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Maria Toliopoulos (RTS #36)

Maria Toliopoulos headshot
Episode #: 122
Maria Toliopoulos (RTS #36)

Guest: Maria Toliopoulos
Topics: ULTA Beauty, leadership


Chris Ressa 0:02
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris dresser, and I invite you to join my conversations with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management.

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Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I am joined by Maria totally opolis. She is the vice president of real estate strategy at Ulta Beauty. She has been in the retail and retail real estate industry for over 20 years. She was formerly the Senior Vice President of leasing of RPA AI. She’s a former practicing attorney. She’s a friend, I’m excited to be joined by her. Welcome to the show Maria.

Hi, how are you? Doing?

Great. So Maria, for those who don’t know, I know, many people know you. But for those who don’t know, you tell a little bit more about who you are.

Maria Toliopoulos 1:30
All right. So for anybody who has seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, that’s me, just to sum it up really quickly. Yes, I’m Greek and my parents are first generation. I grew up in the restaurant business and how to work there all throughout law school. And I went on after law school to do my master’s in information technology. And that was like a master law program. So I thought I was going to end up doing information technology and privacy law. And then I was splitting my time with real estate ended up absolutely loving real estate and did that, you know, 100% of my time. And about 10 years ago, I switched over to the business side, and ended up is the SVP of wheezing and national accounts for RPI and was with them during the transition into becoming public left RPI about three years ago and took a position with Ultra duty as the vice president of real estate strategy.

Ressa 2:43
Terrific. And that information technology piece. You’re a systems tech guru slash lover of quality systems in tech.

Toliopoulos 2:55
Yeah, we’ve talked about that many times. I truly believe it is a missing components in the real estate world for sure.

Ressa 3:04
Yes. So favorite Greek food? What’s like what’s like what are let me ask it differently. If you’re gonna make a Greek dish for someone who’s normally not had Greek and they were coming over your house? What’s like your go to what do you make fried chicken?

Toliopoulos 3:19
Simple lemon, olive oil, potatoes. And then I am going to have to ask my mom to make her famous dessert she made the best like a booty call, which is like a custard type dessert. And then we would act out which are like butter type cookies.

Ressa 3:42
What are the cookies called again?

Toliopoulos 3:44
We would act out and collect a booty call. So next time I know I’m going to see you I will come with a tray of those.

Ressa 3:50
Wow, I’ll take them. Well thank you for sharing your cooking skills. I’ll take the Greek chicken and Greek potatoes as well feel free. Okay. So I’ve got three questions for you. We call this clear the air to get to know you a little bit better. You Ready? Ready? All right. Question one. When is the last time you tried something for the first time?

Toliopoulos 4:11
I am fair to say it’s probably pre quarantine for your COVID Um, and that makes me sad. It really does because I’m pretty adventurous. I’m usually the first like when we go on vacation and you know, maybe like a resort or something and they have the signup sheets for excursions. I’m the first it’s like, let’s do it kids, you know? And so I love trying something new. I love being adventurous and I just for me personally part of quarantine was the inability to do that to add something new. And I know a lot of people who did do that during quarantine and I have I am so envious of people who tried something new or learn something took the time to to really focus on themselves. I don’t feel like I did a good job of that. Trying 14.

Ressa 5:00
There’s a lot of people that got on the sourdough movement. There was a lot of sourdough bread making. I don’t know if you saw that.

Toliopoulos 5:06
I did. I mean, there were so many crazy tic tac trends that I saw, you know, people try new things and learning new things that I did take

Ressa 5:13
a trip that you drove like 24 hours, right?

Toliopoulos 5:17
We did ya. So we did was like the midst of quarantine in May of 2020. And I, as you can imagine, as a retailer, right? It’s crazy in our world during that time. I mean, absolutely crazy. So I’ve got I am just, you know, up to here with work. And my husband is super crazy. He’s a construction attorneys though, you know, things were as you can imagine crazy in his world, my world, the kids are remote. We’re all trying to work five of us at home in a, you know, an environment which we were all not use do unnecessarily. So we took a 24 hour road trip to Arizona rented a house for a month, and I did it with my sister in law we quarantined together, and then just let the kids you know, get out in the pool during the day of the week. It actually does work. So the four adults were just working all day inside, but it was fantastic. That had to be at

Ressa 6:15

Toliopoulos 6:16
it was the first it was it was the first that was a definitely a first so. So there you go. It was a first walking into gas stations with gloves and masks on and and then as we kind of got you know, depends on like what state you were in the looks kind of were like, what’s wrong with you? Sure. But at the time, you know, again, you just didn’t know much about what’s going on. So but yes, first quarantine road trip ever.

