Two decades ago, foreman Mike Kilcommons of Miller Place recalled, he was hired to help construct Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.
And on a dreary Thursday morning this week, Mr. Kilcommons was back on the job at the Route 58 shopping center — this time, to give the some 200-store complex its first major makeover.
“It’s just ironic that I’m back here again after all this time,” he said from the center’s Tanger 2 parking lot Oct. 2. Island Acoustics of Bohemia is in charge of construction at the site. “They haven’t really done anything to [the buildings] because there wasn’t anything they needed to do.”
That mindset — to not fix what wasn’t broken, so to speak — changed in June, when work to renovate Tanger, which contains the shopping center’s main food court and the majority of its stores, commenced, said Janine Nebons, who has been the center’s general manager since 1994. Tanger 1, the center’s smaller, slightly older complex, will be updated next spring.
“We are a destination outlet center,” Ms. Nebons said. “The majority of our customers drive 40 minutes or more to get to us and we want them to get a taste of the East End. We want to be able to have them enjoy the experience — to be able to combine shopping in an upscale environment that is warm and friendly and inviting.”
To achieve this, Tanger Outlets enlisted Frank Campione of CREATE Architecture Planning & Design in New York City to come up with a design that fit their vision, which Ms. Nebons said was “inspired by the village of Greenport.”
The culmination of those efforts is a much-altered Tanger 2, which — to name just a few upgrades — now boasts colorful storefront facades with new siding and gabled roofs, a pedestrian walkway with several rocking benches, updated bathrooms and a fully renovated food court that features raised seating, numerous mobile charging stations and 20 iPads available for customer use. The center also has a new shopper services desk near Tanger 2’s Cosmetics Company Store, where customers can purchase gift cards and coupon books. All stores are open during construction.
“Architecturally, they [Tanger officials] wanted to dress it up and make it more appealing, which I think will draw my shoppers — and I think that was their intent,” Mr. Kilcommons said.
Ms. Nebons said work at Tanger 2, which is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the end of this month, will also include the construction of an outdoor fireplace and fountains near the food court. Oversized furniture, which hasn’t yet been delivered, will be placed on the center’s new benches, she said.
“We’re going to wow everyone,” Ms. Nebons said.
As a company, Tanger Outlets — which was established in 1981 by the late Stanley K. Tanger and is now owned by his son, Steven — operates 44 outlet centers in 26 states and in Canada, according to tangeroutlet.com.
“Tanger is continuously refreshing shopping centers from coast to coast,” Ms. Nebons said.
And while Tanger 2 is the center’s first complex to receive a makeover, it isn’t the oldest at 18 years old. That distinction goes to Tanger 1, which opened in May 1994.
“We haven’t gotten to Tanger 1 yet, but we will eventually,” Ms. Nebons said. “We hope to get started as soon as we’re done with Tanger 2. She’s an old lady by shopping center standards.”
Shoppers like Alisa Calato of Massapequa Park said Thursday that she and her husband, who were on their way to Under Armor when approached for an interview, approve of the changes being made.
“When we pulled up to the outlets, because we haven’t been here since probably last Christmas, I was saying how quaint and pretty it looks,” she said.
Christina Vello, an assistant store manager at J. Crew in Tanger 2, said the center wasn’t “run-down by any means” before renovations began but that she appreciates its “fresher look.”
“It makes it more elevated — more high-end,” she said.