I met Jocelyne Mainville, Leasing Manager of Yale Properties a number of years ago through the Hamilton 24-Hour Film Festival. This woman is a huge inspiration for me. She has the ability to make anyone feel comfortable with her in a matter of minutes. She is also incredibly talented at her job and has been instrumental in the turn around of Jackson Square and bringing in the flagship tenants like Nations Fresh and McMaster University. You will often see her walking through Jackson Square, chatting with tenants, making things happen. We sat and had lunch together and what was supposed to be an hour, turned into 3. We chatted about life, work, the city, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Grab a cocktail, get comfortable and get to know Jocelyne a little better. You’ll be glad you did.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Personally; when I was pregnant with my first kid, “Enjoy every moment” even the times when he’s going to try you like crazy; chal- lenge, manipulate. It is a growing process. And when I’m frustrated at the kids “This is a growing moment. The synapses are firing, this is a good thing!”
Professionally: not to be envious. When you haven’t seen clients in awhile and they are tanned and you ask if they’ve been away. They reply “St. Lucia” and you reply “Lucky”, people don’t want to hear that. Just say “Fantastic, good for you.” Them going away has absolutely nothing to do with your life. If you want to go away, then go.
Because of my husband’s family. We needed to get out of Montreal; I needed a change professionally and personally. The education system in Quebec is not great; we knew we would leave eventually so, we came to Hamilton to where our support system was. I got the job at Jackson Square weeks before we came here, and that was a fluke. We had both quit our jobs; we had nothing to come to. We flew, we took the train, we rented cars, my husband and I came back and forth for interviews. We applied for everything and anything. We looked at our skillset and maybe an opportunity for a career change. I was in Montreal, leaving one of the buildings I was representing there with one of the owners and he inquired about our moving. I told him we were moving to Ham- ilton and asked if he knew anybody there. He said he knew that Yale owned Jackson Square. “Send me your CV and I’ll send it off to them”
I confirmed that yes, Yale did own Jackson Square at 11 that morning, sent him my CV at 2:00, and by 5:30 he was calling his contact at Jackson Square and set up an interview for me the next morning. Inside of a week and half, they called and offered me a job. I had a weight lifted off my shoulders; because we were moving and neither one of us had jobs. We knew you needed to do what needed to done; work wherever you have to. But, we moved to Hamilton and we are both doing exactly what we were doing in Montreal.
There are a lot of similarities between here and Montreal. I lament over my restaurants from Montreal but, over all, we are able to do a lot more things here than in Montreal; it’s less expensive, things are close by. My kids can do a lot more here. We didn’t know it when we first moved here but there is a huge French community that we have tapped into and now our youngest is in a full-time French school and we have French friends. It’s all hidden. It’s all here. There is the culture – you have to find it. It doesn’t jump out at you, but it’s there. So, originally we moved here because of my husband’s family. But, if I had known all of this was here, I would have made the choice to come here.
Three words to describe Hamilton?
Conflicted. In that they [Hamiltonians] don’t know what they have. It’s not that it’s inaccessible because when you find it, it’s totally accessible, but it’s not self-evident.
Community would be a good word. It doesn’t matter what the community is. It’s a small world. When we first moved here, a family on a street close to ours had a fire. They had insurance, so they were okay, but the neighbourhood closed down an entire block of the street to have a block party for this family. Three quarters of the people had never met them, but they were there to help them. You don’t get that in Montreal.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
The people that I meet. And I have to use my brain everyday. There are jobs where it’s very cyclical or routine. I deal all sorts of different businesses and people; they all have their own thing that’s important to them. I like the fact that I am constantly using my brain and I’m trying to find ways to bridge the gap between what my needs are and what their needs are. It’s always amicable; can we find the solution that works for both of us? If so, fantastic. If not, I wish you much luck, it’s nothing personal, and let me know where you end up. Part of that is also the ownership I work for. If I did the same thing for another company with lots of processes and people to report to, I could never do the things I do. I can get creative and that is largely because I have ownership in this. They allow me to be creative and they realize there are many avenues to getting things done.