Ressa 6:44
Right? Question two? What is one thing most people agree with that you do not?

Toliopoulos 6:50
I do not think that Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan are like some of the best artists ever. But, you

Ressa 7:00
know, what type of music do you like? Like, are you listening to pop if I go into cars, like pop station or like,

Toliopoulos 7:06
I mean, I probably have one of the most eclectic music, you know, albums, etc. So I do love pop. I love hip hop and rap a lot. I love Latin pop music. I listen to Greek music.

Ressa 7:25
What’s hot in Greek music right now.

Toliopoulos 7:28
I wish I was in Greece to tell you. So I’m like, listen about all the old sides, sort of like the last time I’ve been there. And that we were just talking about that I unfortunately couldn’t get to Greece this summer. And that is a big bummer. Because that’s usually when I get to add like all the new cool songs to my repertoire.

Ressa 7:46
Alright, question three. What is one skill you don’t possess? But wish you did? Can I do two? So one?

Toliopoulos 7:53
Yeah, one professional skill would be like some really mad Excel skills. Like I want to be able to do the lookups. And you know, I just I am envious of people who have fantastic Excel. That’s not the world I grew up in. I mean, I as an attorney, I like my word skills, or you need to do a Word document. I’ve got you covered PowerPoint, I learned that pretty quickly. And I feel like I’m pretty good. But yeah, Excel, not not my strong suit. Um, personally, I wish I learned an instrument. And now let me ask that with I did learn clarinet when I was younger in grade school. And my parents used to make me like play the clarinet in the basement when we had like Greek parties. And that was really embarrassing, but I don’t feel like the clarinet. It’s like an instrument you would play with all your friends. So I wish I learned like how to play the guitar, you know, like a beach bonfire, I would just be able to bring my guitar out to everybody. I wish I possessed that skill.

Ressa 8:53
Sure. That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing. That was terrific. Let’s move on to a little bit businessy. So high level, what’s Maria seen in the world today? What’s got your interest,

Toliopoulos 9:04
my interest, um, you know, I think you’re finally really seeing in the physical space, the convergence between, you know, physical, retail and then online. And those are really coming together for the first time in a way that I think it’s forcing both retailers and owners of centers to rethink long term strategies. So, you know, it’s a small, it’s like curbside pickup locations, and, you know, kind of doing away with the the old rules of not allowing that type of signage and that sort of thing. Right, and really forcing, again, I think more landlords to think about think of it as okay, this is a necessity, we want to drive traffic. Sure. This is a great thing. And then, you know, autonomous vehicles and we always kind of joked about it and thought that might be something that, that people talk about, well never actually, you know, see in our lifetime, but it’s, it’s still coming right? There’s still significant investment in those types of technologies. So and you know, we thinking again, just like parking structures and and what are all of these vast parking fields going to be used as an and then it’s just inside the box as well. So how are retailers reutilizing? Their footprint? And is it repurposing it? Is it you know, more shelf space more showrooming and smaller backroom? Or is it more let’s let’s make the the front of the store, right that store experience fantastic in a way that you have exposure to as many of the offerings and skews that a retailer has available, and then move all of the product to the back. So I think you’re seeing a lot of shift and rethinking of what does the prototype look like? And what is the optimal, you know, box for a retailer look like? So I think a lot of that, you know, I keep saying COVID Didn’t necessarily change retail, it was an accelerant for a lot of what was taking place prior to COVID. And then it just forced both consumers and retailers to accelerate both adoption. And then, you know, innovation on the retailer side.

