Power Couples

Inside the lives of some of St. Louis ‘ most interesting and influential pairs.

 

 

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Jon & Laura Maurice

Executive Producer, NoCoast Originals, Partner, Javelin | Co-owner, Women’s Closet Exchange, Clique and Purple Cow

Authenticity, heritage, genuine stories from the heartland‰Û_these aren’t words you typically hear describing reality TV shows. And that’s exactly what makes Jon Maurice’s NoCoast Originals stand out from the pack. Along with Rachel Zoe Productions and Coolfire Originals, Jon and his partners are bringing St. Louis some national attention with shows like “Resale Royalty” on the Style Network.

“There was a big hillbilly play going on, and we thought there was an opportunity to take a look at something that was a little deeper and richer,” Jon says. “In the Midwest, we had access to characters the coasts didn’t have.” Access, it turns out, was one thing he had in spades. Capitalizing on the popularity of family stories in the reality realm, “Resale Royalty” features his wife of 10 years, Laura Maurice, plus his mother-in-law Sue McCarthy and sister-in-law Diana Ford and their work at local designer resale shop Women’s Closet Exchange.

The natural progression toward the show happened while “just observing Sue, Laura and Diana in their environment. Their ability to never stop talking sort of led us to believe it was the way to go,” says Jon, who serves as executive producer along with Zoe. For Laura, the burst of notoriety is all well and good, but the growth in the shop’s most lucrative service, in-home closet buys, is what’s most exciting. Laura came on board at WCE, the business her mother founded 25 years ago, in 1997, then started Purple Cow and Clique to fill niches for kids and teens. All told, WCE buys and sells more than 1,000 items a day. At that pace, the “Resale Royalty” stars are too busy to worry about whether they’re saying or doing the right thing in front of the camera. Laura’s Midwestern sensibility resonates with many of the show’s viewers, and it’s easy to see why. “From the beginning, I never wanted to do a show that you couldn’t sit and watch with your kids, and I feel great about it,” she says.

Jon’s oldest son, Anthony, works with him, which makes it especially ironic that the Maurices’ two youngest sons‰ÛÓ5-year-old Raphael and 9-year-old Henry‰ÛÓaren’t phased by the show at all. Family is central to the Maurices’ lives. They often vacation as a group, and Jon, a passionate cook, can be found whipping up meals of Thai food, exploring recipes from his vintage cookbook collection or making his grandmother’s risotto. His other avocation is as a serial entrepreneur. He is a partner in multiple clothing lines, two bike shops, a pool toy company and a bar, in addition to the partner-level work he does at Javelin, an experiential marketing firm boasting clients like Bacardi, Grey Goose, MTV and Samsung. Not to mention, NoCoast has more reality shows in the works, plusideas for branching out into scripted television.

But when the Maurices focus on their day-to-day, they get a twinkle in their eye. “We just celebrated our 10-year anniversary‰Û_I think we high-fived each other in the hall, but it works for us,” Laura says.

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Brad & Deborah Fink

District Vice President, St. Louis South District, Macy’s North Region | President/Regional Market Manager, Clear Channel Media & Entertainment

As self-described strategic thinkers who like big ideas, Beth Davis and Suzy Stone are adept at planning for the future. Their talent is in conveying their vision to others, be it their teams at work or each other. Collaboration and connection are more than just catchphrases‰ÛÓthey live by those concepts both personally (throughout their eight-year relationship) and professionally.

Their timing couldn’t be better. Macy’s, where Suzy was recently promoted to a VP position overseeing eight stores, is in the midst of shifting its customer mix toward Millennial shoppers through unique merchandise offerings and social media, while still retaining its core customers. To do this well requires enormous amounts of communication and agility at both national and local levels. Beth also recently advanced in her career to a position overseeing three markets‰ÛÓSt. Louis, Springfield and Wichita‰ÛÓwith 15 Clear Channel radio stations.

Obviously the bottom line matters to these companies, but it’s not the only thing. “I’m lucky enough to work for a company where giving back is an important value,” Suzy says. “I really wanted to live that in my own community.” Macy’s initiatives‰ÛÓarts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDs and health and women’s issues‰ÛÓ”are what resonate with our customers, and those have been my focus as a citizen as well,” she says. Synergistically, Macy’s and Clear Channel sometimes partner on projects like the national Macy’s iHeartRadio Rising Star campaign or local Food Outreach campaigns. For Beth personally, it’s all about organizations that help the region and its economy, like the St. Louis Civic Pride Foundation, where she sits on the board.

