From the International President

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From the International President

April 2022

We often think of Spring as a time of renewal when sprouts, shoots and buds emerge as signs of growth. Well, for the majority of our current Institute membership, Spring signals another type of renewal. Beginning the first of May, hundreds of members will receive – via email – a request to rejoin the Institute for the 2022-2023 membership year. Yes, renewal is in the air.

We know members are still navigating the pandemic and that’s why we’re looking forward to having each and every one of you back for the coming year for the many opportunities that only membership can offer.

Allow me to reshare – in the voice of several members – their reasons for joining the Institute and why they are renewing. The comments are part of a testimonial campaign begun last year.

Amy Meadows, Allied Visual Merchandising member from the Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter, and founder of Windows Matter, explains, “Membership in the Institute provides value. There’s access to leaders and innovators; online panel discussions and webinar track responses and solutions; trends and problem-solving actions are often applicable to the Main Street communities, historic business districts and independents with whom I work.” Amy’s career includes time with Marshall Field’s and today she helps independent retailers as a consultant and students of design as an educator at Columbia College. She has been a member of the Institute since 2017.

“Last, and by no means least,” Amy says, “membership provides valuable resources for my work teaching Visual Merchandising and Space Planning in the Fashion Studies Department. The ‘Store of the Year’ presentation is always a hit, allowing us to travel — virtually — and experience a wide array of retail design successes. An inspiration, year after year!”

Thanks, Amy, for the solid endorsement.

Meanwhile, Adam Jones, Allied RDI, a retail operations vet, who joined the Institute’s Southern California Chapter in 2014, reports: “I found tremendous value in the automatic vetting of partners to connect and willing to cross promote each other, vital for our success.” Adam went to explain that the Institute attracts the best and brightest in the design industry who encourage and believe in supporting each other.

Well said Adam! We also thank Adam for his volunteer efforts at both the Chapter and International level where he serves as Southern California’s Chapter Secretary and helps to lead the International Communications Team.

I was also intrigued by comments made by Nina Ricciardi, RDI. She joined the New York Chapter in 2020 during the pandemic and has since renewed. Today she’s vice president and senior program manager, retail design at Citi.

“I was first introduced to the Retail Design Institute through being a judge for the annual design competition. I was impressed by the quality of entries and the high level of engagement displayed by the panel of judges as each entry was carefully reviewed, making for an unforgettable and valuable experience,” Nina explains. “During the year of Covid, the Institute through all of its virtual events became my lifeline to the retail industry, keeping me engaged, and connected to the design community through a wonderful series of events.I attended every event offered in 2020 and 2021. I loved the fact that as a member you are able to join any event hosted by any chapter. I highly recommend a professional membership in the Institute; it is great for continued design education as well as providing wonderful networking opportunities with peers.”

Nina, we appreciate you!

And there you have it – three members who have shared their personal and professional motivations for joining and renewing. If you agree with Amy, Adam and Nina’s “reasons to believe” in the Institute, thank you and welcome to another year of filled with opportunities for career and individual development.

We continue to look for members who want to give back to our industry. If you are passionate about retail, design and the Institute, please reach out to me to find out how you can be a part of your Institute’s renewal and growth.

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

March 2022

Beautiful weather is on the way and Institute Chapters are looking forward to hosting more in-person events and getting back together again! We look forward to seeing all as we finally find our way to a more normal way of life.

I’m also excited to share more details on my upcoming discussion with Ron Thurston as part of his Retail in America Tour.

If you’re not familiar with Ron, let me fill you in.

In January, Ron left corporate retail (his career includes time with Apple, Bonobos, Saint Laurent, Intermix, Tory Burch and West Elm) to find the untold retail success stories and the incredible people behind them. This month, Ron leaves his home in New York City in an Airstream trailer to travel the United States as his 20-city tour begins.

He’s turning this quest to find the stories into a RETAIL IN AMERICA podcast, a YouTube channel, and a way he can use his research to produce playlists and content to live stream on multiple platforms.

