Southland Mall has been a local treasure in our community for 50 years. The first shopping mall of its kind in our area, the mall has been a shopping destination for generations.
But did you know the true hidden jewel of the mall sits just upstairs, keeping a watchful eye on both tenants and customers?
Dawn Becker has been a part of Southland Mall for the past 20 years, first as marketing director and now as general manager, running the day to day of the shopping giant.
After graduating with her MBA from Nicholls State University, Houma resident Becker applied for various positions out of college, eventually becoming the marketing director for a smaller mall in Hammond. After 10 months or so, the marketing director position at Southland Mall opened up. Becker applied for the position and got it, which allowed her to move back home to Houma. She served as marketing director for seven years before becoming the general manager. As the most senior staff member on the team, she just moved into the higher position with ease.
“You start to get involved in other aspects outside of your position, then as people leave, you take on those responsibilities,” shared Becker. “I just feel like its destiny. I was the next senior person so I just transitioned from marketing to management.”
Being a part of Southland Mall is unique for all those involved, especially management. Southland Mall is 600,000 square feet and currently houses 70 tenants, most of which are independently owned small businesses. Shopping malls are continually evolving and finding their place. Becker finds that a more diverse hybrid is taking the place of the traditional shopping mall, where it’s not just retail alone anymore, but a community that supports the efforts of its branches.
“You never really know what one day is going to look like from the next,” smiled Becker. “If I was a CPA, I’d walk into my office, I’d know exactly what my day entails and where I was on my to do list. It really isn’t like that here. I think that’s made it great because you can kind of have that variety. There’s not a whole lot of boredom to the job cause it’s all this diversity in the day to day aspects. I used to joke when I first started, that when you get that three o’clock lull, I can just go walk around the mall. I can go grab a pretzel and I’m still technically doing my job!”
As a woman in charge of the large property, Becker said that she hopes she is like the other women bosses that she has had in the extent that she feels women are more “team effort” oriented, that it’s more of a collaboration.
“I don’t want it to feel like ‘this is your box’ and ‘this is your specific job’,” shared Becker. “Everyone comes together, more in a group effort, versus ‘my job’ or ‘your job.’ Things get done faster with this approach.”
As Southland Mall celebrates the big “5-0”, Becker looks back at what having a shopping mall of this size means to the area.
“We’re very fortunate to have a mall of this size here in our community,” she shared. “It’s important to shop local, and more than just to help keep our tax dollars local – it’s about employing the hard-working people that we do. The mall is a starting place for so many careers, with high school and college age individuals all getting their start working at the mall.”
The weekend of March 22-24 will be a huge celebration, marking the 50-year milestone for Southland Mall. Community activities planned include: the launch of a farmers’ market with local produce; a mural contest on existing wall space; a Super kids Club Event; a $1000 shopping spree giveaway; meet and greet with the Disney Channel’s Isaak Presley, who plays Ethan Diaz on “Stuck in the Middle”; and a pet adoption fair through the Terrebonne Parish Animal Shelter with all adoption fees sponsored by Southland Mall.
“It’s surreal to think I’ve been here 20 years,” said Becker. “It barely feels like five. It’s ever changing and that keeps it different. Some days you come up with a cool event and others you help someone find their car in the parking lot. It’s a balance.” •
BY MARY DITCH