LOS ANGELES - With so much happening – from COVID-19 flareups to civil unrest in the city of Los Angeles, citizens have a lot on their minds. And so do community leaders like Rick Caruso, who is the developer for landmark shopping centers like The Grove and Americana at Brand as well as a member of President Trump’s Task Force to Reopen the US Economy.
Good Day LA anchor Rita Garcia sat down with Caruso to talk about a wide range of topics, including an open letter to the community Caruso recently sent out, after consulting with his employees.
Many watched in horror as shops at the iconic Grove shopping center were looted on live TV.
To billionaire developer Rick Caruso, “It was heartbreaking to watch it was very tough to watch the toughest thing for me honestly was not so much the grove. It was the area around us.
Fairfax and Beverly Third Street, because all of those small businesses are really part of our ecosystem.”
Like so many of us, Caruso was filled with emotion when he saw not only the worldwide protests but also a small group of people taking advantage to loot and destroy businesses. In response, he penned an open letter to Los Angeles
It reads, in part: "My silence is not an act of disregard, rather it is the result of deliberate consideration."
Caruso says, “What I wanted to do is separate what the protesters were trying to accomplish and what happened with the looting and what I learned Is the protesters have a very valid message and they should have been allowed to protest and they should have been protected. I think our local officials failed. Our protesters. I think our local officials failed the small businesses. I think the local officials failed.”
It took just days for the Grove to get back to business and now Caruso’s team has turned his attention back to the recovery from COVID-19, and for many, that includes shopping.
“You know, the experience of going into a store and talking to a sales associate there's something fun about it engaging it's rewarding,” said Caruso.
It’s paying off in dollar signs too – folks heading to the mall aren’t there to window shop in the age of coronavirus, so the “conversion rate” of shoppers who make a purchase is high.
The future for brick and mortar retail is bright, according to Caruso.
“Well, you know what I think. I think that there's never an absolute in life. I remember when online started a long time ago.
And everybody said everything is going to be online. There is going to be no more brick and mortar. So, but that's not
how we operate as human beings. As human beings we want to be with people we want to have connections.”
To that end, the Grove consulted with top medical officials to make sure the shopping experience there is safe, from mandatory masks, to sanitizing stations and social distance markers.
They also developed really strict protocols in terms of how things are cleaned the chemicals that are used the timing the cadence of how often areas are cleaned.
The patio space has been expanded for restaurants so they did not even lose capacity due to the new regulations.
The past two months have left Caruso a changed man.
“I mean, certainly, I'm changed…. that's why I said in my letter, I thought I'd done a lot. I should have done more. And I'm sorry I haven't done more. And, you know, now I am motivated to do more and bring more people along with me to really help our community," he said. "This is more important to me than actually shopping at my properties, what I said in my letter was I hope our properties can be a place where the community comes together.”