by Don Kindred
The word entrepreneur comes from a French verb which means “to undertake”. It becomes an apt description for those builders and businessmen who accept the challenge of creating, not just something new, but something beyond the ordinary. The title is fitting for Steven L. Craig, who has undertaken the development of the Outlets at San Clemente, and through the 18 years it took to become a reality, never wavered from the vision of what could be the finest center in the state.
Born to Build
Craig has always been a builder, “It’s in my blood,” he says, (His ancestors built most of the famous buildings in Edinburgh, Scotland in the 1700s.)
While growing up in St Joseph, Missouri, he busied himself building models, tree houses, even the hot dog, hamburger and candy stand that would become his first business ... when he was 10. By the time he turned 12, he’d moved up to fireworks stands, a chain of which would later put him through college at USC, and set him on the path to an empire that will soon include 18 outlet centers in 12 states.
On San Clemente
Steve Craig remembers that when he first walked the Marblehead Coastal Property in 1997, he had just turned 41.
“It didn’t take a lot of brainpower,” he says of the easy decision to purchase the property. “It was, and is, a beautiful site, with a rare combination of ocean views and freeway frontage.”
But bringing the project to life hasn’t been so easy. Only this November, after 200 months, $100 million and 125 public hearings will Steve Craig, now 60, finally cut the ribbon on San Clemente’s largest retail project. Outlets at San Clemente will encompass more than 500,000 square feet of upscale retail space. It will open with fast-casual eateries, more than 35 retail stores and over 3,000 parking spaces. The final development plan includes more than 12 restaurant and dining options, including four restaurants with scenic ocean views.
Steve acknowledges that there were delays, problems and frustrations along the way, but as he says, “I think of San Clemente as sort of the culmination of everything that we have done as a company to date, this will be a very special center.”
Indeed, the center will include such non-shopping amenities as a VIP loyalty program with an exclusive lounge, valet parking and conciergeservices. As well as complimentary Wi-Fi, baggage check, stroller and wheelchair rentals. It will also feature a Mother’s Lounge and four five-star bathrooms.
Craig explains the latter, “For most shopping centers, the restrooms are an afterthought, something that needs to be done. For us, it’s a chance to make a statement. Our customers are 80% women, they need a place that is comfortable.”
Steve Craig has been fortunate in life and he’ll be the first to admit it. He believes in giving back. His donations to Missouri Western State University, in his hometown, led the school to establish the Steven L. Craig School of Business at Western. His motivation? He says, “I just wanted to inspire people to do great things and at the same time, create a phenomenal business school.”
He personally created a program for students at the school’s Applied Learning Center for Entrepreneurship, which allows them a chance to compete for their own franchise.
“In the last six years,” Craig says proudly, “Twenty four students have gone straight from college into their own franchises through the program. Two of them, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Blaze Pizza will be opening with us in San Clemente.”
A football fan, Craig is a member of the Executive board of the Lott Impact Foundation, which annually recognizes the top defensive player in College football. (He’s also been known to show up at a USC tailgate party and take all challengers in a game of Cornhole.)
He makes his home in Newport Coast but has been named an Honorary Citizen of the City of Commerce for his contributions to the community and he still serves on their AA Advisory Board. In each of the communities where his company has built outlets, they are known for their community support.
Outlets at San Clemente will host its first annual Shopping Extravaganza fundraiser on Saturday, December 5, to benefit 18 local charities including the Boys & Girls Club of South Coast Area, Family Assistance Ministries, Kids Around the World, and Sunrise Rotary Club. Shopping Extravaganza features a private catered lunch, wine and craft beer tastings, entertainment and up to $50,000 in prizes. Outlets at San Clemente will donate $25 for every $35 ticket purchased and tickets are on sale now at shoposc.com/tickets.b