Ressa 11:20
Yeah, one of the things I’m thinking about from a landlord perspective is, I don’t know if it’s a divergence or convergence of making it Uber convenient, versus increasing dwell time. So you have some retailers who we’re talking to who are trying to get consumers in and out of the store as fast as possible, right, making it Uber convenient. And then you have other retailers, the IKEA is of the world to our, you know, create a maze for you to get lost, and you can’t get out. And this convergence, and that makes placemaking a little interesting. And I’m curious to see where that goes. And then you have the blends, you have target, like can drive to target, they’ll put it in my trunk. Or if you go shop the store and have a great, you know, in store experience of, you know, spending an hour looking around, whether it’s TVs or you know, buying some foods. So I think this, I don’t know if it’s a divergence or convergence of convenience and dwell time. And we used to have these, like Lowe’s or convenience center or was a destination center? Well, you know, we’re starting talking to retailers who are very focused on convenience, whether it’s curbside pickup, or whether it’s, there’s a grocer out there who wants to have carts that just drive out of the store, and you don’t have to check out. So this convergence of dwell time versus convenience, I think is interesting. And we’re using all the analytics to try to whether it’s geofencing, or mobile analytics to look at it and say, Okay, well, you know, maybe 24 months ago, the average consumer staying for 12 minutes on property was bad. I don’t know which way you’re trying to go. Do you want it to be four minutes? Or do you want it to be 90 and keep hearing is both we want both, because we want to be able to serve as all consumers how they want to be conserved, whether that’s they want to make a fast trip, we want to be able to deliver on that. They want to stay for two hours, we want to be able to deliver on that. And I think that’s going to make things interesting from a landlord perspective, a placemaking perspective? And I don’t know, what do you think?

Toliopoulos 13:17
Yeah, I mean, I think for the landlord, it’s just about frequency of trips, right. So whether they’re dwelling or whether it’s just in and out convenience, the more trips that are made to that center than the more eyes that are put on that center, the more it becomes something that, you know, as a consumer, I’m driving into a Center, and today, I might be just going in there for a but I am constantly seeing that, hey, there’s a gym there, or I’m constantly seeing that, you know, there’s a smoothie place there. So it becomes top of mind when I then say, Okay, I need to do this service, or I want to seek out this type of retailer. And for the retailer, you know, again, I it comes down to really understanding your guests needs. And so, you know, what is it that your guest is driven by and I do think, you know, again, when we think about how COVID has accelerated a lot of these efforts. Retailers now know their guests better than ever. I think adoption of analytics is has significantly helped, I think, understanding the pain points of their guests during COVID. I think, you know, guests became very vocal about what they wanted and what they needed, both from, you know, just safety and culture standpoint, from a retailer, I think that’s become extremely important as well. But also just what they needed and in terms of fulfilling their their current shopping needs. And that changed. I mean, we obviously saw significant change. But you’re also now kind of seeing the the Don’t quarantine kind of resurgence of people wanting to be in a physical store. So I think across the board, you’re gonna see walltime go up. And that’s mostly because people were social people, we want to be in an environment where we are talking with the associates. As a guest, I want to, I want to have that conversation, I want to talk about my purchase, or potential purchase with the expert that knows whether it’s, you know, I’m buying a lipstick, and they’re advising me as to a shade or in buying electronics, and they’re telling me, you know, which one is best for my needs, I think you’re going to see more dwell time increase. If you’re doing any of those geospatial type analytics, regardless of what the retailer thinks they’re doing, it’s convenient versus you know, dwell time.

Ressa 15:52
Got it. Okay, that was helpful. You mentioned something about learning more about the guest and safety. So without getting into debate on CNN versus Fox News, how is safety right now for the consumers still top of mind concern in shopping?

Toliopoulos 16:10
I think it just depends, right? For some guests, it is top of mind for others that have now gained a new sense of confidence, whether it’s you know, vaccinated, reading some more of the information that’s coming out. And, and really kind of getting a sense of I am knowing what you’re, you’re coming out of quarantine and what you’re doing, taking that risk, etc, I do think it’s becoming less top of mind. From a, you know, the COVID pandemic standpoint, is security. However, in terms of feeling that they are walking into a safe environment, they can have a safe shopping experience. And that, you know, the parking lot is safe. I don’t think that is changing. I think that is still top of mind, regardless of what news source you’re watching, regardless of of kind of what’s taking place. And you know, the more that people are coming out of a quarantine, I think the the more they want to there’s a lot of you read, you know, plenty of studies, there’s a lot of anxiety coming out of quarantine for many people. And so as you’re walking into a social environment, you want to make sure that they’re safe, both from a pandemic COVID standpoint, but also from a just overall security, LP concern. Got it. That’s,

Ressa 17:33
that’s helpful insights. And I think we did a good job of staying away from CNN versus Fox News there. So.