Back in October 2020, Ron wrote RETAIL PRIDE: The Guide to Celebrating Your Accidental Career, which became an Amazon No. 1 bestseller. Says Ron, “I have both the experience to write about the state of the retail industry and a story to tell. A good story. A story that people will want to talk about. Perhaps it has something in common with your story. Millions of people work in retail. The majority of us work in stores, and our stories need to be told.”

Would you like to have your story told? Get ready because Ron is making a virtual stop at the Institute Friday, April 8 at Noon Eastern to talk with our fellow members and friends. I’m preparing my questions now and you can feel free to send yours to me if you like. We will be opening the discussion for participants to join us live on screen to ask questions and get in on the commentary.

I hope you’ll plan to join us – no charge for members – so you can catch our conversation.

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

February 2022

The year is off to a terrific start for the Institute!

We are proud to share news that our St. Louis Chapter is re-branding as the Heartland Chapter to better include the area it represents — Missouri, Kansas, Southwest Illinois and Arkansas. President Jessie Sanders and the Heartland Board recently announced the Chapter’s first in-person event will be a tour and happy hour at City Foundry in St. Louis, March 9.

Meanwhile, our Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter recently announced a partnership with designs4dignity, a non-profit founded on the belief that every individual should have access to environments that support the wellness of the human spirit. This group works to transform spaces — offices, conference rooms, mental heath facilities and housing — for a a number of non-profits in the greater Chicago area with volunteer design help and product donations. If you want to learn more, please contact Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter President Maria Albulescu.

More news — I had the pleasure of presenting new New York City retail to members of POPAI France along with many amazing professionals from across the globe. Institute members are always in demand speakers, so join with me in offering congrats to Laura Davis-Taylor, RDI, Atlanta | Southeast Chapter, who will be speaking at the Retail Innovation this May in Chicago.

As always, look for our bi-weekly email listing events across the Institute! Don’t forget, as a member you can attend ANY Chapter event globally. Expand your reach and meet like-minded individuals who share the same passions as you.

I’m often asked what are some reasons for joining the Institute. People also want to know how to get involved and make the most of membership. Here’s our take:

If you’re ready to take your professional development to the next level, then look no further than your local Chapter. Running for office, or volunteering to serve on a Chapter committee has benefits including:
• Developing and refining your leadership and communications skills (through events, content).
• Elevating you and your company’s standing within the industry.
• Sharing your knowledge and skills in support of our local and international organization.
• Creating lasting connections with people across the retail design industry.

If you have ideas on ways to increase member value, please feel free to email your thoughts to [email protected]

As always, I look forward to your feedback and continued support of the Institute!

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

January 2022

Happy New Year!

It is an exciting time for the Institute! We have so many wonderful things coming up for 2022 – both Internationally and locally within your Chapters. For starters, I hope everyone had the chance to read the VMSD story on the Institute celebrating our 60-year history. It’s a great read written by industry leader and Institute member Eric Feigenbaum. Our thanks to Jennifer Acevedo, Media RDI, VMSD magazine, for continued support of the Institute.

Recently, I had the honor to speak at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show at the Javits Center in NYC. Our session — “New York City Virtual Store Tour: A Sneak Preview of New Openings” — on January 16, was packed! We focused not only on high-end brands that the city is known for, but family favorites come to life such as Harry Potter New York and LEGO® Fifth Avenue. It was great to be in person once again.

The focus on new stores reminds me to mention the Institute’s Call for Entries for the 51st International Design Competition. We’re looking forward to seeing all the amazing stores that opened in 2021. You can find complete details here including special member rates (save $125 on entry fees).

Several winners from the 50th Design Competition are included in a piece for written by longtime member Sandy Stein, on how, in this time of unified commerce, and less emphasis on instore transactions, retail design is becoming an even more important brand differentiator.  Thank you Sandy for telling the world what we know and hold true as Institute members and practitioners. Find Sandy’s piece here.

