In the corner of the lobby of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, in a well-lit shop, stands a man in a fitted suit, micro-patterned dress shirt with a gold tie tack, all anchored with a pair of designer wingtips.
Dale Turner's sartorial tastes complement his position as Promenade gift shop's buyer/manager, a venue known for its Mezzo Mugs (refills at Intermezzo, the venue's café, are 88 cents), luxurious scarves, elegant jewelry, classic toys and a selection of many items that would be at home on an old Hollywood set.
"My entire philosophy in retail is showbiz," Turner said. "In my first job in retail, I tried to bring as much showbiz into it as I could, and here I ended up in a showbiz atmosphere, so it all kind of worked very well for me."
Promenade is known for its "bright and cheery" atmosphere, Turner said. Originally an art gallery, the long space was converted in 1982 into a gift shop. Its "Wall of Windows," a glass shelf of featured items, receives a lot of attention. Turner said that the shop's greeting cards, gear clocks, jewelry and wind-up toys are some of its best sellers, especially during the holiday season.
"Promenade is just a neat place to shop," he said. "It's unique to the area also in that all the proceeds from the shop go back right into Krannert Center. When you shop with us you support the arts."
As the buyer/manager, Turner makes sure that patrons enter and leave the store happy.
"Even today we're making change for people to feed the parking meters," Turner says, "So we're really a customer-oriented service."
He remembers regular customers by their first name and asks them how they're doing, always with a jovial manner.
"Working with customers," Turner said, "I've learned over all these years in retail that I'm a people person, and I enjoy the banter I have with customers and getting to know them."
A UI graduate who grew up in Champaign, Turner never found a reason to leave. He still keeps in contact with childhood friends from his scouting days.
When Turner is not at work, he pursues his strong interests in dance and theater. He says he developed this interest about 30 years ago through a friend who worked at the National Academy of Arts. Since then, he has been a regular patron at Krannert Center.
"I guess that interest is what I do at work and away from work," Turner said.
Turner has always worked in retail. His first long-term job lasted for 24 years before the company folded. As a regular Krannert Center patron, Turner found an opening at Promenade and now, 17 years later, Turner said the best part of his job is working closely with Krannert Center employees.
"There's an incredible amount of creativity going on here," Turner said. "Working with the marketing team, that entire group is just a hotbed of creativity."
Turner's day varies depending on Krannert Center's events. Store traffic surges during theater performances (usually Tuesdays through Saturdays, with a few Sundays thrown in) and the free Krannert Uncorked wine tastings on Thursday nights. Recently, Turner was involved with Corporate Circuit Night, an event that honors Krannert Center sponsors.
"There is no typical day," Turner said. "It changes all the time, which is the beauty of working here."
Regardless of how busy he is, Turner will always make time for his customers.
"Thank you, ma'am!" he says and waves like a showman to a patron leaving the shop. "Appreciate you shopping with us! You did a good job!"