Warren Beck could have easily been an attorney with the hours he spent poring over documents and leasing contracts. Or he could have been a general contractor with the knack he had for pulling people together for a task.
His leadership got the jobs done. Business partners and friends said Beck was thoughtful and detail-oriented as he approached developments, ready with a breadth of consumer knowledge and patience to see projects through.
Beck helped develop and manage several prominent shopping centers as well as hotels in the Twin Cities area, including the Westbrook Mall in Brooklyn Center, Burnside Plaza in Burnsville, Bonaventure in Minnetonka, the Westin Edina Galleria hotel and Centennial Lakes Plaza in Edina.
His crown jewel was the Galleria in Edina, which he cultivated as an intimate mix of local and national brands that raised the level of retail in the west metro.
Beck died April 26 after a three-year battle with lung cancer. He was 75.
"From 70th and France, which is the Galleria, south to 494, there's not much of it that Warren didn't touch," said Ken Brown, Beck's financial adviser and friend for 40 years.
Beck was born on July 5, 1945, in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, and grew up on his family's farm before moving to Minnesota. He graduated from Bloomington High School.
Beck then attended Gustavus Adolphus College where he studied history. He also wrote for the Gustavus Weekly, rising in the ranks to editor-in-chief. He met his future wife, Donna Gabbert, at chapel choir, and the pair got married while still at Gustavus.
In 1974, Beck and father-in-law Don Gabbert opened the Galleria with the idea to bring in other home retailers to surround the family's free-standing Gabberts Design Studio and Fine Furniture store. As time went by and the mall continued to expand, so did its types of retailers, which included upscale jewelry and accessory brands such as Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton.
"In a way he was a coach," Brown said. "He was assembling a team of really unique retailers."
Though it attracted national brands, the mall continued to be a venue for local stores and restaurants. "Oftentimes, we would forgo the big guy for the little guy because it was the right thing to do," said Jill Noack, former general manager of the Galleria who worked with Beck for about a decade.
Some of the local brands that the Galleria attracted were the Hammer Made and Twill menswear stores.
Beck's eye for detail included adjusting the lighting and music to help the Galleria maintain an intimate ambience that it is hard to find at other malls, she said.
After his time developing shopping malls, Beck focused on the hospitality industry. In 2008, he opened the Westin Edina Galleria hotel with condos, and in 2013, he acquired the Hotel Sofitel Minneapolis and rebranded it as the Sheraton Bloomington.
Paul Wischermann, president and chief executive of Wischermann Partners, worked with Beck to operate the Westin and the Sheraton, and they remained good friends.
"Once he said he was going to do something, he did it," Wischermann said. "You didn't even need a handshake."
In his free time, Beck enjoyed downhill skiing, hiking and showing his Hackney ponies.
He also sang in the choir and served as a deacon and moderator at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis.
Beck is survived by his wife, daughters Paula Beck and Amy Strom, son Peter Beck, sister Marilyn Brooks and five grandchildren.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495