For this special dR Tampa Bay series, “Real Estate, Real Lives,” we’re profiling six people who work in five disciplines essential to the industry. Hard-working and visionary, thick-skinned and sensitive, they serve their clients above all. And each has a deep and abiding connection with Tampa Bay.
Developers Brian & Debbie Taub: They Do It All Together
“We like to say we keep the seat warm for each other.”
This mom ‘n’ pop shop is no corner deli.
Taub Entities — co-owned and co-operated by Brian and Debbie Taub (pronounced “Towb”) — develops townhomes, office and retail buildings, and high-rise condos (most recently the Bliss tower, a prestigious address in downtown St. Pete).
They have no employees. They are their own project managers. The Taubs gave up office space in a building they developed to do business out of their Harbour Island home in an office outfitted with one desk. “We like to say we keep the seat warm for each other,” Debbie quips.
The couple, married 40 years with three grown daughters and a granddaughter, do not work in separate silos, but instead collaborate on every aspect of the business — from land acquisition to conception to design, right down to interior finishes. They outsource architecture, construction, and other facets, but remain fully entwined in each project from start to finish.
Taub Entities does one project at a time, and no two are the same. Their current endeavor is the much-anticipated 17-story condo building on Bayshore Boulevard called The Sanctuary, due to break ground in early ’19. It’s believed to be the first high-rise in Tampa Bay to feature one residence (3,900 square feet) per floor. The penthouse takes up two floors. Each unit will have customized elements and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views. They range in price from $2.44 million to $6 million. Several have been pre-sold. (Tim Clemmons is the architect; he also designed Bliss.)
“A lot of people’s objections to condo living are about shared walls and a lack of privacy,” Brian says. “The Sanctuary is different. Debbie coined the phrase ‘single family living in the sky.’”
This harmonious partnership dates back to the summer of 1974, when Debbie Simon of Cleveland, Ohio was thumbing through a photo book of incoming freshmen at Ohio State. She spotted a fellow from Akron named Brian Taub and remarked, “I’m going to marry this guy.”
They met on a double date — each was with another person — as first-semester freshmen, and became an item shortly after. Brian and Debbie married during senior year, and after graduation Brian went to work for a construction business owned by Debbie’s family. They arrived in Florida in ’85 when an Ohio savings-and-loan enlisted Brian to set up a satellite office in Boca Raton and take over a $200 million real estate portfolio. He wound up developing and selling the whole shebang.
In the early ’90s, the Taubs would park in a vacant lot on the fringes of the Hyde Park commercial district. They became enticed by its For Sale sign. Recognizing a development opportunity — albeit a counterintuitive one because it was during a real estate lull — they paid $160,000 for the lot and developed four townhomes in accordance with the neighborhood’s historic requirements.
Brian was still working full time for the company that owned Boot Ranch in Palm Harbor, so Debbie was pressed into duty — willingly. They layered a formal business partnership atop their life partnership.
Brian and Debbie followed up with successful residential projects in Harbour Island and ventured across the Bay to develop luxury condo buildings on Sand Key Beach. Taub Entities also built the Whole Foods on 4th Street North in St. Pete and the Bay Tower office building on Bayshore.
All of this activity has meant plenty of together time for the Taubs — more together time than most married couples would dare. So on to the obvious question: What’s their secret? Start with a deep and abiding love, of course. And, as I witnessed sitting with them at their dining room table, they really like each other. “And mutual respect,” Debbie says. “Every decision is mutual or we don’t move forward. We don’t push ideas on each other, which might make the other feel uncomfortable.”
The remarkably fit and youthful couple begin most days with an exercise session, which they do separately. They are generally by each other’s side during work hours but occasionally split up to divide and conquer. Dinners are sacrosanct. “We always eat dinner together,” Debbie says. “Always, always, always.”
Brian chimes in, “And unlike a lot of empty-nesters who eat out five days a week, we prefer to eat at home.” He likes to grill. “We’re pretty boring,” Debbie adds.
The Taubs have no plans to expand their boutique business model. It allows them full control, they say, and the ability to maintain a personal touch with clients and contractors. They’re never tempted to compromise their integrity.
And, day in and day out, they have each other’s backs. “We work in a risky industry,” Brian says. “When you write the checks yourself, it’s a different kind of gut check.”