Stanley Whitman

Stanley Whitman


Stanley Finch Whitman, (1918-2017), was the founder and visionary behind Bal Harbour Shops, he was sometimes compared to Sam Walton. Other times, to Walt Disney.


In mid-twentieth-century Florida, Whitman pursued a vision that continues today to draw visitors from throughout the world to a unique destination in the Sunshine State — Bal Harbour Shops. The idyllic, subtropical version of Madison Avenue first opened in 1965, billed as a “tiny, magical enclave on the ocean.” Elaborately landscaped with shady palm trees and fragrant orange trees, this open-air shopping center at the northernmost portion of the barrier island known as Miami Beach was the nation’s first all-luxury fashion retail destination.

Of his decision to focus exclusively on luxury fashion and jewelry retail, Whitman recalls, “If I had leased to stores who sold the kinds of clothes my wife wore, I’d have gone broke!”

Bal Harbour Shops — located in Bal Harbour Village, a small, upscale community that Whitman helped to found in 1946 – quickly became an international standard for luxury retail.

“From the first day, we were a howling success!” he recalls.

The innovative shopping center initially included 30 New York tenants. By 1971, Whitman had enticed Stanley Marcus to open the first Neiman Marcus store outside of Texas. When Saks Fifth Avenue opened at Bal Harbour Shops in 1976, this exclusive retail destination became the first shopping center to include both a Saks Fifth Avenue store and a Neiman Marcus store. In 1978, the fifth Gucci store in the United States opened at Bal Harbour Shops. The world’s most coveted fashion and jewelry brands continued to follow, establishing Bal Harbour Shops as the nation’s top retail sensation, recognized internationally.

While Bal Harbour Shops has consistently ranked first in retail sales for shopping centers in the United States, the International Council of Shopping Centers in 2012 named Bal Harbour Shops the world’s top-producing shopping center, based on annual sales per square foot. In 2013, this celebrated retail destination surpassed its own outstanding record for sales.

In 1983, a second level was added to Bal Harbour Shops, expanding the shopping center to 450,000 square feet. Plans are underway for a 250,000-square-foot expansion to accommodate the lengthy waiting list of luxury stores that want to bring their brands to this premier retail center.

Meanwhile, Whitman lives in the same three-bedroom home that he built in nearby Miami Shores in 1949. He has unofficially retired from running the family business, and those tasks have been assumed by his son, Randy Whitman, and grandson Matthew Whitman Lazenby.

Nonetheless, Stanley Whitman, now well into his 90s, still enjoys coming into his office each week, where he immerses himself fully in the company’s various development initiatives, reads trade magazines, and stays generally up-to-date on everything happening in the industry and at his beloved projects, as well.

“It’s wonderful to walk through the center and have people tell you how much they enjoy spending time here,” he said. “Then you walk a little further, and a European merchant with locations all over the world ventures out of his store to tell us we have the finest, highest-grade collection of stores he’s ever seen. You’ve got to love that!” he said.