If there ever was a first lady of retail, it would be Tina Lundgren.
She’s stood behind charitable causes like the Ronald McDonald House New York at 405 East 73rd Street in Manhattan which houses families of child cancer patients, and Figure Skating in Harlem, which provides a program of education and skating to empower young girls of color with skills to achieve their dreams.
She’s joined her husband Terry J. Lundgren, executive chairman of Macy’s Inc. and former chief executive officer, at countless industry functions, annual meetings in Cincinnati, and at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, sometimes shivering together in the VIP seating on cold days.
She’s an athlete, running long-distance races and competing in five New York City triathlons to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House New York along with the team of 85 to 90 athletes she organized. This year, a stress fracture sidelined her. The annual gala for RMHNY raised $4.9 million in May, while the triathlon brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Through high school, Lundgren was a competitive figure skater in the singles category. Pairs wasn’t her thing. “I never trusted anyone enough to throw me in the air,” she said. After high school, she taught figure skating and she’s a World Judge in singles and pairs for the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
While Terry Lundgren, as one of the retail industry’s highest-profile executives, relished in his position and all the attention that came with it, Tina gracefully adapted to the demands corporate life put on her and her husband. A native of Columbus, Ohio, she evokes a Midwestern spirit, being laid-back, friendly, funny and modest.
“I just always considered myself Terry’s greatest cheerleader. Being by his side and being able to support him has always been important to me,” she said.
Here, the 51-year-old discusses how she viewed her role as the wife of a Macy’s ceo, her passion for figure skating, her three-year stint as chairperson of Ronald McDonald House New York which ends this fall [she will stay on the board] and what a McDonald’s hamburger does for her.
WWD: What’s expected of you when you are the wife of a major ceo?
Tina Lundgren: There is no job description for being the partner or spouse of a leader, but there are great responsibilities that come with it. It does afford you the opportunity to make a difference and get involved in an organization and meet people who share a common goal. It gives you the opportunity to talk about an organization like the Ronald McDonald House New York and have an impact. I don’t think of myself as having a role outside of anything other than being Terry’s partner. I have enjoyed having a chance to meet so many people, make so many friends. It’s been an honor.
WWD: What led you to the Ronald McDonald House New York?
T.L.: I was looking for an organization to be involved with that was focused on children and health care. I have a deep love for children. [She has two stepdaughters by marriage.] When I learned about the Ronald McDonald House, it seemed like a perfect fit. Bill Sullivan, the ceo at the time, introduced the idea to me. I toured the house and fell in love with it. It was hard to walk out of that house without it tugging on your heart. The first year after visiting the house, I would call my mother and start to cry. I remember she said, “Sweetheart, maybe this isn’t the place for you?” But I realized it was the place. If you take on a role like this, then you have to have an emotional connection to really be effective.
WWD: In the three years you’ve been chairperson, what’s been happening?
T.L.: The House is going strong in terms of building our donor base and bringing in funds. This year, we held our third largest gala, $4.9 million, that is a huge fund-raiser even for New York City. In the last three years, we’ve had two of our top three largest galas. Now we are in the middle of a $23 million expansion and renovation with a $3 million contingency. We will be at 95 rooms, from 84. They very easily fit families of four. We are also creating six post transplant suites, for children with bone marrow transplants or serious operations, all cancer-related. They need to be isolated. Instead of a normal room, we offer the family a suite where moms can cook. There is a play area, a bedroom, living space, a washer/dryer. Those children may not leave that room for six to 12 weeks. We also are revamping and renovating all of the rooms. Each room has its own thermostat. Children treated for cancer may be cold in the summer and hot in the winter. The thing that makes the New York Ronald McDonald House unique is that within the chain of houses, most are for the patients’ families. We are the one house where we house the children and their families. I joined the board nine years ago and three years ago, took on the chairmanship of the board. It’s a three-year term.…We also created a family room at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. It’s a place where parents can leave the rooms of their children for a little while, clean up, have a snack, watch TV, talk to other people and get some respite. The ability of parents to meet other parents going through the exact same thing plays a vital role. It becomes this community. This support system.…We also started a coffee cart program at the Hospital for Special Surgery on York Avenue. It has snacks, toys, coloring books and we serve McDonald’s coffee. The coffee cart is the model for McDonald’s coffee carts that will be used at other Ronald McDonald Houses.
WWD: Who will succeed you as chairman of the board?
T.L.: The new chairperson will be Harris Diamond, vice chairman. I worked with him over the years, which makes for a very easy and smooth transition. With any board or chairperson one of the most important things you do for the organization is to insure the best possible management leading the team.
WWD: Do you eat McDonald’s?
T.L.: It’s when I travel internationally that I’m most likely to stop and have a McDonald’s hamburger. I may not eat many when I am here, but there is something about being in another country for more than five days that makes me want to have a hamburger. McDonald’s makes me feel like I am home. And they do have the best french fries.
WWD: Tell me about Figure Skating in Harlem, another important cause for you.
T.L.: We just expanded to Detroit. It’s our first expansion. The soft opening was at the beginning of this year. It started with about 45 or 50 girls and will grow to more than 100 starting this next school year. It’s all girls. We serve communities in need. We have a 100 percent high school graduation rate, and a zero percent teen pregnancy rate.
WWD: Rumor has it you’re going to the next Olympics.
T.L.: I will be the figure-skating team leader at the 2018 Winter Olympics in February, spending a month in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Hopefully, we bring back a few medals.
WWD: What does an Olympic team leader do?
T.L.: It’s kind of like you are a team manager. You organize the logistics of athletes arriving, monitor practice sessions, manage nutrition, their free time and whereabouts. It’s like I’m their second mom.
WWD: Is life different now that your husband is no longer Macy’s ceo. Are you spending more time together?
T.L.: Frankly, I haven’t noticed a difference. He is still focused on what he has to do. Nothing has really changed for us, but I do look forward to having more time with him and hopefully he can come and support me at the Olympics.…We had many, many nights out, attending industry functions and doing all that. It’s to be expected. It comes with the job. You go with it. Honestly, you enjoy all those experiences, meeting new people. That’s really it.
WWD: Do you ever offer retail advice to your husband?
T.L.: I leave retail to the retail experts, and I focus on things I feel I am better at, like the Ronald McDonald House. As a spouse, I am always there to be supportive.
WWD: What was the best part of being the wife of a Macy’s ceo?
T.L.: If I had to say, the best part was being able to meet so many kind, generous, warm, really fantastic people that make up the retail apparel industry. We’ve make good and true friendships.
WWD: What’s been the most challenging part?
T.L.: I don’t focus on the challenging parts. I focus on really all of the great experiences that come your way.