Embodying empowerment

Nancy Ozbek (pictured with husband) is the General Manager of Times Square Center
Nancy Ozbek (pictured with husband) is the General Manager of Times Square Center

Meet 'Picnic Square': a business space for and by women. Nancy Ozbek is the brains behind it



By Nisthula Nagarajan

Published: Thu 22 Apr 2021, 7:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 25 Apr 2021, 10:05 PM

Nancy Ozbek arrived in Dubai in 1997 and her idea was to get a few years experience and then head home. She fell in love with the UAE and over the years enjoyed watching the vast growth and incredible improvement that the country has seen. She is a multi-tasker extraordinaire who found that she needed to explore every possible talent of hers. From being an olympian to now the General Manager of Times Square Center, Ozbek has come a long way. In her role, she has been instrumental in creating 'Picnic Square'.

The Picnic Square is all about embracing a community-focused lifestyle, considers itself a 'family experimental centre'. Its DNA embodies a healthy lifestyle, education, community, family and sustainability. At Picnic Square, the aim is to bring the small retailers, the farm to table, fresh produce and the 'mumpreneurs' together to offer delicious, healthy food to shoppers and visitors. Ozbek and her team felt that there was a gap in the market for a truly family-friendly F&B destination, and through their passion for nurturing local entrepreneurs, they have been able to bring this fresh concept to life.

Current culinary offerings located in Picnic Square include Baby Eats, the only baby and toddler meal plan concept successfully operating across all seven emirates.

Instead of the homogeneous food court offerings found in the majority of malls Picnic Square aims to bring 'less fast food, more good food' eatery options to shoppers. As the final piece of the puzzle in a long-term community focus Picnic Square has worked hard to carve out a family-friendly niche in the market. Easily accessible from the majority of communities in Dubai, Times Square is perfectly placed to attract a family crowd. In line with Times Square Center's sustainability focus and ongoing vision, it has commissioned Summertown Interiors, a specialist sustainable contractor to execute the fit-out. Summertown Interiors, with a female-led project team, will also assist Times Square in attaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the new community, family-focused dining area.

The future for space

In order to complete Picnic Square, the centre is on the hunt for brands that are family-focused and will add quality and value to Picnic Square. Set to become the 'beating heart' of the family-orientated community mall, the unique new concept will incorporate stylish, new functional dining areas; greenery-filled and open welcoming spaces.

Safe space for mums

Picnic Square includes kid-sized table and chair seating filling the majority of the space while contrasting accents of shrubbery and greenery add a literal breath of fresh air. Well-thought-out 'private pods' will allow mums looking for a bit of privacy, the ability to feed their babies out of view from other shoppers.

The UAE's support

Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The one thing all nationalities that reside here have in common is the fact that they all love to eat and believe that the best foods are generally home-grown.

Ozbek says, "The culture of the UAE has always had something of an entrepreneurial attitude and is shifting towards locally founded artisanal brands, small businesses and start-ups, accelerated in part by Covid-19. Consumers are craving stories behind brands and prefer to support a micro-entrepreneur rather than a faceless chain. Dubai Chamber has even narrowed its focus to encompass the small and medium businesses sector and is currently preparing to launch a new programme for more established startups in Dubai."


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