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I. Bert Spiegel sits in his studio, located on the lanai, where he paints and conducts small repairs.
Longboat Key Tuesday, Jul. 3, 2012 5 years ago

Neighbors: I. Bert Spiegel

by: Mallory Gnaegy A&E Editor

So far, Longboat Key resident I. Bert Spiegel has lived a joyful and prosperous 90 years.

“I really have no complaints, to tell you the truth,” he says. The soft-spoken man has lived in the same Windward Bay apartment for 42 years.

“I don’t understand when newcomers come here and say we should have much more mercantile business; most people who buy (homes) here don’t want that,” he says. “They want a quiet and lovely place.” It’s why he originally fell in love with the area.

Spiegel was born in Sarasota and lived here until the age of 6, “when the world collapsed,” and the Great Depression forced his father to move the family to Spiegel’s grandfather’s house in New York City.

When he was 8, he foreshadowed that he would marry his 7-year-old neighbor, Milly — by the time he was 16, they were engaged. Their marriage lasted 65 years.

“She was the boss,” he says.

Spiegel lived in New York for 25 years, during which time he worked for his family’s leather- tanning business.

He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps for three years during World War II and then earned a degree in nautical engineering.

Eventually, he and Milly owned five retail women’s boutiques in New York called Boots and Bags. They sold handbags, shoes, jewelry and “whatever we could get a bargain on,” he says with a slight New York accent.

“When hot pants came out, I made them in suede and did nicely in that,” Spiegel laughs. “I have always been handy.”

Because he was in the fashion industry, he dressed the part of an avant-garde businessman — he still does today.

“I was always hip to the style,” Spiegel says. He has shoulder-length silver hair, which he wears in a ponytail, and he’s just as stylish in his 90s as he was in his 30s and 40s.

In 1970, the couple moved to Windward Bay. At that time, the businessman set out to find a local store to own.

“I finally found a store owned by a Greek lady, who was a baker who went out of business but still had a contract for the store,” he says. Because Spiegel had to buy the baking equipment in order to get the store, he decided to try running a café that he named Love and Quiches. His friend told him the most he would make would be $80 a day.

But, without any advertising, on opening day the Spiegels took in $80.

Spiegel thought, “Well, maybe we can do more,” and he decided to open a catering business.

“We worked for every church and institution in town from the Van Wezel to you name it,” he says. Twice, they catered parties for 600 people. One time, they prepared the food for a woman’s wedding one year and then catered her divorce party the next.

Sixteen years later, he opened Posh Nosh on Longboat Key. But Milly was worried the 70-year old Spiegel was working too hard.

“You’re going to die if you keep doing this!” she’d tell him. So, he retired after two years, and Milly sold real estate. Spiegel filled his time boating, swimming and playing tennis. He laughs when he says he painted daily in the small corner Milly allotted him in their apartment. Those were happy days.

“We did very nicely; made loads of friends,” Spiegel says.

Milly died a few years ago, and Spiegel wishes they could have enjoyed more years together. He continues to swim and play tennis; he also paints daily — but now he uses the whole lanai as his studio. He recently entered a watercolor painting into a juried Ringling College of Art and Design show. His beautiful and colorful works brighten the walls of his apartment.

“I’ve been enjoying life,” he says. “I’m a happy type (of) person. I laugh most the time, which is what keeps you from getting crazy.”

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