Vacations to Miami and Columbia University MBA led Simone Mayer toward a career that extends from the best restaurants in the world to home kitchens in Miami Shores and Coconut Grove. “My family lived down here and every time I would come to visit, I would walk on Lincoln Road,” said Mayer, who was born in South Africa. “I just knew that there were lots of opportunities to have a high-end, hip store.”
So she opened a high-end, hip store on Lincoln Road in the late ’90s called real.life.basic. It had a 2,000-square-foot kitchen where up-and-coming chefs like Michael Schwartz, Michelle Bernstein and Lorena Garcia came to host cooking classes (and, later, film TV pilots). Professional chefs who shopped at real.life.basic lamented to Mayer the lack of design-minded, durable plates, bowls and other products available at wholesale. “We had so many people coming from hotels and restaurants that were opening in South Beach, saying, ‘You guys should really do something for the industry because there’s really nothing,’” Mayer said. “So we did.”
She and business partner Mayda Perez in 2002 opened Front of the House (FOH), selling directly to industry professionals and shifting real.life.basic to an e-commerce site. The company added room360 by FOH a few years later, which sells products for hotel rooms and bathrooms. FOH now designs and manufacturers some of the items it carries, and it is determined to be a good player in the hospitality community; it recently donated pantry items to a cooking school in Haiti.
Despite all the positive momentum, Mayer said her customers clamored for her to open another brick-and-mortar version of real.life.basic. In September she obliged, swinging open the doors to a real.life.basic outlet on Biscayne Boulevard that she plans to keep around for “a year or two.”
“It’s an opportunity for people to be able to get their hands on this really cool-looking product collection,” Mayer said. “People can get items that are really made for high-volume commercial use, but they are really, really well priced. I think that is what’s going to resonate for people.”
And FOH isn’t done. The business has purchased the space next door to real.life.basic and will be turning it into an event and cooking venue — or, as Mayer calls it, “a community center for chefs and foodies.”
real.life.basic, 7646 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami; 305-987-2754; reallifebasic.com.