With 30 years in the retail Shopping Centre industry and at the forefront of retail therapy trends, it may come as a surprise to learn that Vanessa Blevins, centre manager at La Lucia Mall is not a keen shopper!
“I love my job and I’m passionate about the Shopping Centre industry, but I have to confess that I don’t like shopping. It’s the queues, the crowds, the jostling and the time … I just can’t do it!”
But, Vanessa says, online shopping is a blessing and she reckons it’s the biggest change she has seen over the course of her career that has transformed the industry.
“It’s not like I don’t shop at all … but I want my shopping experience to just work for me, it must be safe and clean, with good service and queues that move quickly!”
“I’ve also discovered this most amazing app – One Cart – which is like a shopping concierge service. I use it weekly, just mark the products I want from the stores it is affiliated with and then get my order delivered at a time convenient to me.” With this nifty service available at just a click of a button, Vanessa says she has more time to focus on taking care of her two daughters, 14-year-old Emma and 12-year-old Lucy, her husband Simon and the family pet, Leo, a gorgeous lab.
Her days at the office are busy and diverse. Supported by a team of individuals she has the greatest respect and admiration for, Vanessa says La Lucia Mall, which has recently undergone massive upgrades, doesn’t run on its own.“ The industry is constantly changing with experiential retail the latest trend, offering customers a unique and entertaining shopping experience.
“I’ve been here for 16 years and have seen how the mall has developed alongside the Durban North community. It’s a central hub, a meeting place and has become a second home.”
Away from the office you’ll more than likely find Vanessa in the kitchen of her Durban North home with its gorgeous sea views. “I love to cook and am a cooking channel junkie! I’m very inspired by celebrity chefs the likes of Nigella and Jamie Oliver and am always keen to experiment with new recipe ideas.”
Passionate about cooking whole food and making food from scratch, Vanessa loves to entertain family and friends with feasts from her kitchen and has earned a reputation as a generous hostess who always manages to serve up a surprise or two.
Although not a vegetarian herself – her daughter Emma is – Vanessa says plant based diets have become increasingly popular and she enjoys creating meals around whole foods. “I wish I had a gift for gardening, but I don’t, otherwise I’d grow all my own food for the table.” Instead, she heads out to the organic veggie market where she carefully chooses what she wants.
“Creating a vegetarian feast is challenging and exciting. There is so much you can do to make veggies the main stars on a harvest table. I’ve surprised guests before with a selection of vegetarian dishes that made the meat secondary,” she said.
Like most working women, Vanessa’s life is busy, leaving her little time for herself.
“Cooking has become my quiet time, there is something meditative about cutting and chopping and preparing a meal that I find uplifting and fulfilling.”
“If I’m not in the kitchen, you’ll find me watching my favourite cooking channel or binging on Netflix and enjoying a glass of wine! “
She’s not a gym person, but instead enjoys trail walking at Virginia Bush, walking along the Umhlanga Promenade or doing yoga at home. “I used to do mountain-biking and have done a couple of Amashovas, but I don’t find the time any more. I’ve found that as the kids get older you have less time for yourself.”
As a family they enjoy getting away from it all and heading for the Kruger National Park, Mozambique or the Drakensberg.