Ressa 17:41
right now, at least the last few months, we’ve been seeing these extraordinary retail results, and there’s all these things about whether it was stimulus money, or it was, you know, getting out of lockdown, and they’re finally out and people are social beings is this sustainable.

Toliopoulos 18:01
Um, I, you know, it’ll be interesting to watch. If it’s more just, we’re going to hit an inflection point in terms of spending. However, I do think you have a couple of things, you have the the stimulus type, you know, payment that obviously contributed to it. But there are a lot of dollars that are sitting idle right now. And our has had yet to still be spent total, our savings. Number is, you know, I don’t remember the actual number because you’re in like trillions, but the amount that we are still have saved versus what it would otherwise be like, three pandemic, there’s still a lot of pent up dollars that are yet to be spent. You also have a lot of retailers who have either significantly shrunk their footprint and or unfortunately have gone away, right? I mean, when you look at the restaurant landscape, for example, right now, there are less options to choose from. So for each of those retailers, as people are coming, especially restaurants, as they’re coming back out and looking to go out and spend, you know, whether it’s there’s only so many restaurants to choose from, or there’s capacity limitations, right. So people were forced to be kind of, you know, trying something different or new because they can’t get into their favorite space, because unfortunately, you know, labor is still an issue. And so some of the restaurants can’t open full capacity, because they just do not have the staff to do so. And so I think, you know, there still going to be some dollars that are yet to be spent because, you know, restaurant industry, for example, can’t quite absorb it all yet.

Ressa 19:56
Totally. Well, first off, the labor thing is crazy right now. We don’t have to go into that but That’s crazy, but I’m with you, I think we have a long runway for this to settle out. You also have, what will happen is, you mentioned the savings, well, banks are sitting on the savings, paying interest on it. And last year, they didn’t lend. So they have to put out money. And so that’s going to circulate more money into the economy. And I think that’s going to be an accelerant as well. And that’s long tail. So anyway, thank you for some insights on how Maria is looking at the world these days, we now have a story you have a story for us. Tell us a story about a location, a story we’re involved in, that was interesting to you.

Toliopoulos 20:38
I you know, I don’t know if it’s a store unnecessary, like one store. But I just remember like, when Amazon first kind of announced they were going to do their first retail physical retail store. And thinking like, Who in the world is gonna want to walk into the Jetsons store? And you know, like, are consumers ready for this? Right? I mean, and then of course, from like, the tech side, I’m just like, Alright, how are they gonna keep fraud and theft? You know, like, how is that going to be dealt with?

Toliopoulos 21:14
And then, you know, it’s, it rolls out. And then you watch for star and the bookstores and all of a sudden you’re like, it’s like watching, you know, Taco Bell, because if you’ve ever seen Demolition Man, yeah, a long time ago, a long time. Like, I love that movie. And so it’s like, all of a sudden, like, Taco Bell becomes the only restaurant, right? It’s like, your fast food and your fine dining, it’s the only place to eat like, and you’re slowly. So slowly seeing that, and I just, I’m fascinated by it, I also, you know, think it is something that I would love to see the balance sheets at the end of the day for, you know, some of that, that physical retail, and but I think it’s really forced, what’s been exciting to watch is, is how all of the other retailers have reacted to Amazon, and how many retailers who really stepped up their game, it really brought a lot of innovation to retail, not just by Amazon, but by other retailers, who, you know, were then in a position where they had executive team support and board support in order to invest in some of these, these ideas that, you know, maybe didn’t have a lot of traction prior to that. So

Ressa 22:35
sticking to that, what is one idea that comes to mind that, like you’ve seen Amazon do and then then either give other retailers the courage, or just the flexibility to the market, that they weren’t crazy to go do something.

Toliopoulos 22:49
I think, you know, frictionless checkout, slash, self checkout, really took off, you know, people, other retailers were doing it. But I think that was definitely accelerated it. Um, but I also do think that you witnessed something that validated what some of the retailers were doing, and Amazon was trying to move away from which was having associates in the store. And, you know, that was the one thing that guests while it’s great for Super convenience, they still wanted an associate, they still wanted somebody to go to if something wasn’t working, or, you know, they still wanted someone to interact with. And so it validated for some retailers, their approach of really investing in their team and have that outward facing associate in the store. Really, you know, being the representative of the brand.

