Three Stacks And You’re Out On QUEEN MARY

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Three iconic stacks, but no more iconic shops on board.  Photo by Shawn J. Dake c. 2010.

Three iconic stacks, but no more iconic shops on board. Photo by Shawn J. Dake c. 2010.

The retail shops aboard the QUEEN MARY have been given a 30-day notice to vacate the historic ship.  Earlier this week, word leaked out saying all independent shop owners would have to remove all of their inventory and be out by the close of business on October 5, 2014.   Queen Mary management did not respond to a request for an official statement, but the news was confirmed today in the Long Beach Press-Telegram newspaper.

The QUEEN MARY is owned by the City Of Long Beach and operated on a master lease to the Garrison Company.  They in turn hired the San Clemente, California based management group Evolution Hospitality to run the day-to-day shipboard operations and also manage the adjacent property and events.  The Garrison group was approached by a San Diego retail management firm, called Event Network, which promised a higher percentage of returns from the retail side of the business, in exchange for control of all the shops on board.  The firm specializes in museum merchandising, including a large number of aquariums and zoos throughout the country, historic sights such as The Alamo and Gettysburg National Military Park, and in the maritime world, The Mystic Seaport Museum, the Battleship U.S.S. IOWA in Los Angeles and the U.S.S. MIDWAY Aircraft Carrier in San Diego.

Several of the independent retail shops have been aboard the ship for decades, some more than 30 years, and were considered by many to be fixtures on board.  The Scottish Heritage Center is among those that have been very successful over the years and seemed a perfect fit for a ship that itself was constructed in Clydebank, Scotland.  Also leaving will be The Queen Mary Store, Queen Mary Couture, Portside Necessities, The Dragon Shoppe and the popular nautical memorabilia stores Transatlantic Style and Pastime Collectibles.  Event Network will also take over the five retail shops directly managed by the QUEEN MARY including the Princess Diana Gift Shop and the popular Stacks souvenir gift shop mid-ship on the Promenade Deck.  The contract for Event Network goes into effect on October 13th and new shops are expected to begin opening by late October.  What that will entail has not been revealed.  Meanwhile the former retail store owners have a stockpile of QUEEN MARY merchandise and no place to sell it.

The Promenade Deck shopping area, commonly referred to as Piccadilly Circus.  Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2011.

The Promenade Deck shopping area, commonly referred to as Piccadilly Circus. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2011.

[LATE NEWS:  5pm Sept. 11,  Merchants being asked to vacate their retail spaces at the QUEEN MARY will get a four-month reprieve.  The general manager for the historic ocean liner announced today that the QUEEN MARY will extend month-to-month lease agreements at current rates through January 6, 2015.]

John Jenkins, general manager for the QUEEN MARY indicated that the company had been considering going in a new retail direction for the last three years.  “For over two years all leased retail operations on the Queen Mary have been on a month-to-month basis,” Jenkins said in a statement. “Our retailers have known and understood this to be the case. Likewise, they clearly understand our ongoing efforts to upgrade all business systems and the overall Queen Mary experience, from tours to dining to shopping. Nonetheless, the recent exercise of contractually agreed-to-lease termination notices is proving a hardship for some tenants.”  Jenkins issued the original 30-day notice for tenants to vacate and also issued the temporary extension today.   Jenkins said contracting with Event Network could boost the ship’s retail component and invest in new retail space, which the ship hasn’t been able to afford over the years.  The extensions may affect Event Network’s plans to build out the new retail venues.  The company has the legal right to evict the retail tenants as they were operating on a month-to-month basis, and a 30-day notice is all that is required.  Most shop owner’s had indicated a willingness to negotiate leases however the QUEEN MARY management has not renewed long-term leases since 2011.  While legally right, there is the question of morally right, and that no doubt came into play with today’s decision to delay the evictions for four months.

The QUEEN MARY illuminated on a February night in 2009.  Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2009.

The QUEEN MARY illuminated on a February night in 2009. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2009.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake
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