Note: This interview with Jessica Goldman Srebnick, in which she talks lovingly about her father, the legendary Tony Goldman, took place several days before he sadly passed away. Our sympathies are with Jessica and the entire Goldman family.
Jessica Goldman Srebnick is having a less-than-perfect music day. Excited about a new wireless sound system that allows her to play her favorite iTunes songs—little ditties by Bruno Mars, David Guetta and Maroon 5—from any device in her lushly appointed Miami Beach home, she’s trying hard to show it off to her guests. She glides a finger across her iPad, picks a song and perks her head up to listen. Nothing. She runs over to the kitchen wall, pushes a button on a panel that controls speakers throughout the house and...nothing. She heads upstairs to her home office and tries to press play from her desktop computer. Nada. “Ah, technology,” she finally says with a defeated laugh. “Sometimes it can make you look really silly.”
Perhaps, but not even a temperamental, highfalutin music system can unsettle the poised and polished likes of Goldman Srebnick. She is, after all, about as close as we get to royalty in Miami, a bona fide real estate princess. Managing partner and heiress to one of South Florida’s most successful empires, Goldman Properties, she is a creative force behind the transformation of the Wynwood arts district, from gritty neighborhood to cultural epicenter. “We go into neighborhoods when there is no interest, no hope, when it’s dilapidated and dirty and unsafe,” she says, explaining her day job at the real estate company her father, Tony Goldman, launched more than four decades ago. It’s the same company that revitalized New York’s Soho in the 1970s, South Beach’s Ocean Drive in the 1980s and Philadelphia’s Center City in the 1990s. “We identify potential and opportunity. We buy real estate and start to do things to effectuate change. We open restaurants, hotels, bring in really creative, artistic tenants. We create community.”
It is inspiring work, she says, but when she’s home Goldman Srebnick, 42, is focused on forging different kinds of connections—of the more familial kind. A mother to three young boys and wife to Scott, a criminal defense attorney, she’s adamant about making time to spend with family and downright vigilant about what happens around her dinner table (“There are no electronics. There’s no watching television,” she says. “There’s time for that later.”) She invited INDULGE to spend the day with her in her beautiful, bright kitchen, which she calls “the nucleus of our home.”
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Was the kitchen different when you first bought this house?
The kitchen was pretty much this way back then. But after a few years of living here we expanded it and we added the breakfast banquette. It was the best thing we did. We use it everyday. We have our breakfasts and dinners there. Even though we both work very hard, my husband and I make it a point to be home and have family dinner five nights out of the week. It’s our time to be with our children and sit down as a family and talk about each other’s day and what’s happening in the world. And we do it at that banquette. There are no electronics. There’s no watching television. But a lot else happens at that table. We do homework. It’s where we start our day and often its where we end it. Life happens around that table.
Do you cook?
I do, mostly for dinner. I cook everything from brisket to roast chicken to lasagna. My kids are amazing eaters and they love vegetables, which is great. I recently introduced them to Brussels sprouts, and they loved it. In our family, food is always something that brings us together. It’s also an opportunity to explore new things. I always tell the kids: Just try it once. You can’t tell me you don’t like something unless you try it. That goes for food, and that goes for life.
Tell me about the color red in your kitchen. It starts at the door.
Yes, the door was already red when we bought the house. I thought it was so much fun and cheerful, this fire engine-red door. So we took that and brought it inside. I’m not afraid of bold color. Recently, we had to redo the banquette because it was filthy from years of my children dumping things on it. And we were going to change the fabric to something black and white, but I just couldn’t do it. I need my red. It makes it happy.
And what’s with the cows?
I don’t necessarily have any particular love of cows. My first was the big one on the wall. I thought it was kind of playful and unexpected, welcoming and friendly. And it makes me feel like I’m never alone in the room. I think when you pick something, whether its an animal or a color, antique dishes or unusual mugs, and you collect them it shows a little window into your personality.
What’s your favorite appliance in the kitchen?
Well, I don’t drink coffee so it’s not the coffee maker. I’m not really attached to any of the appliances. But one of my favorite things in here is my wall calendar. It’s a simple dry-erase calendar I got from Pottery Barn Kids about a year ago. It tells everybody in the house everything that’s going on. If I have to travel, or my husband has to travel, or if we have to go out for an evening. If there are doctor appointments. When camp starts. When school starts. Doctor phone numbers. Grandparent phone numbers. Aunt and uncle phone numbers. Also, we write out a menu for the week and everybody has input. That way, nobody can complain when dinner gets put on the table because everybody has had a say. Having three young boys, you just need to be organized. The calendar keeps me nice and calm. The countertops are white marble, usually a no-no in kitchen design.
We have Carrera gold marble countertops. People thought it was a little crazy because they said they would get stained. But I have not found that to be the truth. It’s classic and modern. I think it’s really important when you’re designing a kitchen to do things that are timeless, that you’re not going to tire of. A kitchen is a very large investment. You want to make sure it will have staying power. So I like picking things that are elegant and classic, then throwing in the cows and the red to have fun.
You also have family photographs everywhere.
I love being surrounded by pictures. And I want my children to be exposed to all the members of their family even if they live in other places. So I cover my walls with great, happy faces and it keeps everybody together. It keeps everybody close.
One of your most recent work projects was the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. Is there a connection between your kitchen and theirs?
I think the way in which people eat has changed. The trend has gone more toward less formality in eating. At the Wynwood Kitchen the concept is all about small plates and lots of different flavors, a very social thing. We wanted to create a place that was welcoming, inviting, and friendly but that still has a wow pop of flavor when you eat and a wow pop when you look around and see the world-class art. There’s a lot of excitement and energy. I think it’s how I approach my home life. There’s a lot of excitement and energy in my house and in my kitchen.
Before joining your family’s business, you were the Associate Fashion Director at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Why did you decide to leave fashion?
I went into the executive training program at Saks after I graduated from college and I ended up staying there for a little over five years. I became the Associate Fashion Director for the whole company, a tremendous job. It was a blast and a lot of hard work. But I wanted to run my own business. So I was applying to graduate schools, and then I had one of those conversations that you remember for the rest of your life. It was with my mother. She said: “Your father is doing extraordinary things in his work. Why don’t you take the opportunity to go to the Tony Goldman school of business.” So I agreed to do it for a year. And I never left.
You’ve been named one of the 100 most influential people in Miami. Who has been the most important influence on your life?
I have different influences for different reasons. My mother has shown me that women can do it all. You can be a successful working woman, a really good mother, a devoted and loving wife and a good friend. My father has obviously been an enormous influence, as well; he challenges me to take risks and helps me push myself and my creativity and my work ethic. He’s the hardest working person I’ve ever met in my life. My husband inspires me to be the most loving person for him because he is for me. There’s also an organization that I am a part of called the Young Presidents Organization; from a professional standpoint, it’s been a very big influence in my life because of the people I’ve met through it. I’ve learned from them how to be a better, stronger leader.
So what’s next?
Getting my dad to write a book! We want him to write his amazing story. And we’re very focused on Wynwood. We’re not even close to being done there. We’re going to do some exciting retail and residential projects. You’re going to see more creative retail, not necessarily big brands because Wynwood is about creativity. As is your home and your kitchen, right?
Exactly. I like art that makes me happy. I like design that makes me happy. I like music that makes me happy. What you create for your environment is of your choosing. How you see the things around you is also of your choosing. It’s about your perspective, how you look at life. There is beauty and positive in everything. In a bad day. In a dilapidated neighborhood. We’ve made a business out of seeing the positive. And I try to live my life like that as well.