Ressa 23:44
Have you gone and shopped? AmazonFresh I

Toliopoulos 23:47
have? Did you like it? Yeah, you know, I feel like it’s, it’s someplace that would probably be in my list of, you know, the four or five places we go for, you know, our groceries, but I don’t see it being like the dominant. But that could change, right? I mean, a lot of it’s just based on what’s nearby and, you know, what’s the great new thing that my kids are crazy over and we are constantly going to and replenishing, right? Like, it’s just, I feel like we’ve got like, you know, four or five places that we frequent pretty darn often on a rolling basis,

Ressa 24:28
grocery store that you guys frequent, most, I would say Whole Foods.

Toliopoulos 24:31
And again, that’s, I leave I’m the big organic, you know, non GMO like I’m constantly my poor kids. They’re just so annoyed by crazy mom, and but it’s also really convenient because I’m two blocks away. So I could walk there and just grab things that we need. So from a frequency standpoint, they’re target Costco. Trader Joe’s because you know, everybody loves their cookies and it’s just me we pizza Market, which is your local, it’s fantastic. So yeah, we’ve got, we’ve got a few.

Ressa 25:05
There, Mary is close by

Toliopoulos 25:09
there, there used to be. So that’s a perfect example. We were close to marranos. And then we it’s now kind of on the other side of town for us. So we’re actually closer to the whole foods and pizza fresh. So you know that that also obviously changes and changes the dynamic.

Ressa 25:26
Totally. So talking about just Ulta for a second, what’s going on there? How are you guys looking at the world? And what can we expect? I think from a shopping experience at Ulta.

Toliopoulos 25:37
You know, from a shopping experience, I really believe that we have some of the best associates in all of retail working at Ulta Beauty. And so from a just the ability to walk in at you know, I brought my teen daughter and when she was gonna get kind of her first few pieces of makeup and just being able to as a mom, it’s kind of nerve wracking, right, like, it’s a little bit of a milestone. And I remember like doing my first you know, makeup. When I was younger

Ressa 26:11
daughter, I had no context what age does that happen?

Toliopoulos 26:14
Oh, gosh. So I’m sure it could start at four where she’s grabbing like mom’s you know, lipstick and wanting to eyeshadow, right and completely, like does something silly, but I do think that it is like, you know, she turned 13 And that was when we said okay, fine, you can have a little bit of like a lip gloss and you know, wanted to get some like, acne treatment, and then stuff. And so that was kind of the first like big moment where we did a big shopping purchase. And so I remember just walking in. Now mind you, as a mom, like you’re really excited for it and kind of like, Oh, my baby girl is also getting old. As a daughter you want, like at least mine, she wanted nothing to like cheat that want to hear what my recommendations were does not matter. Right? Like, I don’t care what you think this is what I saw on tick tock, this is what I like, these are the brands and these are the things that I need. And Mom, you have no idea. So I just kind of like handed her off to one of our you know, Ulta Beauty associates and like, alright, here you go, let she’ll she’ll take care of you. And then you know, she just came back with like a basket of items. And I just looked in there and I was like, Oh, you did great. You know, like, my daughter was so happy. She had such a great experience like it, I could have told her the exact same thing. Like you should use this product or whatever you want to bluestones. But you know, it was like she came back. I mean, we all had such a great experience. And it was so fun watching her, like try to act like that. Older. That’s terrific. 20 something year old talking to beauty associates. So yeah, that’s I just think associates and training and the knowledge of the product is so important for retail. And then for you know, for Ulta Beauty I mean, we’re still expanding. So we’re still growing, which is exciting. So we have not obviously, you know, stop that trajectory. There’s there’s still I think a lot of growth to do both from the physical in terms of where we’re going to put our stores and how many stores we’re gonna we’re gonna do but also just in terms of how the store inside will continue to evolve.

Ressa 28:24
For the listeners out there are the target altos any of them open yet.

Toliopoulos 28:29
Not yet. That yeah, stay tuned.

