In dire need to escape the Nazi regime of WWII, thousands of Orthodox Jews fled their countries in search of a better life across the Atlantic. Many of them were established European jewelers looking for new opportunities abroad and a chance at a fresh start. At the time, NYC city jewelry centers were competitive and crowded, so the newcomers started setting roots on 47th street transforming the small area of the city into what is now known as the diamond district. Other cities eventually followed suit. LA, Chicago with Jewelers Row and eventually this process touched Miami.
I was first introduced to the in the late 90’s shortly after moving to Miami and immediately fell in love with its character. It exudes uniqueness, style and panache. If you are a Miamian you know it as the place to go when looking for an engagement ring, a luxury watch or any other unique bling that might satisfy a consumer’s lusty appetite. A historical structure that dates back to the 1920’s, the building occupies 166,000 sq ft and is dubbed as the second largest diamond and jewelry center in the United States.
Family operated out of Connecticut by the Fusco family, the Seybold has a long history. In an attempt to better understand this Miami landmark, , I interviewed the current owner Lynn Fusco.
Matilda Kalaveshi: What makes the Seybold building such a Miami landmark?
Lynn Fusco: The word iconic is overused these days but the Seybold building is defined by the word iconic. With well over 50 years of serving primarily as a retail and wholesale jewelry building, our 100,000 ft location is a Miami landmark. A landmark that has successfully served the greater Florida market and tourists reliably through the years. In looking at our tenant list, most businesses on the third floor are third generation owners. I have grown up with them and their families. It is very rare these days, except in NY possibly, to have a retail business survive these many years while keeping their clientele base. Other than landmark status, the Seybold has a longstanding reputation and relationship with its local clients.
MK: From a business perspective, what are some of the strengths of the Seybold?
LF: Actually, our tenants are the strength. We are very fortunate to have great people in the building who take their reputation very seriously and that shows in the quality of products and services that they provide. Additionally, we see our building as an ecosystem made up of ten floors. Each floor gives you the same experience and compliments the services of each tenant. We have a remarkable range of vendors whose services include buying, repairing, cleaning, reselling. This ecosystem operates harmoniously together and can bring to life a piece of jewelry you saw in a glossy magazine from start to finish at a wholesale price! Very few buildings offer that. Ultimately, we are a big knowledge center as generation after generation all these jewelers have and continue to educate their customers. Ultimately, there is nothing special about ownership without quality tenants.
MK: How do you support your tenants in their day to day business?
LF: All our tenants attend trade shows around the world such as Basel in Switzerland, Jewelry & Gem Fair in Hong Kong and Magic in Las Vegas. The tenants are well known in the industry and also well educated. Our job is to support them on their day to day needs. Everything is very personal as we have known each other for years and have close relationships with them and their families. We have phone touch bases and keep close contact with them. Currently the building is under renovation. Zyscovich Architects were awarded this important project as they understood the history and design of the building. We will replace 1000 windows, (800 done already) and redoing the front façade and adding a jewelry exchange. We think these improvements will aid the tenants’ businesses in a positive way.
MK: What is your ultimate goal with Seybold? What does the future hold?
LF: We aim to continue serving our community, supporting our tenants, keep a diverse tenant mix and help these families thrive. We are a vertical mall with long term tenants and as long as we take care of them, they will bring in the business. After all retail is about density and human interaction. Additionally, we have put together some events that have proven to be successful such as the Bling It On event benefiting Strong Girls Inc., an organization helping young, disadvantaged girls. We hope to continue finding ways to bring the community together.
MK: Do you think downtown Miami is the right area for this type of retail business long term?
LF: Yes, just looking outside at all the high rises, cranes and buildings coming up. Brightline is within walking distance from us, the area has an unbelievable future. Sure, there has been some loss of retail but that is due to technology. Amazon has monopolized a lot of product markets including jewelry. However, the money that the city is investing in the area and the remodel of Flagler street will translate to more foot traffic. Additionally, Mana’s investment in the neighborhood is exciting. Art in Miami is important and that is how Mana leads. What Moishe has done is invest a lot of money. He started a movement in Wynwood and will do the same in downtown. He is net positive and will partner with the right people to make his projects come into fruition.
As retail and the economy are at a standstill with no clear strategy of how and when to move forward it is my hope that the businesses within the Seybold building find a way to survive and thrive in the coming months and years.