Excerpt from VMSD
Was building retail stores your passion from the beginning?
Not at all. As a young civil engineering graduate just out of college, I began my career building schools, assisted living, healthcare and the like.
What turned you on to retail?
When first interviewed with Shawmut back in the late ‘90s, I saw a picture on the wall of a Disney store—a terrazzo floor with Mickey Mouse engraved in it—and I thought, ‘Wow, it never dawned on me that this is a whole segment of the construction business—this is cool stuff.’
Shawmut was building a lot of retail?
Not much, actually. We had a restaurant and retail division, but only 10 percent of that work was stores. We were building national restaurant chains, so whenever we were working in a mall, we networked and picked up a retail store here and there, mostly as an afterthought.
Which you did. How?
When we started focusing on retail, we got a Chanel store and an Armani store on Newbury Street and a Tiffany store in Copley Plaza—all Boston. I realized that if we wanted to be in luxury retailing, we needed to be in New York. So we moved our retail headquarters to Manhattan 10 or 11 years ago and have tripled in size since.
How has luxury flourished for you?
There’s a lot of global instability that has made luxury retailers pause. They need growth, but too many markets are unpredictable. However, not only is the U.S. the largest luxury market in the world, it’s also the most stable. So luxury international brands are focusing on the U.S.
Why do you think clients choose your company?
As I’ve grown into the ceo role, I’m focused on three pillars of growth that set us apart: customer service excellence; developing talent, so that every person who interfaces with a client understands the business, communicates well and is a good technician; and leading-edge technology.
How does Shawmut, at its best, work?
I’m really proud of the new Hublot store we built on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The luxury watch retailer took a narrow sliver of a space, sandwiched between the Louis Vuitton flagship and Bergdorf Goodman. The store is 19 feet wide but with an 85-foot-tall façade. We had to work from back to front, inside out and on one of the busiest retail intersections in the world. The façade is black aluminum with LEDs, like the glistening links of a watchband.