Ressa 28:32
A couple months. And how many will open at once will be hundreds

Toliopoulos 28:38
yet to be, I think announced. I don’t want to miss step and say anything that has not been. But yeah, at the end of the day, listen, it’s going to be a shop within a shop. That is just one more place of being able to reach our consumer and I’m a perfect example of it. I have the highest tier of loyalty at Ulta Beauty. I’ve been a loyalty member since like 1996 and also beauty

Unknown Speaker 29:11
is still in my original card.

Toliopoulos 29:14
So I feel like it’s like the Hair Club for Men I can I work there but I’m also like the probably one of the best dentists and I definitely do of course I do the majority of my beauty shopping at Ulta Beauty bye but I of course I am at you know target and then it dawns on me that I need to grab something and so for for me, I’m excited about it because then I have the brands that I love the brands that I know and they’ll be available there. And then there’s also the the guests that aren’t necessarily familiar with Ulta Beauty or you know, maybe only shop there once every so often whether it’s they don’t have one nearby to them. That’s convenient, based on their shopping patterns, or, you know, they just are don’t frequent view stores that often. So it allows us to have, you know, access to new guests. And so there’s some really great synergy, both from the offering as well as just culturally, I think, you know, everything I’ve said about Ulta Beauty and our associates, target from a culture perspective is is very similar, right? Really value associates really invest in the training, etc. So, you know, those, the two brands are so well aligned in that way.

Ressa 30:34
Okay. That’s terrific. All right. I want to pivot the conversation and talk way more about Maria.

Ressa 30:42
Now, I got a lot of more Maria stuff. Okay. For the audience, what do you exactly do at Ulta? Let’s start there.

Toliopoulos 30:49
Wow. Everything. So what I oversee is program management, which is basically, you know, construction, budgeting, lease administration type items, waiver requests, which is, right. And then, overall, just, again, construction, you store management, as well as managing, you know, our renewable portfolio in terms of key dates, and action items in the lease. So there’s that components. And then another is market research. So all of the analytics, both with news door site selection, as well as our renewals, and then we partner internally with numerous departments to review, you know, help them with understanding like success of a brand based on demographics, anything that is, you know, geospatial, and anything that we can pull in terms of just, you know, physical retail market demographics, will, will work with the rest of the team. And then on top of that, it becomes a little bit of, you know, I have my obviously, background is, as a real estate, a retail attorney, having done, you know, quite a few retail leases in my three year prior, you know, legal life. So, you know, I’ll get pulled into maybe some of those discussions, or, obviously, you know, you can imagine I’m working on, you know, a lot of data and, you know, kind of master data, and other projects in the organization that are enterprise wide. And then obviously, you’re with the strategy component as well working at the enterprise level on any strategy initiatives.

Ressa 32:44
Got it. That’s pretty exciting. A lot of stuff that sounds never boring. So that’s good.

Toliopoulos 32:49
All right. Now,

Ressa 32:50
I think one of the things though, that’s interesting is you’ve had a pretty what I would call a career where you’ve made a bunch of transitions, you went from an attorney to the business side, and then you went from the landlord, to the retailer side, or, for other industries, from the selling side to the buying side of the marketplace, walk us through how you think about and what you’re feeling when you think like, it’s time for change.

Toliopoulos 33:21
Um, you know, part of it is, for me, I love learning something new, I really do. And that is what really, you know, motivates me from what I truly enjoy. For my work is both continuously learning and challenging myself. And then also, you know, what can I contribute? Right? So, we’ve talked about it before, I love anything tech related, because I love being able to simplify processes and really optimize how a business is working. And, and so it kind of gets to the point where, you know, when I look at the teams, I also love reading teams, not not because I enjoy having, you know, direct reports, I enjoy being able to really kind of see potential in people and mold them and grow them. I do take so much personal enjoyment out of that. And I think it is, you know, in real estate, it might have not necessarily been as valued more from the landlord side, I think as much as you know, from the retailer side. And so, I, I really love being in a position where I’m able to say okay, you know, this team at look at look at how phenomenal they’ve become both in terms of what they’ve learned and what they can do now on their own. And it’s almost like, for me, taking the next position has been more about like, I’ve grown it I’ve seen it I’ve been able to like my child right there now like off into the world and it’s fantastic and now I Want to experience that again? Right? So then, you know, kind of drove me to go to Ulta Beauty. I mean, I almost, you know, whatever, over 15 years on the landlord side, you always kind of think what’s going on at a retailer, right? So I really wanted to like peek behind the curtain at Oz and see what does really happen at a retailer. And it’s been fantastic, both from a culture standpoint, as well as just learning more about other areas, which I just didn’t have as much experience or insights to such as like Merchandising, and, you know, true supply chain, right. And marketing, I think those are just areas where I continuously love to just be a part of the discussion. So I continue so I can continue to grow at Ulta Beauty

Ressa 35:51
is the industrial corporate office real estate, that’s district offices, is that handled by different department.

