Alumni Profiles

Believing in the Brand

Dorothy Kiely

At the end of her first day of work at her first full-time job, Dorothy Kiely told her mother that she hoped she could make a difference in her new workplace, Bloomingdale’s flagship store in Manhattan. Kiely RC’86, who entered the luxury store’s executive training program immediately after graduating from Rutgers, needn’t have been concerned. Some three and a half decades later, she is senior vice president for Bloomingdale’s three New York City stores.

Kiely acknowledges how unusual this type of longevity is today, attributing it to the evolution of the company and the opportunities she has been afforded. The latter include stints as a merchant, positions in multiple stores across the country, and becoming the first woman to assume the position she now holds. “Nothing is forever,” she says, “but so far, it has continued to be a great match.”

A career in retail was not originally on Kiely’s radar. An English major at Rutgers, she took a variety of courses across the liberal arts. Coming to the sprawling College Avenue campus from a small school system, she recalls being excited by the dynamism and diversity of the student body, as well as the challenge of navigating her way around a large university. When it came time to consider her career path, she took the same open-minded approach. After coming across a Bloomingdale’s flyer posted at Rutgers’ career services office, Kiely interviewed for and received an offer to join the store’s competitive training program. “There was an energy and a passion that I was drawn to,” she recalls.

Kiely started out at Bloomingdale’s at a time of national prosperity, but she’s also been present for some of the most challenging moments in the store’s history, including the aftermath of 9/11 and, more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

Kiely’s high-pressure job has many exciting and gratifying moments, she says. Often, this includes interacting with clients or taking part in the store’s many events, some of which feature celebrities. In 2019, she appeared on an episode of Shark Tank, when she chose that year’s Bloomingdale’s Santa with help from a business featured on the program.

Apart from her work, Kiely’s great love is for her family. She credits her collaborative relationship with her husband for making it possible to remain an involved parent to their two now-grown children while continuing to take on more professional responsibility. International travel has been an important part of her family life, and she always takes time to shop for locally made treasures wherever she travels. Italy and Spain are two favorite destinations. “I never miss a great street or food market either, [which] gives you a concentrated sense of the people and culture,” she says.

Looking at the prospects for the next generation of young people interested in the retail industry, Kiely notes that opportunities are available and cites Bloomingdale’s ongoing commitment to recruiting “vibrant, diverse talent.” With regard to her own future, Kiely remains enthusiastic. “I’m doing the most engaging work of my career,” she says. “I believe Bloomingdale’s best days are still ahead. I like to think the same is true for me.

“Every day when I leave the flagship store and cross the street, I look back and remind myself of the responsibility I have as a steward of this 150-year-old iconic brand. It’s pretty remarkable that the same feeling of excitement I had in the beginning is still there.”