As managers, they “both like to see people succeed and go on to the next level. We get such a big charge out of that,” Beth says. This goes for their relationship as well. “Part of what we do really well together is celebrate for the other person when something important happens,” she continues. They send flowers or head to a favorite restaurant for a leisurely meal and glass of wine. They steer away from the details of the business and “listen more than we offer input,” Beth explains. Then she laughs. “But if anyone’s going to offer input, it’s going to be me!”

After mutual friends introduced them in 2005, the two quickly discovered a shared love of cooking, family values, running and especially travel. They’ve taken adventurous trips to Machu Picchu and the Amazon, spent a quiet week in Paris visiting museums and cafÌ©s, become regulars at wineries in Napa Valley and sipped 50-cent margaritas on the beach in Mexico. Many of their trips intertwine with their wine-collecting hobby.

But there’s no place like home, and Beth and Suzy are both passionate advocates for St. Louis. When they’re not out enjoying the region’s rich culture, they’re at home on their beloved terrace, which they planned and planted together. Next up: the kitchen‰Û_maybe. In a rare instance where their planning seems to have broken down, Suzy jokes: “The ongoing conversation is, ‘When are we going to do the kitchen?'”

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Jason Wilson & Shanti Parikh

Owner, Chronicle Coffee and Northwest Coffee Roasting Co. | Associate Professor, Sociocultural Anthropology and African and African-American Studies at Wash U

When people aren’t in control of the narrative in their own lives, they aren’t going to live up to their full potential. This understanding is at the heart of both Shanti Parikh’s and Jason Wilson’s life work. The pair’s approaches to addressing social justice have resulted from years of research, as well as living and working alongside the populations for which they advocate.

“It’s one thing to be poor, but to be poor and black and not educated, you have a transient existence,” says Jason, a St. Louis native who credits an Executive MBA from Washington University with rounding out his experience as an entrepreneur (his first successful company was a fleet vehicle cleaning business). After discovering coffee during a Wash U trip to China, he spent a couple of years planning what would become his next endeavor, Chronicle Coffee. He strategically chose a location close to Grand Center, where people with assets to invest are literally blocks away from initiatives that need their funding. His longterm goal is to become a conduit increasing the amount of private funding in urban redevelopment.

Jason has experienced firsthand the assumption that any business on the city’s north side must be getting subsidies‰ÛÓdespite the fact that he and Shanti funded Chronicle themselves. His venture dovetails with her interest in poverty and inequality and her belief that “social services without actually changing the structures that put people into unequal situations isn’t enough.” Shanti has seen this countless times in her research on sexual health, from North St. Louis to Uganda and Kenya, where she was in the Peace Corps as a small business advisor at the start of the AIDS epidemic.

Despite their intimacy with difficult social issues, both Jason and Shanti place great faith in people’s own abilities to overcome obstacles. For example, one of Shanti’s newer projects is looking at the culture of survival of single mothers and “how they manage to do it all.” Personally, she admits to being very fortunate in the childcare department. One of her former research assistants in Uganda lives with the family while attending college, and Jason’s nephew also stays with them and works at Chronicle. All four adults juggle their schedules and caregiving for 5-year-old Jason and 3-year-old Julian.

Their “it takes a village” household means Jason and Shanti are able to follow through with more of their professional goals. Shanti is on the boards of Planned Parenthood, the Deaconess Foundation, St. Louis Effort for AIDS and the Danforth Leadership Council, while Jason is caffeinating a large swath of the region, thanks to his purchase of Northwest Coffee Roasting Company with coffee shops in Clayton and the Central West End. Both are trailblazers in their endeavors‰ÛÓJason says he is one of the only African-Americans in the US to own a coffee-roasting company, and Shanti is the first African-American woman in Arts and Sciences at Wash U to go up through the ranks and get tenure. Acknowledging their obvious dedication to their careers and St. Louis as a whole, Jason says, “I want my boys to see that their mom and dad are staunch advocates in this community.”

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Suzy Stone & Beth Davis

District Vice President, St. Louis South District, Macy’s North Region | President/Regional Market Manager, Clear Channel Media & Entertainment

As self-described strategic thinkers who like big ideas, Beth Davis and Suzy Stone are adept at planning for the future. Their talent is in conveying their vision to others, be it their teams at work or each other. Collaboration and connection are more than just catchphrases‰ÛÓthey live by those concepts both personally (throughout their eight-year relationship) and professionally.

Their timing couldn’t be better. Macy’s, where Suzy was recently promoted to a VP position overseeing eight stores, is in the midst of shifting its customer mix toward Millennial shoppers through unique merchandise offerings and social media, while still retaining its core customers. To do this well requires enormous amounts of communication and agility at both national and local levels. Beth also recently advanced in her career to a position overseeing three markets‰ÛÓSt. Louis, Springfield and Wichita‰ÛÓwith 15 Clear Channel radio stations.