Toliopoulos 35:59
So corporate is handled by the real estate department, but then there’s a different supply chain team completely. And, you know, when you think of like supply chain, the, the the warehouse and negotiating the warehouse leads, that is such a small component, and of course, will assist in that. But the logistics of just, you know, supply chain in itself is just a whole different worlds. And I think way beyond what many, you know, real estate, people think about? Sure, before they’re exposed to just, you know, real supply chain.

Ressa 36:41
That was very helpful. So Maria is a continuous learner, everybody. Going back, I think one of the things I find interesting, you went from legal to business, not you need to real estate, I think there’s always this tug and pull between legal folks and business folks, what was the catalyst for that transition? And sometimes it’s, it’s hard to find that opportunity, right? Sometimes the business side doesn’t initially want an attorney over to come on over the business side. So what was that transition when you were like, you know, been a practicing attorney for a while, I’m now gonna go on to the business side.

Toliopoulos 37:18
Yeah, so two parts of that, but first, I’ll say for me, personally, I was not the attorney that like to drag out, I loved the art of negotiation. I love doing a deal. But as I mentioned, like, my husband is also an attorney. And he does litigation. And there is nothing remotely interesting about his world to me, because it’s so adversarial in nature, and I really was drawn to, you know, being able to reach a resolution, and I love the creativity, and how innovative, you could be in finding some sort of solution right there. If you both are looking at the same end goal, there should not be anything that gets in the way in accomplishing that, right? There’s always some sort of ability to, you know, satisfy each person’s concerns. And in order to get to that end goal. And for me, like, again, dragging out at least draft 20 versions, I’m like, Oh, my gosh, can we just jump to version 20? Already, you know, like, in my head, I just and so the more and more I kind of was feeling that way, the more I was drawn to the business side, where it’s like being able to balance, it’s really the end of the day balancing the risk assessment, you know, and for me, I think it’s helpful that I’m able to understand here all the risks. And let me just get to the answer pretty quickly. So that was one of one of the reasons that I didn’t want to jump to, to the business side when I was offered the opportunity. But I will say that, you know, the second part of that is really having amazing mentors, and I can’t say enough for anybody who’s, you know, whether they’re looking at career changes, or they’re new in the industry. I’m finding good leaders, finding great mentors, finding people who will both push you and support you is so important. And so at the time, when I made the switch, I went to the general counsel who I recorded to and said, You know, I’m been asked to go to the other side. And he, you know, said, I’ve seen it go wrong, right? I’ve seen it go go wrong, and some attorneys that just it’s not for them, they try it and they realize they don’t like it, they like, you know, they don’t want to necessarily own the decision. They want to be able to, you know, assess the risks. Exactly. So, so yeah, he warned me of that, but he fully supported me making the transition. And was somebody who was completely you know, in my corner cheering me on through it and was still a resource after I made that, that transition and then my CEO who asked me to come over again, I saw that ability and I, you know, most of the people that were in my job prior or at companies, my counterpart it at another, you know, read, for example, most of them probably grew up through, you know, the broker worlds. Right. And so they, they may have started as brokers and then went in house, or they started as leasing agents in house and had grown up through the ranks there. Um, and so, you know, he saw the ability and just having the skill sets to be able to do that. And that was for me, I’ve done to have somebody a leader who saw that, and then was able to help mold it and grow me in that position. And, you know, I’m so thankful for that. But it also helped me in turn, then want to be that leader for others as well. Right. So being able to identify talent, being able to identify people’s, you know, certain abilities and where they would be best suited and where they would really be, you know, optimized in terms of their contributions. I really having that experience and being the beneficiary of it, I couldn’t wait to pay it forward. And that’s how I’ve continuously tried to to lead.

