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July 29th, 2009Changing of the guard

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by Emma James

Mention Cortana Mall in a conversation, and you’ll get a wealth of responses ranging from recollections of the mall’s opening in 1976 at Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard to comments on the new rebranding campaign launched this year.

Percy Singleton, 47, has heard them all. Cortana’s new general manager inherited the position from Norman Landry, who served in that role for 30 years before moving into a semi-retired position as community liaison and an adviser for mall operations. It’s not a responsibility Singleton takes lightly.

Singleton knows each nook and cranny of the mall because of long hours spent in housekeeping and security as well as management. Singleton’s face lights up as he talks about his vision for the decades-old shopping center, and he punctuates his points with hand gestures and an excited tone.

Managing Cortana isn’t just a job. It’s a legacy.

“I’ve been at Cortana for 30 years in some form or fashion,” Singleton says. “Cortana has been in this community for a long time. It’s a part of Baton Rouge, and I foresee it having a brighter future to come.”

Singleton was 17 years old when he began his career at Cortana. Singleton, an all-district and all-parish linebacker at Glen Oaks High School, had big dreams of a career in professional football. But during the fourth quarter of the last game of the season, he was clipped, tearing ligaments in his knee. Doctors said he had played his last game.

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