Our Mission

Learn who we are and how we serve our community


Meet our leaders, trustees and team


Developing the next generation of talent


Covering the latest news and trends in the marketplaces industry

Industry Insights

Check out wide-ranging resources that educate and inspire

Government Relations & Public Policy

Learn about the governmental initiatives we support


Connect with other professionals at a local, regional or national event

Virtual Series

Find webinars from industry experts on the latest topics and trends

Professional Development

Grow your skills online, in a class or at an event with expert guidance

Find Members

Access our Member Directory and connect with colleagues

ICSC Networking Platform

Get recommended matches for new business partners

Student Resources

Find tools to support your education and professional development

Become a Member

Learn about how to join ICSC and the benefits of membership

Renew Membership

Stay connected with ICSC and continue to receive membership benefits


A Straightforward Approach to Lease Dealmaking from ICSC Foundation Mary Lou Fiala Fellow Evie Gross: Don’t Fear Rejection, and Find Ways to Get a Yes

June 5, 2023

“I don’t have a fear of rejection,” said Brixmor director of national accounts Evie Gross, one of this year’s two ICSC Foundation Mary Lou Fiala Fellows. “I think I’m missing that gene in my body, but thank God because it helps me be good at my job.”

It’s this fearlessness, as well as persistence, that has propelled Gross to become one of Brixmor’s most active leasing dealmakers. Last year, she signed 55 new leases, equating to 245,775 square feet. She has relationships with top national retailers including Tesla, Xponential Fitness and Bath & Body Works. She succeeds, in part, because she cares about her clients and is attentive to what they’re looking for, said her boss, executive vice president and chief revenue officer Brian Finnegan. But just as important, Finnegan said, “she doesn't take no for an answer. She always tries to find ways to get to yes. She recognizes, too, that things may change — this is not a static business — so a no today could be a yes tomorrow.”

Perhaps nothing demonstrates this perspective better than Gross’ relationship with Bath & Body Works. When she started meeting with representatives of the retailer at ICSC events in the late 2010s, she said, “they told me no to every single site I presented because they were a majority mall-based retailer. Over the years, instead of stopping scheduling these meetings, I just continued to reach out.” In 2018 while in Columbus, Ohio, for a meeting with Big Lots, for example, she contacted Bath & Body Works to request a portfolio review. “They were unavailable. They were busy, but truthfully, I don’t think they were all that interested in meeting with Brixmor,” she recalled. Nonetheless, as a result of the outreach, Gross got Andy Lane, then senior vice president of real estate at the retailer, to agree to a coffee meeting with Finnegan at Bath & Body Works’ office.

Though Bath & Body Works resisted meeting with Brixmor, the retailer eventually acquiesced thanks to national accounts director Evie Gross’ persistence. Brixmor changed Bath & Body Works’ mind, and since 2020, the retailer has signed 14 new leases with the landlord and remodeled 10 existing locations, including the above expansion at Frisco, Texas’s Centre at Preston Ridge.

It was a pivotal moment. “He told us candidly that he didn’t really have a great impression of Brixmor’s centers, [as] they hadn’t traditionally been heavily invested in,” Gross recalled. That opening allowed Gross and Finnegan to explain everything the company was doing to reinvest in its centers. “Evie really spearheaded the effort to get them to look at our portfolio again and to really see the changes that we were making,” Finnegan recalled. Deals started moving, and since 2020, Bath & Body Works has signed 14 leases with Brixmor and has reinvested and remodeled in 10 locations it had been leasing from Brixmor. “Evie developed a real level of trust there that’s continued to this day,” Finnegan said. Gross constantly puts new opportunities in front of the retailer. “I really know their long-term strategy of what they’re looking for, what malls are declining and where they would consider relocating out of in the next three to five years,” she said.

Her Entry into Commercial Real Estate

Her competitive drive is inherited. Her grandparents owned three jewelry stores around the St. Petersburg/Tampa, Florida, area, and her dad owns a video production company. “We regularly spoke about business at the dinner table,” she said. “There’s a saying — “never up, never in,” which basically means “why not try?” — that they always used,” Gross said, adding: “I grew up believing if you don’t try, you definitely won’t get where you want to go. They always emphasized that there was no shame in asking.”