Ressa 41:17
Very, very inspirational story. Thank you. That was great. So I think you dropped a lot of knowledge for those who might be looking to make a change because you made a few and seemingly they’re gone and are going well. So thank you for sharing. We’re running short on time. I want to bring us to the last part of the show. I’ve got three fun questions for you. Maria, are you ready? I’m ready. Question one was the last item over $20 You bought in a store? Oh, the

Toliopoulos 41:43
last item was a mini hoop over the door mini hoop as a birthday present for one of my friend’s son’s and I apologize to her already because those are so aggravating and annoying. But you know that that’s what we know he wanted so that was my last in store purchase. Actually.

Ressa 42:06
Target. Okay, question two. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?

Toliopoulos 42:11
All right, I’ll be quick but I’ve got a couple so merry go round. I don’t know if anybody remembers merry go round. A clothing retailer. That was my first mile job. So I really wish I could kind of take my kids in there and you know, show them my first small job. I just hope no pictures resurface of me wearing your ground floor.

Ressa 42:32
Right now. Maria totally awful. Merry Go Round.

Unknown Speaker 42:35
Oh my gosh.

Toliopoulos 42:36
And then Marshall found

Ressa 42:38
one. Yeah, sure. Just kidding.

Unknown Speaker 42:40
Yeah. Oh, gosh,

Toliopoulos 42:43
those were the days and lots of Aquanet and the hair you know, Marshall Fields. It’s just a strategic I grew up again like my dad had a restaurant in the city. And I just remember going to Marshall Fields on State Street and and it was everything that like that. Our old department store had like the associates I remember just being so put together and knowledgeable and just had this air about them then. And then the store itself being decorated for the holidays. And so yeah, I do miss Marshall

Unknown Speaker 43:16
Fields. So good store.

Ressa 43:18
Last question. Maria, if you and I were shopping at Target, and there wasn’t an altar in the store, so if you are shopping at Target there’s no alternative. And I lost you. Where would I find you?

Unknown Speaker 43:28
I tell you to look

Toliopoulos 43:29
into Spats wine would be the candy aisle. I’m Yeah, I have a sweet tooth and it’s awful and I’m like a little like old grandma who always has a little something in her purse for somebody like you I’ve gotten you I’m in do you want to like sweet piece of butterscotch like I usually have it in my bag or because I’m also kind of a Girl Scout at the so you know that little like section over by the pharmacy typically where it’s got like all the travel size items and they’re like you know the small little deodorant the so I am always in that section buying like you know hand sanitizing wipes or I like shout staying wipes I mean if you need something like you know you pop a button after a big meal like I got you covered because I usually have you don’t thread on me I have pretty much any like you know oops I moment type thing in my bag. So I love

Ressa 44:30
to know for the ICSC because

Toliopoulos 44:31
anytime I need a bandaid I mean nail file go see go see Maria.

Ressa 44:37
You carry like the tide sticks or something like that. Yeah. I need those. Come by me.

Toliopoulos 44:43
I got to cover

Ressa 44:44
you mentioned the sweet tooth. i i also have a good sweet tooth. What What’s the candy of choice for Maria?

Unknown Speaker 44:50

Toliopoulos 44:51
your peppermint patty without a doubt.

Speaker 3 44:54
What are the pack that one? Okay. Yeah, yeah. And then maybe a butter finger But

Ressa 45:00
see I’m a chocolate person too. I was gonna peg you is like the Sour Patch Kids slash Mike and I type like that type of sweet.

Toliopoulos 45:09
Oh, I do love a good sour patch for sure.

Unknown Speaker 45:11

Toliopoulos 45:15
definitely Are you kidding me? usually go for the sour more than that like super sweet ones like mad Skittles fan but I love Smarties.

Unknown Speaker 45:24
Oh, I don’t like Smarties. Oh, I

Toliopoulos 45:26
love Smarties.

Ressa 45:27
I would be

Toliopoulos 45:28
great at trading Halloween candy

Ressa 45:33
at Halloween candy, that’s great. Okay, well, thank you for coming on. I really appreciate it. This was great. Thank you for taking through a whole bunch of different things from retail to more about you and to your career. So really appreciate it.

Toliopoulos 45:48
Thanks for having me.

Ressa 45:52
Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode

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