Joel Ellzey, recently named general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota, faces two acute challenges in his new position: He’s tasked with building on the success of one store, while simultaneously planning the opening of another store.
The current store is the Saks at the Westfield Southgate Mall, south of downtown Sarasota. The planned new store is a potential anchor at the Mall at University Town Center, a $315 million project currently under construction in northern Sarasota County. That mall, and the Saks store, is scheduled to open in October 2014.
A 24-year veteran of Saks and Proffitt’s, a chain that in 1998 merged with Saks’ parent entity, Ellzey says he will treat the new gig with daily fervor. Ellzey ran the Saks at the International Plaza, in Tampa, for a year before moving in early March to Sarasota. He worked for the chain in Atlanta for 20 years before Tampa.
“I have this philosophy that every day will be better than the day before,” Ellzey said. “That’s the type of store I want to run.”
Ellzey comes to the retail industry after a childhood spent on his family’s farm in South Central Mississippi. The farm, said Ellzey, ranged from 300 cattle to 12 chicken houses to 500 acres of crops, including 60 acres of blueberries. Just like in his current post at Saks, Ellzey says he “did a little bit of everything” on the farm.
Ellzey, in contrast to what was previously thought, said Saks might operate two stores in the Sarasota-Bradenton region when the University Town Center location opens. That’s why he calls the new store an “expansion,” not a replacement, though the one store versus two stores decision isn’t official. Either way, the new store, said Ellzey, will “be more of a regional shopping experience” than the current Saks, given it’s a mile west of I-75.
The Sarasota store, though not regional in its customer reach, has been a local star for community and philanthropic fashion events. Sally Schule, the Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota general manager since 2005, led the way in many of those initiatives. Schule is still with Saks in Sarasota, now in a marketing director role.