Gross didn’t start out dreaming of closing retail real estate deals. She started out in fashion. After graduating from Boston University in 2013 with a degree in business, she entered the executive training program at Lord & Taylor. She advanced to an assistant buyer role, managing a $100 million budget for purchasing merchandise. Among other responsibilities, she evaluated stores based on the product sold there, but she wondered whether the real estate and locations of the stores affected sales performance, as well.

These questions and her own dissatisfaction with the job led her to a conversation with a close childhood friend, Eve Sembler, who was working at Brixmor. Sembler believed the traits that made Gross successful in fashion — persistence, creativity, relationship-building skills — would transfer well to the commercial real estate industry and to Brixmor. “If it was anyone else, I might not have listened so closely, but I trusted her,” Gross said.

When Brixmor promoted Sembler to the peripheral leasing team, Gross took over her position as national accounts representative and Sembler taught Gross the ropes. “I will never forget that my first LOI negotiation took place on the phone with a Cricket Wireless dealer,” Gross said. “They would say something, and then Eve would put it on mute and explain what they just said and help me with my response.” Because there were such long pauses between Gross’ responses, the Cricket team sometimes would start to renegotiate against themselves, Gross recalled. The experience was humorous, but it also taught strategy. “I couldn’t have learned the business without that hands-on help,” she said.

What It’s All Led To

Today, Gross is the one providing that hands-on education. In 2020, she and a co-worker started a series called Tenant Spotlight. Every other month, Gross brings in a tenant to talk to Brixmor’s entire 500-plus team, from leasing and legal to IT and construction, about what the tenant is doing, how it’s expanding, what its pain points are, and how they’re driving business. That has included Gross’ accounts like Jersey Mike’s Subs and Xponential Fitness. Such interactions have led not only to new deals but also to a better awareness of the retailers, Finnegan said. “What’s come out of them is a better understanding of what this tenant will accept. It’s certainly helped with delivery conditions and some best practices to get leases done faster and tenants open sooner.”

These gatherings correlate to Gross’ other strength as a dealmaker: relationship and community building, something she excels at both inside and outside work. When Gross lived in New York, she was infamous for arranging intimate, cell-phone free, Friday night dinners with diverse people. “New York can feel like such an overwhelming city,” she said. The dinners helped create connections, and one even resulted in a wedding.

Craving connections with women in similar retail positions when COVID started, Gross gathered mid-level female retail professionals from other landlords on Zoom to mentor each other through life and job situations. They’ve met in person once. “It’s kind of like a support group,” Gross said. “The candor and the transparency we share with each other is really unmatched. I’m amazed at how engaged and eager everyone is to collaborate, even among competitive companies.”

It was this experience, in fact, that inspired Gross to apply for the ICSC Foundation’s Mary Lou Fiala Fellowship, a year-long leadership and professional development program that prepares talented young women for senior-level executive positions in the Marketplaces Industry. “I saw how incredible it is to have other female support in the business,” Gross said. “These are my peers, but I’d love to have female mentors who are incredibly successful in the industry already.”

She was at her family’s home in Tampa for Passover when she found out she’d won the fellowship. “It was really exciting news, and I got to share it with my whole family,” she said. The fellowship pairs each fellow with four women in senior-level positions in the Marketplaces Industry. Each fellow also participates in a formal, executive leadership education and training program or executive coaching sessions and receives complimentary registration and hotel accommodations at ICSC LAS VEGAS, as well as the opportunity to attend high-level networking and leadership events.

One of her goals for the fellowship is to gain exposure to different facets of commercial real estate and to get new frames of reference on operations. “My entire career has been at Brixmor,” she said. “I look at everything from the perspective of a landlord and a publicly traded company. It’s a great perspective and a great place to be, but I want to learn other ways of thinking and other skill sets that I’m interested in.”

Gross’ ultimate goal is to serve on an executive team. “Right now, I’m just a pure dealmaker, which I love, but I also really see myself leading a team and inspiring and mentoring other people who are just starting out because I benefited from that greatly,” she said.

One lesson she’d pass along: Don’t be afraid to take the leap. It’s what her father said to her when she was first debating a career change. “I told him I didn’t know the terminology. ‘I don’t know how to make a deal,’” she said. “And he just told me: ‘You have the soft skills, and that’s harder to teach than anything you learn in business.’”

And, as he reminded her: “Never up. never in.”

By Rebecca Meiser

Contributor, Commerce + Communities Today and Small Business Center

Small Business Center

ICSC champions small and emerging businesses in getting from business plan to brick-and-mortar.

Learn more