What’s the worst thing about what you do?
The worst thing is when people are afraid to talk. When they don’t tell me about their issues. If you want to know what’s going on, I’ll talk about the different things we have planned (without specifics). When something is bothering a tenant (they have to call a few times to have their lights changed), they don’t say anything. When it comes to lease renewal time, they don’t’ want to because their lights never got changed. But, I can’t fix a problem I don’t know about. I also don’t have the opportunity to get creative about a solution.
What’s your motto?
I have two. One of them is common sense is not common. The other one is tragedy plus time equals humour. That’s one that we live with at home. There might be something that is absolutely horrible in your life right now. Give it some time, and you’ll be able to see the humour in the situation. Perhaps it’s a death. You’ll go through the stages of grief. But then, enough time goes by and you’ll be able to laugh and remember the fun times.
What are you most looking forward to in 2015?
I am looking forward to forging new relationships outside of Ham- ilton. I’m casting a wider net and going outside of what I’ve been going after lately. Retail here is busy and is doing really well and I am getting calls and requests of the right calibre. I’m finding I need to cast a wider net in terms of office space. I’m going a little further and talking more about what we have to offer here at Jackson Square in our office towers and what the city has to offer the more traditional office employer. I am looking toward Oakville, Mississauga and then in London as well. I’m looking forward to seeing whom I’m going to meet out there, and what kind of relationships I can forge there.
What’s the biggest learning experience of your life?
My biggest learning experience was learning to listen to myself and looking into what made me happy. What was it in my job that I hated and how could I change that? And what was it in my job that I enjoyed and how can I get more of that? Every job has aspects that are not fun, but how could I find that niche in the industry that suits me and that I suit. Being able to listen to my gut.
If you found 10 dollars in your pocket, what would you do with it?
I would leave it in my pocket. I seriously would leave it in my pocket for whenever it is I need it.
How has the role of Jackson Square changed over time?
It was built and designed for high fashion retail. That’s what they got; top 3 in fashion retail. Copps was supposed to be apartment complexes. When the whole civic centre came together, there was supposed to be a huge residential component to it. It was supposed to be live, work, play. Then, things changed. Everything flipped to the suburban areas to the land of free parking. Then everything kind of died.
It went from high fashion, to empty to non-profit free “keep the lights on” places, to seat fillers. Then we moved to mom and pop shops, and then some of the “non-major” nationals started to come in. I came in during the seat filler, mom and pop stage. I wasn’t doing retail at that time, doing office stuff. There was no rhyme and reason to what was going in there. The decision was made to stop doing that, there had to be a focus. I wanted to move back to the live, work, play. The developers are handling the live aspect now. Now we have people living down here, working in the towers. I control 1.1 million square feet in 4 office towers, and 350,000 square feet of retail. What can my retail provide for upstairs? So, it was service centre. Let’s find the services that the office tenant employees need. That is going to attract some new busi- nesses because they can keep their employees close to work; dentist, hair salon, dry-cleaning, shoe repair, pharmacy. Then the residential started coming in; so then came the grocery store and a bigger LCBO. Now, what I’m doing is moving beyond services and grocery. I have 12 million people coming through here between Monday and Friday 9-5. How do I get people here 5-9 and on weekends? The only way I can do that is destination locations. Working on restaurants, boutiques, and other destinations. Because of my ownership, I can do creative, non- traditional creative deals.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT THESE DAYS? Weather
BEST GIFT YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? Jewelry
HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR COFFEE? Two milk, one sugar
FAVOURITE BAND? Anything I can sing
FAVOURITE SOLO ARTIST? Holly Cole
A BOOK YOU PLAN ON READING? The Bible
FAVOURITE COLOUR? Orange
LEAST FAVOURITE COLOUR? Yellow
BEST WAY TO DECOMPRESS? Singing in the car
IF YOUR LIFE WERE A SONG, WHAT WOULD THE TITLE BE? Get out of my way
FAVOURITE HOLIDAY? Waterparks with the boys
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ON A PIZZA? Roasted red peppers