Behind every new flagship, there’s a man with a vision. Meet Bloomingdale’s executive vice president for creative services, Jack Hruska.
The debut of Hawai`i’s first Bloomingdale’s at Ala Moana Center last November was a dream come true for many island fashionistas. Thousands of shoppers flooded through its doors, cheering in celebration, on grand opening day.
After two-and-half-years of planning, design and construction, the iconic upscale department store unveiled its 38th location, featuring three floors of the latest in luxury goods and stylish essentials for women, men, children and home.
“Opening a new store—those are always highlights of my career,” says Jack Hruska, executive vice president of creative services. “When people ask, ‘What is your favorite store?’ I always say it’s the next one, so right now it’s this one. But this actually turns out to be one I’m really pleased with. I’m really excited about this store.”
Since joining Bloomingdale’s in 1992 as vice president of visual merchandise presentation, Hruska has had quite a career with the legendary American retailer. He’s made his way up the ranks, garnered a long list of awards, and led some of the retailer’s most extensive design projects, including a complete overhaul and re-conception of the main floor cosmetics department at the 59th Street flagship in New York City. He also oversaw the design direction for Bloomingdale’s Dubai, and directed renovations of the Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Roosevelt Field, New York stores.
“When I started at Bloomingdale’s, we had 14 stores. Now we have 38, and I’ve designed all of them and redone many of the ones that I did to begin with,” notes Hruska, whose responsibilities include store planning and design, visual merchandising, public relations and special events. “We have very few stores in our portfolio that haven’t been updated. I’ve redesigned the 59th Street store on numerous occasions. We are in the process of redoing our huge flagship in Los Angeles. We’ve done a lot of work. I’ve done a huge amount of work with this brand. It’s been my life for 23 years.”
Bloomingdale’s Ala Moana is no exception. Hruska, along with his team and an outside design firm, designed the entire store, which he says rivals their other flagships. From beautiful high ceilings to its signature black-and-white checkerboard marble flooring, the store is very much reflective of its New York City heritage.
Yet customers also will find subtle Hawai`i influences, such as louvered wood panels, local artwork and walls with graphic palm-frond prints and birds-of-paradise motifs.
“What this store presents is a classic, beautiful, dynamic New York Bloomingdale’s that’s very strong and brand conscious in our classic design,” says Hruska. “But it turned out better than even I had imagined it, because of the way we incorporated the local community. Things like the wood beams and koi sculptures which we had done—there are touches throughout that make this store unique to this place.”
In addition to full-line offerings by some of the world’s top fashion houses, Bloomingdale’s Ala Moana also is home to Burberry Beauty (found only at Bloomingdale’s in the state of Hawai`i), the first-ever Vince handbag shop, a Korean skincare shop, and the launch of Carven shoes, handbags and ready-to-wear. There also is a visitor’s center with multi-lingual staff, multi-lingual store directories, complimentary coat and bag check, style adviser appointments and much more.
“I’m more happy with the feeling I have rather than a specific area of the store,” says Hruska. “To me, it feels bold and dramatic, and has a lot of energy. Sometimes I would say there are too many things for your eyes to focus on, and in this case there are, but I don’t think it’s jarring. I think it’s enjoyable. I like the feel of the store.
“As for the aloha spirit, that comes with the people. Th e people we hire are going to bring that aloha spirit to the store.”
Hruska is based in New York but also has a home in the Caribbean, and has been to Hawai`i about 10 times. He’s a city guy who grew up in Montana, and he loves swimming and snorkeling. Next on his list of projects: seven stories of renovation at the 59th Street flagship, renovations at the Century City location in L.A., and store openings in San Jose, Downtown Miami and Norwalk, Connecticut.
“My creative style is, I want to say, collaborative. I just have very strong opinions,” he says. “But I’m hopeful. If you don’t keep open to others, you’re going to get locked into your thinking.
“We have a reputation of being a fun store. We also have a lot of great sales and really good value propositions that will make the shopping more fun too. My job is to make the shopping experience and environment more interesting. I’m glad we’re here. I can’t wait to see the customers’ reaction. I hope we hit most of the right notes. It’s a tough market right now in Hawai`i, but I think we’re gonna be a good harbinger of good times to come and we expect to be very successful.”