Catherine Del Spina

Location: New York, NY
Age: 58
Marital Status: Married
Education: Self-educated

What was your first job in New York?

I worked for my older brother, Don, in a tiny store that he had on the Upper East Side. It was 1970.  Then I was a waitress, and I started promoting parties. Finally I said, “This is ridiculous.” I mean, at 20-something, I felt too old to be promoting parties. I started interviewing but no one would hire me. I was a girl from Florida with a high school education.

I interviewed with Pottery Barn and owner Hoyt Chapin said, “I don’t think you’d be good for this job, but we have a wholesale company called International Designers Group.”  I went to work as their New York representative. I worked for IDG for about a year and a half and then I started my own company. I was 23, and I became one of few women in the housewares industry.

You started your own rep company?

Yes. Someone said to me, “What was your business plan?” Business plan!?  Here was my business plan: I’m gonna go make a lot of money. Did I write it? No. I lived it.

Why do you think you were so successful?

I had the desire to build myself into something. I really marched to my own drummer. I had a goal, and that goal was I was going to be successful. And, by the way, I was impossible. I was like a stick of dynamite. I have no idea why people didn’t want to kill me. Actually, I think a lot people did want to kill me. Now I’ve calmed down a lot.

Where did your sense of style come from?

Some people are good at math. I just have an eye. I mean, I had an eye and then I developed it. My older brother was influential. He started dealing fine art and he would tell me who to buy, because I had the money. I collected Motherwell, Rauschenberg, Dines.

What’s the single most important thing you learned in your career?

Relationships. It’s like what I’ve learned in my marriage: Mutual respect, understanding.

When you met your husband, did you know you wanted to marry him right away?

Yes! I married him three months after we met. People thought I was crazy. I had never met anybody like Jerry [Shereshewsky]. He was so smart. When we got married, he really helped to groom me.  He always said, “I gave Catherine the books to read and she taught me which fork to use.”

What’s the secret to your marriage?

Mutual respect. I have to remember–when he drives me crazy–all the things he does that I can’t do.  So many times I look at him and think, oh, thank God I have Jerry!

What about kids?

We were together for ten years and I didn’t want children. Then, one day I woke up and said, “I think I want a baby.” And Jerry said, “I think I do too.” Three months later we got pregnant with Beryl.

Do you still work?

I sold my company in 2000 and now I consult for two companies that work with green, sustainable product. When I quit, people were saying, ‘What are you gonna do next?’ I had no idea. A friend told me to go home and sit down and just start writing about all the things that you do and that you like to do. I did it. And I have to tell you, I read it often.

How do you define your style?

I like people to immediately get an impression that I mean business. By the way, it may not really be who I am. In fact, it probably isn’t.  It’s sort of this persona that I developed. I was in such a competitive world, I was one of few women. And I was so young and self-taught.

What kind of clothes do you wear?

Really simple. When I’m not wearing black and white, I like to wear things that are ethnic–things that are Chinese. I buy a lot of my clothes online, I barely shop.  I shop at Chico’s.

Do you have a signature perfume?

Diamant, by Fragonard. It’s extremely feminine, which is never the way I would describe myself. Men and women stop me and say, “Oh my God, what is that scent?”

How do you wash and moisturize your face?

Noxzema. And Strivectin is my new secret. They advertise that it’s better than Botox.

What’s your greatest indulgence?

I never go without having a manicure. I keep my pool turned to 85 degrees, it’s totally not green.

How do you rejuvenate?

I find cooking very relaxing. I like to do crossword puzzles and play Scrabble.  And I go to Facelogic. It’s facials by subscription. It is so fantastic. That’s one of the ways I completely relax.

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What’s a passion project?

My animals. My boxers. They’ve taken the place of my daughters.

What’s your secret favorite place in New York?

My home.  I would rather be here than anywhere else.  And I like to travel to exotic places, like Morocco.  It’s the most exciting, unbelievable, life changing place.

What’s one of your favorite books?

Hot, Flat & Crowded. I love Tom Friedman. He’s just a phenomenal intellect.

How do you give back?

I feel it’s very important to give back. I feel like I have the best life. I am embarrassed by my riches. Jerry and love each other; we go to bed at night holding hands. I love my children, they love me. Jerry cries because he misses his daughters. I mean I am very rich that way.

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