Who knew that Martha Stewart actually goes to garage sales? Well, it’s true. During a meet and greet recently, someone in the crowd belted out, “Martha, where did you get your fabulous necklace?” Martha placed her hand on her neck, as if to remember which necklace she was wearing, smiled, and said, “Oh this? I bought this for $1 at a garage sale.” The crowd laughed and applauded – much to my surprise since this particular crowd was gathered in the well-heeled enclave of Beverly Hills – where some (not me) might consider such a statement gauche. Martha then went on to finger her earrings, commenting that those, however, had been ‘terribly expensive.’ So began my first ever in-person sighting of the woman who single-handedly elevated the domestic arts: Martha Stewart. And, as soon as she made the garage sale comment, I knew I had to write a blog post about it.
How was it that I was able to stand no further than a damask placement’s distance from the infamous icon? It was all due to my amazing sorority sisters, Kathy Winterhalder and Sue Swan, whose company, the Distinguished Speaker Series in Los Angeles, had invited Martha west for a four-night speaking engagement. Kathy and her sister, Sue have hosted former Presidents, First Ladies, famous photographers, dignitaries, scientists, Olympians and most recently – the doyenne of domesticity, herself. If you live in the LA area, you should definitely check out their fascinating programs!
A few of us lucky sorority sisters, along with some truly sweet and wonderful Alpha Chi Moms, grabbed lunch around the corner from the art-deco Saban Theater at Prospect Gourmand – a sweet little farm to table bistro – then sauntered over to enjoy a VIP cocktail hour with Martha. Seeing how the program was on Mother’s Day, it was perfect to have some of our own VIPs – our Moms – with us. This was something Martha later lamented about – stating that she did not realize it was Mother’s Day when she accepted the speaking engagement. “It’s the first time in five years I’ve been away from my daughter and my grandchildren,” she would later say, sighing. But, Martha is not one to feel sorry for herself, even if she was having a different kind of Mother’s Day than expected. And, I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself – not having my own mother with me, since I was surrounded by such a wonderful group of friends and their moms.
It was such a nourishing experience to have lunch with all these wonderful Moms. It reminded me how inspiring strong women are and how all Moms are Powerhouses in their own right.
I’ll admit – I was somewhat star struck by Martha – an industry unto herself who has published 75 books, won numerous Emmy’s and been at the helm of a billion-dollar industry. And, what does someone want to know? About her jewelry. Sad face. Another attendee asked her about her shoes. Really people?
After the cocktail soiree, it was time for the main entree – Martha’s presentation. An assortment of photographs of Martha, her mom and dad, the modest house she grew up in in Nutley, New Jersey, their garden (the genesis of her own love of gardening), and photos of that famous farmhouse she restored in Connecticut, Turkey Hill began to appear on a Jumbotron screen.
Martha began to tell her story, in her own words. It was an amazing experience. What I love about Martha’s story is that she started small. And, she wore all the hats. She began selling her pies on a folding table in front of her local grocery store in Connecticut. She baked the pies herself, and they always sold out. Next, she opened up a small catering business, and as she says, “They came in droves.” Her business grew rapidly, and she wrote her first book, Entertaining. She said that she found that there was a hunger for information about how to make a home elegant and comfortable and for ways to prepare dinners that were relatively quick, but also delicious. While I’m not entirely sure how “easy” her recipes are, I’ll vouch for her margarita recipe.
And, I’m impressed that she and her former husband did much of the restoration of their first house, Turkey Hill, themselves. She even painted the green diamonds on the floors shown below.
The other thing I love about her story is that she is willing to share some of her secrets to success. In brief summary, they are as follows:
- Be flexible
- Be a good listener
- Make decisions carefully, but quickly
- Be focused
- Have passion for what you do
I found Martha to have a solid sense of humor, as well as a goodly amount of self-confidence. Her presentation was an overview of her life and her success, and it is truly an amazing American success story. She credits her mother, Big Martha, for her success in the kitchen and her dad for her success in the garden.
I’m just impressed that a gazilionnaire still finds joy in the treasure hunt of finding a necklace at a tag sale. And, I’m inspired and grateful to the powerful women of the Distinguished Speaker Series LA that I got to have the unique experience of getting to meet Martha, along with a terrific group of Moms. Powerful woman, indeed.