Chris Nace is a former Philadelphian who has been working for IKEA for the past 20 years. The market manager for the IKEA store in Jacksonville, he now makes his home with his family in Ponte Vedra Beach.
You’ve been praised for how you steered the Jacksonville store through the pandemic. Tell me about that.
It’s a very coworker-centric company. They always look to take care of the coworkers, so that’s one nice thing. We knew the company would be there for us.
We were closed for almost three months, and then we opened. Ever since then it’s been OK, but those three months we were closed, it was a very difficult time.
We did end up furloughing a portion of our coworkers. It ended up being a few weeks. The company did pay the coworkers the full amount for quite a while, and then we ended up furloughing.
Probably a month before we actually opened to the public, we started doing online orders out of the store. So, we were able to bring some coworkers back fairly quickly.
Then we opened up the store and called everybody back.
This is IKEA’s busiest time of the year. It comes at a time when a lot of retail stores are finding it difficult to get stock due to recent disruptions in supply chains. How are you meeting this challenge?
This is probably the most difficult one right now. We’re a global company. We have a lot of global supply. And the pandemic has been hitting different areas of the globe in different ways.
The good news for us is we have 9,500-plus articles here, so while we might be out of some things, we have other, alternative items in stock.
It’s improved over time, and we’re looking forward to it continuing to improve.
Like any other business, you try to take care of the customer in the best way possible.
IKEA has made a commitment to sustainability. Tell me what your store is doing.
This is one of the things we’re most excited about. My company has been at the forefront of sustainability. We were talking about it back in 2001.
We have solar panels covering a majority of our roof. It’s a large building; I think we have 5,400-plus solar panels on our roof. The cool thing is, it allows us to generate our own energy, and what we overgenerate we can actually put back in the JEA grid. We’ve been measuring our diversion rate, our trash, for years. Last year, we diverted almost 70% of our waste away from landfills.
And then our products. We’re developing more sustainable products all the time.
There’s one other thing I want to mention. We have a very busy restaurant here, and we are looking at 50 percent of the restaurant meals being plant-based by 2025.
We’re looking at doing our part. I think our overall goal is to be climate-positive by 2030.
How does your role as the store’s market manager help you make a positive impact on the community?
This is as big of a thing for us as sustainability. For years we were called store managers. And they changed it recently to market manager, because the way people shop, our interactions with the community, and everything else is changing.
We want to be a long-term part of the community, so we have a lot of initiatives and actions that we take.
We donate a lot of time. We do beach clean-ups. We have all kinds of projects that we’re working on. We were working with some local high schools where we donated products to help them with their athletic safety.
We have partnerships. We just did a partnership that’s really cool with the Alhambra Theater. And we’ve worked with Sulzbacher here locally.
We want to do even more in the community.
That is such a big thing for us, and it’s a big thing personally. I really want IKEA to be part of the local community. That’s something that’s so important to us here in Jacksonville. You have corporate teams that just come in and open a chain here or a big box retailer there. That’s one thing that kind of separates us: We really, really reach out and want to be part of the community. We’ve only been here three years, so in IKEA terms, it’s new, but over time we want to be in the fabric of the community.
Tell me about your background.
Before I was with IKEA, I came from a more corporate finance background. I worked for a bunch of large firms. And I just wanted a change of pace. I started working 20 years ago at the corporate office in Philadelphia for IKEA.
They wanted me to go out for a couple of years and get some experience in the store. I went to Dallas to open the first store there. I lived in Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte and now Jacksonville, all working at IKEA stores. And I enjoy it, so, I kind of never went back.
How long have you lived in Ponte Vedra?
We’ve been here about two and a half years.
What do you like best about living in this area?
Ponte Vedra is a beach community, but it doesn’t feel busy or crowded or hectic like all the other ones I’ve lived in. I like that it’s relaxed. I think for a beach area, it’s very aesthetically nice, it’s beautiful.
I like golfing, too.
There’s a good feeling of community here, too, so I enjoy that.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Golf would be one. My youngest son plays lacrosse at Ponte Vedra High School so we go to a lot of lacrosse games and outings and stuff like that. Just spending time with my family.
We really like living here. It’s where we’d like to stay.