Obviously the bottom line matters to these companies, but it’s not the only thing. “I’m lucky enough to work for a company where giving back is an important value,” Suzy says. “I really wanted to live that in my own community.” Macy’s initiatives‰ÛÓarts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDs and health and women’s issues‰ÛÓ”are what resonate with our customers, and those have been my focus as a citizen as well,” she says. Synergistically, Macy’s and Clear Channel sometimes partner on projects like the national Macy’s iHeartRadio Rising Star campaign or local Food Outreach campaigns. For Beth personally, it’s all about organizations that help the region and its economy, like the St. Louis Civic Pride Foundation, where she sits on the board.

As managers, they “both like to see people succeed and go on to the next level. We get such a big charge out of that,” Beth says. This goes for their relationship as well. “Part of what we do really well together is celebrate for the other person when something important happens,” she continues. They send flowers or head to a favorite restaurant for a leisurely meal and glass of wine. They steer away from the details of the business and “listen more than we offer input,” Beth explains. Then she laughs. “But if anyone’s going to offer input, it’s going to be me!”

After mutual friends introduced them in 2005, the two quickly discovered a shared love of cooking, family values, running and especially travel. They’ve taken adventurous trips to Machu Picchu and the Amazon, spent a quiet week in Paris visiting museums and cafÌ©s, become regulars at wineries in Napa Valley and sipped 50-cent margaritas on the beach in Mexico. Many of their trips intertwine with their wine-collecting hobby.

But there’s no place like home, and Beth and Suzy are both passionate advocates for St. Louis. When they’re not out enjoying the region’s rich culture, they’re at home on their beloved terrace, which they planned and planted together. Next up: the kitchen‰Û_maybe. In a rare instance where their planning seems to have broken down, Suzy jokes: “The ongoing conversation is, ‘When are we going to do the kitchen?'”

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Ira & Bill DeWitt

CEO and Founder, Notifi Records | President, St. Louis Cardinals

You might expect predictability from the president of a $716 million company and his wife‰ÛÓbut Cardinals President Bill DeWitt and his wife, Ira, are anything but stereotypes. He’s a soft-spoken, hockey-playing dad who likes to spend downtime at home. She’s an energetic independent record label owner who is pulled 50 different ways simultaneously but still makes a point to take a restorative walk every morning.

The number of trips, events and meetings on their schedules is daunting‰ÛÓand it’s matched by the sports, school and social calendars of their children, 14-year-old Natalie and 11-year-old Will. “When we do have the off night,” Bill says, “it’s nice to be able to stay in and get together with a small group of friends.” They’re also fans of vegging in front of the TV, Ira admits, especially when a show like the “Billboard Music Awards” is on.

Of course, normalcy is relative. Ira took her daughter and some of her friends to the BET Awards in June, and Bill is on television so frequently that his appearances barely register with his kids. “They’ll be like, ‰Û÷Wait a minute, I saw you on TV for something‰ÛÓ what was that again?'” he says. Lately, that “something” has been the long-awaited Ballpark Village. The Cards president has been hard at work on the first phase‰ÛÓan event plaza, restaurant and the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum‰ÛÓset to debut on Opening Day 2014.

When the team is in town, he’s at the stadium for nearly every game. But when the DeWitts are at their second home near Los Angeles, Bill is the one taking it easy, while Ira is closer to her work on the West Coast. She recently wrapped up a new album, “This Song Is for You” from R&B legend Ronald Isley, which released July 30. In between her favorite parts of the gig‰ÛÓthe very early stages of development to hearing the final cuts‰ÛÓthere’s coordination to get the songs recorded, legal contracts, marketing, promotion…and Ira is involved in all of it. “I’m one of the only women in the business [and one of the only ones] with an independent [R&B] label; it’s not easy not having a giant staff,” she says. Thanks to her hard work during the 10 years since she left the academic world (encouraged by her husband to “go do something you love and take a risk”), Notifi has established a respected track record with R&B artists like Ginuwine, Johnny Gill and Bos.

When asked about accomplishments, though, Ira doesn’t mention music or baseball. She thinks the best example they set as parents is his degree from Yale and MBA from Harvard and her doctorate from Saint Louis University. Meanwhile, Bill is in the middle of extolling his wife’s talent for cooking when he mentions “division of responsibility.” With a laugh, she pounces. “Oh my God. Division of labor?” she exclaims, incredulous. It’s a familiar refrain in two-career families everywhere‰ÛÓone of the few moments when the DeWitts are utterly and charmingly predictable.

 

Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino

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