Behind The Scenes: Companies at the Heart of Everyday Life
To make the 4.2 million-square-foot space less daunting (and to prevent shoppers from getting lost), the Jerde Partnership, an architecture firm in Venice Beach, California, designed the mall like a village, with streets and plazas. Each street has its own flavor. West Market, seen here, is modeled after a European colonnade. Architect Jon Jerde founded the firm, in 1977, with a focus on "place making" -- creating engaging community spaces. Since then, he and his 130 employees have designed malls, city centers, and casinos, including the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The firm's annual revenue tops $30 million.
The mall leases these 5-foot-wide carts to retailers peddling a variety of wares, including Crocs, iPod skins, and novelty T-shirts. Creations Global Retail, a $20 million business in Dallas, started making the carts in the '90s after mall owners realized they could squeeze more purchases out of shopper foot traffic. Mike Goldfarb started the business, in 1964, to make plastic moldings and acrylic furniture. Today, his son and current CEO, Ben Goldfarb, employs 130 people; they make carts, kiosks, and retail displays.
Music Imaging and Media International has been partially responsible for sticking Phil Collins songs in people's heads since 2002. The Culver City, California -- based company compiles customized background music for businesses. Each week, a digital receiver in the Mall of America downloads new playlists of songs, which get pumped through the mall's speaker system. CEO Otis Smith, a music-industry veteran who produced albums for Anita Baker, runs the seven-person company with his son, Otis Smith III, who is the company's president.
Can't remember how to get from Cinnabon to Pretzel Time? Kiku Obata & Company can help. The St. Louis firm designed all of the mall's directories and maps, as well as the logo, parking lot placards, and other signage. Men tend to remember numbers, and women are better at recalling colors, says Kiku Obata, who founded the company in 1977. That's why the directories assign each store a numeric address and a color. Obata's staff of 30 has also designed interior architecture for retail chains and sports stadiums. Last year, the company earned about $4.5 million in revenue.
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