I love helping people. I want people to leave this store happy, whether they buy anything or not.
Nora Bajrami, Shoppes at Bayshore
To the weary traveler, Nora Bajrami is a breath of fresh air. The Shoppes at Bayshore store supervisor greets each guest passing through with genuine and friendly hello, curious about where they’re, what they’re looking for and how she can help.
“I love helping people,” she said. “I want people to leave this store happy, whether they buy anything or not.”
Nora’s a familiar fixture at TPA, having started at the old Brookstone news convenience store in the middle of the Main Terminal almost 10 years ago, before TPA redeveloped its concessions program. During the concessions redevelopment, Nora moved to NewsLink’s Time Zone/Shades at Airside C and then when Shoppes at Bayshore opened in November, she transferred there as a supervisor.
The bright, eye-popping mini-department store is one of the gems of TPA’s Main Terminal redevelopment and Nora loves creating visuals like the jewelry stands, clothing on the mannequins and holiday table displays of candles, chocolates and other fun gifts. She loves working for her boss and mentor, Juan Barcia, and the NewsLink team, which she said has given her opportunities that she never dreamed would be possible when she first started working at TPA.
“Everyone who works [for the Authority] makes us feel like family and like we’re a part of the same team,” she said. “[TPA CEO] Joe Lopano comes through here all the time and says hi.”
Nora is a natural at her job, having grown up with an interest in décor and design and a long career in retail.
She and her twin brother were born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn by her Albanian grandmother for part of her childhood, an aunt and uncle in Fort Lauderdale for the other part. Her uncle called her "Miss Hollywood," a nod to her flair for fashion and the spotlight. Nora finally moved full-time to Florida when she was 21.
She worked for Publix in Fort Lauderdale for six years, which she really enjoyed, but then her aunt and uncle whom she was living with moved to Tampa and she went with them. There wasn’t an immediate position for her at Publix in Tampa so she began working at Dillard’s at the Brandon mall.
It was there she honed her retail sales skills as well as developing an eye for creating attractive displays that drew customers in and helped sell clothing and merchandise. She also worked for a teen clothing store called Gadzooks – later acquired by Forever 21 – and became a pro at developing certain looks for different buyers and working with the latest trends.
When she came to the Airport, she discovered a completely different variety of customers – business people in a hurry, couples on vacation, families looking for items to entertain children on flights. More and more lately – especially at Shoppes at Bayshore – she’s seeing fashion-conscious customers looking for fun beach-inspired attire, unique jewelry pieces and other clothing and gifts that remind them of Tampa Bay.
“One lady from New York came in here and spent $900 on clothing in one stop,” Nora said. “She said she doesn’t find looks like this back home.”
Nora begins her day in the 24-hour store at 4 a.m. and goes home around noon, and spends her evenings and weekends with her husband Bobby, a scrapyard worker, and her 6-year-old son Dylan and 1-year-old daughter Neime, named after her grandmother.
When she’s not working or spending time with her children, Nora loves to make custom-designed letter artwork for children’s nurseries and bedrooms and refurbish old furniture to create vintage looks. She does a lot of fashion hunting at Goodwill. Her career in retail has given her a special gift for finding the right pieces and the right fit, no matter what budget or occasion.