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African-American named president of Miracle Mile Shops: A Business Conversation with Russ Joyner

November 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Feature

by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

The Miracle Mile Shops on the Las Vegas Strip, located inside the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, recently named Russ Joyner as president and general manager. The first African-American to serve in the position, Joyner is thrilled to take the helm at one of the busiest shopping facilities in Clark County. He recently sat down with Las Vegas Black Image Magazine to discuss his career and the future of retail commerce in Las Vegas.

Russ Joyner

Russ Joyner

Tell us your back story.
I am one of five boys from a … single parent household, and graduated with a degree in business administration and marketing from Boston College in 1983. I played football in college, and that positioned me to have a professional career in the National Football League. I played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts. I am originally from New York City — the Bronx — and after I retired from the NFL, I came to the west coast for the opportunity to get involved in shopping center management. For 25 years I have been in the shopping center management business. I managed shopping malls from the east to the west coast, including the Fox Hills Mall in Los Angeles. I opened and operated the Hollywood and Highland mall, where the Kodak Theatre is, and helped negotiate the 20-year agreement for the Academy Awards. I came to Las Vegas in 2003 to manage the Fashion Show Mall, and six months into that position I was recruited away by the group who owned the Desert Passage property that is now the Miracle Mile shops. They wanted to change, and give Desert Passage a new identity — so collectively we conceived the Miracle Mile Shops in 2004-2005, and I have been there ever since.

You were recently promoted?
Yes, previously I was executive vice president, and now I am president and general manager of Miracle Mile Shops.

How does it feel to be president?
The position was basically an evolution, and felt like it did when I was executive vice president — because my role continues. The evolution is project- and goal-driven.

What management attributes did you bring from your tenure as operations manager at the Fox Hills Mall, which is in the heart of the black community in Los Angeles?
It is interesting because one of the things that the Fox Hills Mall really allowed me to expand upon, and be a conduit for, was community outreach. The fundamentals of shopping centers are basically the same. “But the unique circumstances with Fox Hills Mall basically called for more consciousness, and looking at the property as a social mecca as opposed to simply being … part of a portfolio. I had the ability to reach out to a lot of different people, help businesses and [work with] local government. The businesses that were there used the success of the mall, to get their message out and build momentum.”

What contributed to the development of your leadership skills?
No question, it was sports. Sports played a significant part in fine-tuning that sense of leadership, because of the challenges … that make the stakes higher. The success in sports helped pave the way for the mindset to create success in all areas. The success for the Miracle Mile Shops is built on the team concept.

Do the diverse shops in the Miracle Mile Shops contribute to the diverse consumer patronage?
No question about it. The fact that we appeal to a broad cross-section — from varying retail options, dining and entertainment — makes the property desirable, because … that gives something to everyone.

Does the Miracle Mile contain local businesses?
We have approximately 30 percent of our tenant mix out of 170 businesses on the property, are locally owned. Now, that doesn’t mean necessarily that they are just mom-and-pop stores. Some of the most successful operators are locally owned. Those businesses that are our top five successful businesses include two or three locally-owned stores in Miracle Mile Shops. We appreciate this about our tenant mix and we consider it a point of difference. What is great about locally owned businesses is that they understand Vegas. They understand the peaks and the valleys.

Do you think the advancement of African-Americans to top executive positions in Las Vegas is getting better or has a way to go?
The answer is yes on both fronts. I think there are a lot of signs of development. But when you consider those who are getting the opportunities versus those people who are aspirational, I think that there is more to be done. I think it is a matter of being plugged in and being keen on opportunities when presented. I think the opportunities are still in Vegas, and they can be taken advantage of if someone is determined, disciplined and willing to do what it takes.

What is the Miracle Mile Shops unique shopping experience?
The Miracle Mile is substantially tourist driven, and approximately 80 percent of the customer base is tourist. It is interesting because Christmas at Miracle Mile Shops is not a traditional experience. Although, the goods and services are extremely accessible during the holidays, because we have extended hours 365 days out of the year. Even on Christmas and Thanksgiving, we are open. The Miracle Mile Shops offer theaters with live shows, and much more — making it very, very relevant.

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