By Portia A. Scott (www.atlantadailyworld.com)
There are all kind of adjectives that describe Richard Dent, who recently announced his retirement from the West End Mall. As manager of the mall for the last 40 years, he has seen many changes in people, the retail industry and the community as a whole.
Near the AU Center, the West End Mall is a community mall that has been a part of the community from day one, and Dent has been a special type of manager who knows the community well. He knows the West End Mall, its clientele and the stores that make up the mall. “It is truly an American Dream,” Dent says about the people living in the West End area. “They make up a melting pot and they enjoy each other.”
Dent also describes the mansions in the area, the schools and universities, the businesses and retailers, the churches and the mixed community as a plus and brags that the mall is one of the lowest crimes areas in Atlanta. “We are really safer than other malls and more in line with what is acceptable in malls today,” says Dent, who is retiring as the vice president and general manager of the Mall West End. “We’ve seen stores stay here and we are about 98 percent leased out,” Dent brags, adding that shoplifting is at a low in the mall.
Dent also boasts about prime stores in the mall, and says their volume is the highest among sales and profits. The Bronner Bros. store is an original tenant and has been in the mall since its inception in June 1972. Sears, as some will remember, was there before the mall was built by Mark Taylor. Taylor sold the mall in 1977 and bought it back in 1997, on the condition that Richard Dent would continue as its manager.
Once again, because of his professionalism and experience, the current owners made Dent vice president and manager of over 20 of their commercial properties.
‘I’ve being doing this so long that some people call me ‘the grandfather of minority commercial real estate,'” jokes Dent, who likes talking about the location of the West End Mall. It is near the Herman Russell Company’s Skylofts, the MARTA station, the downtown area, the AU Community, banks, businesses and churches. He has seen a lot of growth in the area, and says he likes the changes.
Dent has seen the Shrine of the Black Madonna, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Soul Vegetarian, owned by the Black Israelites, and a number of Muslims occupy the West End area. He likes the changes. “We went from an all-White community in the old West End, to a now energetic, stable and mixed community,” added Dent.
One of the biggest problems Dent has seen over the years is perception. “But the reality of the situation is completely opposite and we’ve tried to let people know the truth,” he adds. “We are lowest in crime, shoplifting and the safest mall in Atlanta. We’ve seen stores stay here and the mall has prime stores that are high in sales volume,” he says.
He also doesn’t like the fact that the lights on the interstate between McDaniel and Langhorn streets are not back on, and that a replacement hasn’t been chosen yet.
“I need a Black manager to groom,” said Dent, who worries that the present owners, who operate out of the corporate office, don’t realize the importance of “hands-on” operations.
“I’ve always had a Black manager, and now I don’t,” says Dent, who promises not to leave until his post is filled.
A native of Detroit, Dent has matriculated at both Tennessee State University and Atlanta University, where he studied management. He is a licensed real estate broker and has enjoyed teaching experiences at Mercer University School of Business and the AU Graduate School of Business.
Dent has conducted numerous seminars and workshops in his fields and is past president of the (CAU) Atlanta University National Alumni Association and the Metropolitan Atlanta Girls Club.
He currently is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, 100 Black Men of Atlanta and a graduate of Leadership Atlanta. Dent is also a past board member of the John H. Harland Boys Club and has served as co-chairman of the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball.
He owns Dent Realty Company, a real estate leasing and brokerage firm in Atlanta.
After retirement, Dent says he will still do his commercial real estate, and pay more attention to the things his really likes, like traveling and fishing.
Dent enjoys really keeping up with the trendsetters and styles of young customers. Students of the AU Center frequent the mall and come by shuttle bus.
Dent’s retirement party was held on Wednesday, March 2, where Dent greeted guests, including mall retailers, community leaders, the owners, Mark Taylor and his son, Chuck, mall employees, security, and one of his biggest supporters: Mom : Mrs. Clara Willis of Atlanta.