Lauren Danziger Discusses Innovative Retail and Industry City's Enduring Mission
Nestled in the heart of Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, Industry City has played a role in the transformational shift facing the retail and small business landscape in New York City today. With its rich history dating back to the 1890s, the complex has long been home to a variety of professionals with roots in manufacturing and production. Over time, Industry City has also kept its finger on the pulse of the greater business landscape which inevitably led to its expansion by creating additional space and resources for brands in fashion, food, and more to flourish. As a result, this blend of community and commerce has cultivated immense opportunity for Industry City to pay homage to its origins while providing Brooklyn dwellers with access to some of the most dynamic companies in the world.
To learn more about what Industry City has in store for the year ahead, we visited Lauren Danziger who currently serves as CMO. Noting her past experiences in spearheading initiatives for organizations including Meatpacking Business Improvement District and Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, Lauren spoke with us about her career history, life at Industry City, the importance of community, and her thoughts on what constitutes “innovation” in retail.
Hi Lauren! Please introduce yourself.
Hi, my name is Lauren Danziger, and I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Industry City in Brooklyn, a creative ecosystem and campus, home to some of the most interesting and dynamic businesses in New York City. The largest privately funded adaptive reuse project in the country, IC is a 6 million square foot, 16 building campus on 35 acres along the Brooklyn waterfront, and it is unlike any other place I’ve ever come across!
A lifelong New Yorker, I’ve lived all over the world but never in another state, and I am currently plotting my future life in Paris. I am a recovering event planner, a former chef and a current Lululemon ambassador who is passionate about fitness, travel, and parmesan. Walks that should take me ten minutes take double, because I am incapable of not stopping every dog along the way.
Tell us more about the origins behind Industry City. How do you think it best supports modern small businesses and makers?
Industry City has an incredible history. It started in the 1890s when Irving T. Bush began to build a monumental intermodal manufacturing, warehousing and distribution center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. It’s location, immense scale, and structure which supported a wide spectrum of businesses, Industry City (then known as Bush Terminal) quickly became one of most successful facilities of its type, employing nearly 25,000 workers per day and enabling Brooklyn to become a major international seaport. Urban manufacturing was in decline for years, and by the 1960s, most of IC’s major manufacturers had closed their doors, and the buildings sat vacantly and in decay for 40 years.
In 2013, this all changed. A new ownership group, led by Belvedere Capital and Jamestown, began to redevelop Industry City. Over the past five years, Industry City has leased more than three million square feet of space and created over 6,500 jobs, capitalizing on the rapidly emerging innovation economy.
Today the property encompasses the full arc of physical, digital and engineered product design and development and once again fulfills its purpose as a thriving center of commerce and local employment. Additionally, with so many public and shared spaces and amenities, IC has become a truly collaborative ecosystem with people from across a diverse range of businesses working together and inspiring each other. Along with the public and shared spaces that can be utilized, the flexibility IC offers its tenants to grow their own space is a unique resource; it’s so important for a small business to be able to easily scale as their businesses grow and IC has the capacity to accommodate that growth as businesses need it.
Walk us through your day to day as Industry City's CMO. What would you say is your biggest contribution when it comes to fostering the tenant community?
Like most busy professionals, my days are never the same, and that’s how I like it. I work across departments, collaborating with development, design, and leasing to creatively tell the Industry City story and to solve the unique problems of a sprawling and dynamic campus while managing a team of ten. For the better part of the last decade, I ran a business improvement district in Manhattan which is where I built my expertise and honed my greatest skill set — the ability to create a sense of place and develop community through programming and relationship building.
In many ways, Industry City was ahead of the curve when it comes to innovative retail concepts. How do you plan to push this idea even further in 2019?
We will continue to layer on first of their kind retail concepts like Hometown Deli, Sahadi’s first foray into a full-scale restaurant, Distillery Row, a series of brewers and distillers with tasting rooms all in one place and Japan Village phase two, which includes all sorts of dry goods like stationary and cosmetics never before available in the United States. At IC, the sum of the retail is really greater than the individual parts, and each contributes to a place where the entire campus is the experience.
How would you advise emerging designers in the Brand Assembly community to use Industry City? Can you share an example of how a tenant has grown?
Industry City is constantly evolving, and for anyone thinking creatively, I think that is a really special and inspiring environment in which to create. We're also a place that wants to see our businesses evolve alongside us and are therefore quite accommodating to startups that aren't sure what their growth trajectory is. You can take more space and essentially break your lease, as we find you a new space that will fit your needs.
Call9 is a great example of a business that has grown at IC. It's a medtech company that started in 4k SF and grew to 15k SF once they got the next round of funding and the same can be said about FilmRise, a film distribution company. WhatIf, an innovation company, just relocated here from Soho in Manhattan because they felt IC’s campus and the access to so many other creative businesses would take their work to the next level.
What are your tips for brands looking to create offline communities through interesting retail experiences?
Create an inviting space – Think about HOW you like to experience retail, how you like to interact with staff in a shop and what makes you inclined toward brand loyalty.
Activate – Bring like-minded but diversified brands and experiences into your retail space. It is no longer about the product. It's about how people experience the product and how they come to know of the product. So make your retail space about more than that. Give people the opportunity to make memories around what you’re hocking, and they will be more than a one-off customer.
Embrace amenities – It’s a proven fact that the longer people spend in a space the more money they spend. So make your store more than a store. Offer WiFi, create seating vignettes, have canisters filled with flavored water with small cups.
Outside of Industry City, and as an off-duty consumer, what are a few unique stores that you've come across recently that you believe are on the cusp of innovative retail?
Whether or not you’re a tech person, it’s hard to argue with the innovation that is Samsung 837 didn’t up the game. Visitors can spend all day there exploring and experience different aspects of technology, and you can’t buy a thing. Plus, their programming that capitalizes on their existing brand partnerships with musical artists and others, and the way they integrated into the community working with all local brands to outfit their staff, feed their visitors and more.
What are a few final words you'd like to leave with the Brand Assembly community regarding professional and creative growth?
Surround yourself with smart people, and let them challenge you. Lean into the uncomfortable moments, because that’s when real growth actually happens. And embrace that you don’t know what you don’t know. Lastly, sometimes the things that seem to be devastating are actually the best things — job loss (been there), project failures (100%) — perfection is rare, and it's boring, digging deep and pushing past the hard stuff makes your tougher, smarter and more agile and pushes you to think bigger.