Jackie Soffer is the CEO and co-chair of Turnberry Associates — one of South Florida’s largest privately owned real estate companies, whose properties include Aventura Mall, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Turnberry Isle Resort & Club and the upcoming Turnberry Ocean Club and SoLe Mia — the latter in collaboration with the LeFrak family. Soffer is a scion of Donald Soffer, who founded Turnberry Associates and created the city of Aventura. And she is also half of one of Miami’s top real estate power couples: In 2015, she married developer Craig Robins, president and CEO of Dacra, who is spearheading the transformation of Miami’s Design District.
The Real Deal sat down with Soffer in her spacious office at Turnberry’s headquarters in Aventura. The interview has been edited for clarity and space.
DOB: Jan. 6, 1966
Lives in: Miami Beach
Family: husband Craig Robins, three children from her previous marriage and three stepchildren
What was your childhood like? I grew up on Miami Beach. We grew up in the largest house in the neighborhood, and there was a lot of fanfare around what my father was doing. I didn’t really like that kids were attracted to that. I never wanted to define myself by that.
When my father was building Aventura and Turnberry, he brought in a lot of top tennis players and celebrities. Jimmy Connors lived in Turnberry; he was one of the original owners. We had Vitas Gerulaitis there, Bjorn Borg was there. They were all there. What my dad would do is bring in a lot of celebrities, and there was a nightclub there, and that was like the nightclub, like that was South Beach, Turnberry nightclub.
So I decided I wanted to go to the University of Colorado because I wanted to get away from the celebrity lifestyle. I was vegetarian at a young age, I stopped eating meat when I was 14. In Colorado they were very into organics before anyone here, very granola, very down to earth, not getting dressed up, not about jewels and watches. I was exposed to a lot as young child, and I kind of knew pretty early on the difference between real people and superficiality, and I really shy away from that superficiality.
Did you always want to join the family business? I wanted to learn from the family business, but I loved Colorado. I was teaching ski school and my dad called me, and he was really upset that I was teaching ski school, and he said, “I didn’t send you to college for four years so you could be a ski school instructor. You need to come back, and you need to come work in the business.” He didn’t make it obligatory for all my siblings, but for whatever reason he did it to me.
My dad was in his 50s. I remember thinking to myself, he’s 50, I should go back to Miami and learn from him, and I need to spend time with my dad because he is so old that God knows how much longer I will have with him because he is 50. So I figured I’ll go back and I’ll live in Miami for two years and then I’ll do my own business in Colorado. But it didn’t happen.
Y ou have every store at your fingertips for shopping. Where do you like to shop? My husband would like to say that I go to the Design District. I do, I’m loyal, so I like to go to the Design District and I like to go to Aventura. We have great stores, we have great offerings. I am excited for our expansion at Aventura. I am excited for Zara, I’m excited for Topshop. Those are going to be offerings that we don’t have right now. Gucci just opened, I love Gucci. That brand has been revived. To me, I do some department store shopping, but for the most part I shop at the smaller stores.
Where did you meet your husband? I met him in a mediation
With all the kids, how do you try to balance your life? I have a hard time doing it. You make your priorities. Thank God for cellphones and cars, because if I didn’t have phone service in my car I wouldn’t be able to get stuff done. I organize my day. I rarely make phone calls from the office; I make most of my phone calls from the car because it’s a better utilization of my time. You just set your priorities. It’s not kids, it’s Craig — he likes to entertain, he is very social, so I have to balance that as well. So it’s work, the kids and Craig and his social activities, so I don’t show up at everything.
Where do you like to vacation? Colorado. I enjoy the mountains. We go rafting every year. We go camping once a year. We spend at least five days on a river somewhere, and we camp out with no electronics, no bathroom, no nothing. We pitch a tent every night. We make our own tents, the kids put up their own tents.
What keeps you up at night? I usually will tell my staff I don’t want any bad news after a certain hour.
Business doesn’t usually keep me up at night, because I try to put everything into perspective, the problems that we have. We all have problems every day, and there are obstacles that present themselves daily, and it’s not fun sometimes. But I try to keep it in perspective, that is what my job is. That is what it is in all of our lives. We have competition, right?
Obviously I am concerned about the environment. It seems that the EPA isn’t concerned about rising water.
Is there anything that’s a hard part of being a Soffer? It’s a lot of work. When you are an owner, it’s not like you just go home and everything shuts off. I have to keep a pen and paper next to my bed so when I think of something I write it down.
I don’t ever really get to shut down like a lot of people do. That’s why we go on these rafting trips. Literally, you come off the river and you’re like, what happened in the world? You don’t know anything, you have no news, nothing.
What legacy do you want to leave for your children in terms of passing on the company? I don’t think like that. My kids should go out and look at what the world has to offer and what they have to offer the world and figure out what they want to do. I think the worst thing you can do is give your kids a sense of entitlement. They are not entitled to what we have. They have been given the gift of an education, and that is their opportunity. They have to make a contribution, and their way of making a contribution may be very different than mine.