A new year brings many good things and two of them are our International Sponsors, which you are seeing on our weekly International emailers and Chapter newsletters. Again supporting us in 2022 is PLANiT Construction. Founded in 2003, PLANiT is continuously focused on delivering high quality, dependable general contracting services, consulting, project management and comprehensive facilities maintenance for national clients across North America. Thanks to Claudio Stabile and his team!

TMS Lighting is our newest patron for 2022. Established in 1923, TMS started with a simple idea, build a light fixture, infuse it with quality and then back it with integrity. This has been the company’s formula for more than 90 years. Thanks to David Bahra and the team at TMS.

We are focused more than ever on increasing our offerings to members. If you have ideas on what you’d like to see, or want to get involved either on the International Board or within your local Chapter, please reach out to Janet Groeber ([email protected]) in the International Office.

Don’t forget to check out the Institute’s website for the Job Board  — it’s chock full of opportunities at every level of experience. If you are an employer, job posts are complimentary. And don’t forget Events, the lifeblood of our organization, which in most cases are free to members. Check them out here.

Wishing all good health, good fortune, much happiness, and much success in 2022!

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

December 2020

It is with great sadness that I share the passing of two members of our Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter.

Joseph Peter “Joe” Sus, Jr. passed away March 3, 2021. Joe was the loving husband of Gina (nee Moskowitz) and proud father of Clare and Joey.

Joe joined the Institute in 2018 as a Professional member, but had been involved with the association for a decade, said fellow member Matt Nurre. “Joe was a kind-hearted guy who was truly passionate about the retail design trade to his core,” Nurre added.

At the time of his passing, Joe was store designer and telecom coordinator for Pete’s Fresh Market, the Chicago-based family-owned regional grocery chain. In November, Joe led the Chicago | Great Lakes Chapter’s “Virtually Frozen Turkey Trot” tour of Peter’s Fresh Market newest location.
He was a 1999 graduate of Purdue University, working as a Walgreens service clerk from his senior year in high school and while in college. Joe would begin his professional career as a designer for Walgreens in its Deerfield, Ill., headquarters and remain there for the next 13 years. Before joining Pete’s, Joe spent two years as an interior designer at Johnson Design Group, Chicago. Joe also had experience in designing and installing TDM and IP Telephone systems.

In 2015-16, Joe was a background actor in Chicago Fire, cast as a neighborhood resident, a political supporter and regular patron at Molly’s Bar.

Donations to Clare and Joey’s education fund. Contact for more information.

Rosalind “Roz” Strapko, 56, passed away May 20, 2021 in her Algonquin, Ill., home, surrounded by her loving family.

In 1997, Roz was hired as a sales associate with MEG Store Fixtures, where she stayed for 11 years. She remained on the fixture side of the business working as business development director for Fleetwood and then for High Country before joining Sparks in 2019 as account director, the position she held at the time of her passing.

She joined the Institute through the Chicago Chapter in 2000 as an Allied member. Most recently Roz step up to serve on the International Events Committee.

Since 2017, Roz was involved with PANDAS Network, an organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment of children with PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) and PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome).

Roz is survived by her husband John; her daughter Hannah; siblings Susan Johnson and Trina Wilton; brother-in-law George (Peggy) Strapko; father-in-law Gregory (late Janina) Strapko. She was also a fond aunt to many.
A Celebration of Life gathering is planned for Saturday, June 12, 2021 from 11:00  a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with a Time of Sharing to begin at 2:00 p.m. at Willow Funeral Home & Cremation Care, 1415 W. Algonquin Rd., Rolling Meadows, IL 60008.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22478, Oklahoma City, OK 73123; 800-227-2345.

“A heart of gold, a smile of pure joy, a kindness that extended to all she knew. That was Roz.”

Cynthia Hirsch, RDI
International President
Retail Design Institute

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