shopping centre management including Coquitlam Centre, Richmond Centre and Central City (formerly Surrey Place) mall.
“My husband and I wanted to live in Penticton. I was hired to work on properties in Kelowna,” said Richards, who soon began looking for a position closer to home. “I moved to Penticton to be in Penticton and support this community.”
Knowing the industry, Richards got in touch with Leaman, and let him know she wanted to work locally.
“We built a relationship, and then there was this opportunity,” she said. “I was extremely happy to come here and it’s been a wonderful year, working with Gary.”
Leaman said it was a treat to have someone else in the building who knew the industry.
“Everyone else I pretty much had to train, so this was a breath of fresh air to work with someone who knew as much or more as I did about the industry,” he said. “It has been real easy succession planning, because after getting the marketing up and the promotion ramped up … she’s got all that well in hand to turn over to someone else.”
The search is already underway, Richards said, to hire a new marketing director.
“We have to do that. We are in a very busy season right now. Christmas is very important to our retailers,” she said, explaining that it was a priority to fill the marketing position.