I was working as a waiter at the Netherlands Hotel on Ocean Drive in 1941.
I loved Miami Beach and came down every winter to work and play. War broke out, and I decided to join the Army Air Corp.
Fast-forward to 1963 in St. Louis, Mo. I met my wife, Audrey. We married in ’64 and moved to Miami Beach in ’65. Finding it hard to get a job to my liking, I decided to try my hand at the News and Book Store on Alton Road.
After a couple of tough years, I turned it into the “Joe’s Stone Crab” of the news business. Miami Beach had a reputation of being a tough place to do business. I found it just the opposite. Success is so often achieved by welcoming your customers, getting to know them by name and establishing a rapport.
Although so often many celebs crossed our threshold, my regular customers created my success. Now I’ll drop a few names: Sports figures: Roy Rubin (basketball), Eddie Dibbs (tennis, my favorite), Lou Thesz (Wrestling), Bear Bryant, Rony Seikaly, Brooks Robinson and the Rolle brothers. Politicians: Robert Rubin, Abe Ribicoff, and Alcee Hastings. TV/Movies: Larry King, all the Bee Gees and Michael Caine.
Author Ayn Rand and the artist Roy Lichtenstein, among others. The gifted author Tom Harris graciously autographed all of his books in my store one day, Silence of the Lambs, Black Sunday and Red Dragon. The cast of Miami Vice came in frequently when they were taping next door. Meyer Lansky would often call on Sunday mornings from a nearby deli offering to bring me a corned-beef sandwich and to see if the New York papers had arrived.
A memorable time in business was the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, when I rented the loft upstairs in my building to the “Chicago 7.” Another time was the 1980 Mariel boatlift, which caused a downturn in business for a few years. When business is good, always remember to put something away for the bad times. During my time in business, I put four children through college – two of them are doctors, and the other two are successful in their own fields.
I closed the store after 30 years in ’95. I enjoyed every day. I miss my daily visits with so many, and I’ve kept close connections with a few. We moved to Quayside in ’98, and I resumed playing tennis, going to the track until foot surgery in ’08 curbed my activities. Now I’m heavily into spectator sports.
Thinking back on my life, I was born in Connecticut, served two and a half years in the China/Burma/India campaign during World War II, settled for a time in St. Louis, then decided to return to the place I always loved and wanted to call home: Miami Beach and now Miami.