This annual Platinum issue highlights some of Sarasota’s most glittering treasures, from exceptional private collections to our “Platinum 100” list of the city’s top luxury retailers. Luxury can mean different things to different people, of course; as an estate-sale addict, I know that one person’s junk can be someone else’s precious discovery.
And what we consider luxurious changes at every stage of life. My boyfriend, George, who grew up on the remote Caribbean island of St. Lucia, still rhapsodizes about his first taste of luxury. On his way home from school, he stopped by the little hotel where his mother worked as a maid, and she took him into the kitchen and served him his first-ever piece of a dark, thrilling confection she explained was called “coffee cake.” My first adult luxury was the washing machine my then-husband and I bought when he got his first raise. Lying on our sofa, forever freed from those trips to the laundromat, I listened to that miraculous machine churning away and felt like the Queen of Sheba.
Sarasota is full of high achievers, many who started with little and ended up enjoying great success. I asked a few to look back at the first real luxury they could afford.
Stanley Kane, retired owner of a food conglomerate: About a year after [his late wife] Janet and I were married, we bought a little house in New Rochelle. She was pregnant with our first daughter. It was a three-bedroom house with a small kitchen. It cost $19,000, and we needed a first and second mortgage to afford it. When I realized I could save on the commission if I were a real estate salesman, I studied for the test and passed it. That saved $300. At that point, I was working in my parents’ small grocery business. I never imagined what I would later accomplish. I had never owned anything before, and owning that house was a thrill—of course, we didn’t really own it until we paid those mortgages off!
Dwight Currie, associate director, Ringling Museum programs: In my 20s, I was working in New York. Every weekend, my friend, Nancy, and I would buy half-price $10 tickets to whatever Broadway play was available. Sometimes—I shouldn’t admit this—we would “second act”—rather than buying tickets, we’d hang out with the crowd outside during intermission, trying to look like we belonged, and then walk in and search for two empty seats. One Saturday, I realized I could afford to spring for two half-price tickets and could see two shows in one day. I still remember that moment.
Nancy Krohngold, partner, Nancy’s B-B-Q: The day I graduated from George Washington University in D.C., I took my car to a car wash for the first time. It felt a little awkward to be standing there while other people did the manual labor, but it was such an epiphany—“I don’t have to hook up the hose and do this myself, I can pay someone else $3 to do it!” The funny thing is, I’m now back to washing my own car—the restaurant has a van and it’s so big that they’d charge me like a truck at the car wash, so I’ve been doing it myself.
Wendy Surkis, board president, Sarasota Museum of Art: My big luxury was my first mink coat. I was about 30, and in my career in advertising, I had come to the point where I was earning significant dollars. It was a work-hard reward. The coat was full-length and black. It was so cold in New York, and that coat was so warm as well as beautiful. I was excited the first time I wore it, but I also felt self-conscious. It took some getting used to.
Paul Caragiulo, restaurateur and city commissioner: About five years ago, my four brothers and I put our money together to buy a vacation home. We never could have afforded it alone. It was a watershed moment—symbolic of our success. I did the architectural plans and worked with the contractor and my brother, Mark, did the fine-tuning and interior work. It’s in a big clearing in the mountains of North Georgia, surrounded on three sides by the Chattahoochee National Park. When we’re there, we don’t even leave the property—we just fish and cook.