One-on-One: Christine Szalay and Jamika Kirk

One on One: People Talking

We brought together two people this month who really have the community at heart — one a newcomer, one a native, both now dyed-in-the-wool Birmingham.

Christine Szalay, general manager of the Shops of Grand River, was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, but her roots run deep in Alabama with her father born in Albertville. An art student at Kent State, she got married and raised a family and did not really start her career until she was in her 30s. Szalay had a wholesale/retail business making children’s accessories and gifts.

After working in PR for a history museum in Akron, she fell in love with tourism and became executive director of the Ohio Travel Association, then head of tourism for the Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau. She was part of the opening team for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. That gig led to a stint as manager and “Bus Mom” for a barnstorming tour with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters celebrating the 30th anniversary of 1967’s Summer of Love. Szalay made another bus tour with Kesey in the U.K. as a promotion for Channel 4.

Szalay then moved into the corporate retail world with Prime Retail, then worked at a major outlet center in Las Vegas, followed by a stint as head of marketing at NorthPark Mall in Dallas, which grew from #25 into one of the top ten in the USA while she was there.

Her next move was to Birmingham. “I have always loved Alabama and love Birmingham as a city,” she says. “When I saw the potential of Grand River, I knew this was the place for me. I love the mix here at Grand River, the opportunity of working at a traditional outlet center coupled with a deep connection to the Birmingham community.”

That deep commitment is something that Jamika Kirk certainly understands. She’s a UAB employee working in the alumni office of the College of Arts and Sciences, managing relationships with the school’s alums.

In addition to her work, Kirk has been greatly involved over the years in efforts to enhance the Birmingham community, everything from young professional development to the Junior League.

Next month, Jamika’s major community involvement revolves around the Junior League and The Market, the league’s giant shopping experience at Cahaba Grand Conference Center, November 14-17. Funds raised at The Market help the Junior League of Birmingham make a positive impact in the lives of women and children in need within our community.

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