Industry Insiders: Jack Penrod, Nikki Beach Principal

A family tragedy led entrepreneur Jack Penrod to choose a garden spot at his beach resort and name it after his daughter, Nikki. After some outside influences expressed interest in the location, Penrod decided to allow the garden to be used for parties and events, and it eventually became the well-known Nikki Beach Miami. The empire now includes locations in Cabo San Lucas, Marrakech, Marbella, Koh Samui , New York, Panama, St. Barts and Toronto, to name a few. The avid pilot and diver manages the jet set-friendly brand with his wife, Lucia and talks about the humble beginnings of a nightlife staple after the jump.

Describe your job. I feel I’ve never worked a day in my life because the type of business I created is all about a lifestyle, it’s a representation of what I love to do in life. I love the water, and Nikki Beach is always on the water

Do you have any partners? My wife, Lucia, and I own the business. We don’t have partners in the Nikki Beach, but there are special arrangements where we partner with the property owner or somebody who will watch the location as an owner would. We’re spread all over the world, and as you go to different countries with different regulations, cultures, languages, the only way we’ve been able to maintain the business for over ten years is to make the local people partners in that location.

How’d you get your start? I come from humble beginnings. My father died young, and my mother had to struggle, so I worked at an early age. I started working at McDonald’s, like the guy who pursued the American Dream. I’ve always been a natural born marketer with an aptitude for business. My McDonald’s phase began as a cook for 85 cents-an-hour. In a short period of time they made me the manager of the location in Tallahassee. The founder decided my location was doing better than any of the others, and came to visit me to see what I was doing right. I tried giving specials to bus drivers with loads of kids who drove through. After awhile, I became one of the largest McDonald’s owners. I made my money with no help. After that, I did Penrod’s Beach Club for a very young crowd in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Daytona and I promoted to Spring Breakers.

How did Nikki Beach start? I don’t like to talk about it, because the reason for opening Nikki Beach is very personal. My young daughter, Nicole, died in a car accident in 1987. In order to deal with my emotional situation, I created a garden for her at Penrod’s Beach Club in South Beach. She would have loved the garden by the sea. I had no intention of making a business out of it, but one day two young guys showed up who wanted to have a Monday night party there. At first, I said no, but they were the same age as Nicole, so I gave in. It grew from the Monday night party in the late 1990s, and every celebrity from Cameron Diaz to Harrison Ford to Al Pacino was there on a Monday night. Eric Omores eventually came to us, and he’d been doing clubs all his life. He wanted to expand it to the beach with a French style beach club, and that’s how Nikki Beach was born. I decided that my personal tragedy shouldn’t consume me, but that I should pay tribute to the life she lived, a commitment to celebrate life. There’s a picture of Nicole in every place we open.

Where are your go-to places? We’re so overexposed to amazing restaurants, than when it comes to my personal life, I prefer simple things — and love barbecue! In Miami, I go to Shorty’s Bar-B-Q. For my personality and who I am, culinary experiences are not my forte. I dive, and eat the fish I catch.

Who do you look up to? Ray Kroc, who took a cheap burger joint and turned it into McDonald’s, influenced me and I have a lot of respect for what he did.

What’s the appeal of Nikki Beach? The common denominator is the experience the customer gets, not just eating or partying, but the whole experience of going out at night. If you look at Nikki Beach, we have great food, but you’re going there to have an amazing time with friends and family.

What annoys you? Unoriginal copy cats. It happens every day that somebody opens a Nikki Beach lookalike in another country. One of the bigger prizes is the growing of the brand in a global way. It makes its own challenges, and all of the politics, regulations, countries and languages that present the next opportunity.

What’s something that people might not know about you? There are a lot of people who don’t know about me because I’m a very, very private person and very much into my family. I’ve created and owned one of the most glamorous lifestyle brands, but I’m a very simple, down-to-earth person who is not really into the glamor thing that much.

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