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Industry News

Football coach Dabo Swinney revisits days in shopping center industry

November 21, 2019

Clemson University Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney spent two years as a shopping center leasing professional in the early 2000s, and one of the tenants he signed during that time has grown into a multimillion-dollar operation.

Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers reacts with players before their game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Clemson, South Carolina.

After being released from the coaching staff at his alma mater the University of Alabama at the end of the 2000 season, the 31-year-old Swinney took a job working at AIG Baker for his former strength coach.

He recruited bakers Dena Tripp and Debbie Shwetz to open their second Nothing Bundt Cakes store at a project in Las Vegas the company was developing. “It was kind of a hot spot,” Swinney told the Upstate Business Journal. “Everybody wanted to be there. We had major national tenants like Nordstrom Rack, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Dena and Debbie were two gals who had called me several times. Basically, they were working out of their kitchen. They were great, just great.”

“We were barely keeping our heads above water, but we knew we needed to expand,” Tripp told the publication. “We had this fabulous, high-quality product with a really unique name. We were fairly new. We didn’t have a big financial package, but Dabo really went to bat for us.”

Schwetz and Tripp signed the lease, and Swinney ended up taking a job coaching at Clemson University before the Nothing Bundt Cakes store opened.

“Many years later, I was in Nashville and there’s a Nothing Bundt Cakes,” Swinney. “It took my breath away! I actually Googled it, and they’re like 200 stores all over the country, and a couple outside the country.”

Shwetz retired from Nothing Bundt Cakes three years ago. Tripp continues to run the company, which still operates in the space Swinney leased to them all those years ago.

Meanwile Swinney left the shopping center industry after being recruited back to Clemson University. He went on to lead the Clemson Tigers to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff National Championship. As of April, 2019, Swinney is the highest paid coach in the history of college athletics, according to Wikipedia.

Swinney said recruiting quality tenants is like recruiting football players for a well-balanced team. “It’s very similar,” he says. “You just get a sense. You’ve got to have the right fit. When you’re in the shopping-center business, your tenant mix is important, and the chemistry of the tenants. You might get some of those five-star recruits who don’t pan out, and sometimes those who weren’t highly rated coming out, turn out to be some of the best tenants you have.”

By Brannon Boswell

Executive Editor, Commerce + Communities Today

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