The Roseville Galleria Mall – 1.3 million square feet of capitalistic, retail gloriousness – fell victim to arson last week. The roof collapsed. A quarter of the structure was destroyed or heavily damaged. The plumes of smoke were visible for miles and local residents were warned to stay inside due to the smell and smoke.
The flames caused the primary damage. Even the unaffected parts of the mall may have to remain closed for several weeks, as the smoke damage is cleaned up, the police investigation is conducted, and safety inspections are concluded.
The secondary damages are the human implications. 2,500 people work(ed) at the mall. In an economy that doesn’t offer an overabundance of job openings, these workers face an uncertain future.
However, I was pleased to see not only the community rally behind the workers, but also when businesses demonstrated they operate as good corporate citizens.
Macy’s announced that all 330 employees of their Roseville store will be reassigned to one of its eight other stores in the area. Nordstrom told their employees to stay home until the store reopens, and will give them 60% of their normal pay.
[Note: At 5:40pm on Monday, I was contacted by a representative from Nordstrom who informed me the decision had been made to pay their employees their full wages until the store reopens.]
The chains stores were able to offer these opportunities to employees, but others have stepped in to help other stores, too.
U-haul of nearby East Sacramento offered 30 days of free storage to any business displaced by the fire. (Read this article for more information)
Ray Kerridge, the Roseville City Manager, asked the Governor to declare a state of emergency, and he did. This nullified the one-week waiting period before employees could file immediately for unemployment.
Other local malls and retail centers are compiling a list of businesses that are hiring. In fact, the list at the shopping center across the street already has 25 businesses on it.
One of the greatest examples of corporate citizenship I know of came after Hurricane Katrina. A few years ago, I had the good fortunate to meet and have a conversation with Craig Miller, the CEO of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
The story he shared with me of recovery and corporate compassion was refreshing.
Katrina struck on a Monday. The broken levees flooded the city, including their corporate headquarters in downtown New Orleans.
On Wednesday, the company was able to return to their headquarters in New Orleans by boat and helicopter to salvage their corporate documents and computers. By the following Monday, they had located, purchased, and opened their new headquarters outside of Orlando, Florida. From there, the decision was made to aid all of their employees displaced by the storm.
A directive was sent to all of their branch locations, numbering over 100 at the time. They were instructed that if an employee showed up who was displaced by the storm, they were to be given $1,000 cash and a job.
I sometimes think about that act and the glimmer of hope and help they offered to people facing dire times. It was truly an act of a company showing its heart and acting on its principles.
And then I think about the people in Roseville.
Before I am accused of being callus, realize that I am not comparing the two. The example of corporate citizenship demonstrated in the last few days reminds me of the actions taken by one company after Katrina.
While their houses were not destroyed and their lives were not uprooted, they do face the uncertainty of a lost job and a reduced wage right before the holiday season.
I hope that the people in positions to lend a hand do choose to help out. I congratulate U-Haul, local retail managers, Macy’s, and Nordstrom for demonstrating the best of California’s business. I recognize the actions of Ray Kerridge, The Governor, and the Roseville Chamber of Commerce for demonstrating the best of Californian’s willingness to band together in times of need.
I also want recognize the difficult position that the first responders faced when battling the fire.
The arsonist had a backpack that may have contained an explosive device. In holding the firefighters out of the building, they were protected from a possible detonation and lives may have been saved. Part of a building can be repaired, but some injuries never heal, and in a fire where more than 130 firefighters responded, no one was hurt.
When the mall reopens, life for many will continue unchanged but with a memory of both a terrible Thursday and remarkable few days and weeks that followed.
[Updated: Nordstrom has decided to pay their employees their full wages until the store reopens.]