WITH HARD WORK AND PASSION, SAL PRASCHNIK IS THE EPITOME OF QUINTESSENTIAL PERSEVERANCE, A TRUE EMBLEM OF DETERMINATION. IN THIS INTERVIEW ARTICLE, WE TAKE A PEEK INTO THE LIFE OF ANOTHER ONE OF SOUTH FLORIDA’S GREAT AND BELOVED CUBAN-BORN CITIZENS.
By Annabella Goshen
“I’m a Jewban”, he says, with a welcoming Latin smile and sparkling eyes. Salomon Praschnik, or as he insists, “please call me Sal”, is a gentleman that has created a legacy of a jewelry business. Located in the heart of Bay Harbor, as you enter his famed jewelry store you can perceive a lifelong dedication thanks to the captivating classic-style pieces you see throughout the store. With an inviting smile is Virginia, Sal’s cherished daughter-in-law, who has become an award-winning designer for Sal Praschnik Jewelers, giving her father-in-law many naches. Her husband, Sal’s son David, has also been part of a great team of collaborators that are continuously creating impeccable and refined jewelry.
Sal was born in the tropical Latin island of Cuba. After an upbringing of klezmer and salsa, and with many dreams in his suitcase, at the age of 19 he embarked to New York City to live with his sisters Bertha and Rose. With a dearth of monetary funds, they bought a house together in Brooklyn where all of them would live under the same roof. Considering that he did not speak English, he got a job as a clerk in Klein’s Department Store. He would pack items in the factory and work incessantly.
During the Korean War of the early 1950s, he was drafted by the Marines. Once he had finished his service, his brother-in-law brought him into his factory of high-end platinum jewelry. This is where Sal learned the tricks of the trade, working on his talent and commencing a lifelong career within the high-end jewelry business.
Eighteen years later, he took a vacation to Miami, then the home of an enormous influx of Cubans escaping Fidel Castro’s communist regime. Driving from New York, he finally arrived at a place with crystalline beaches, sunny boardwalks and welcoming people. With his wife and two sons, he immediately felt at home and decided to move permanently to the sunshine state. “I wanted to enjoy living twelve months a year, not just a few,” said Sal with a smile on his face as he remembered the first time he set foot on the place that would become his new home. “Everyone thought I was crazy. My family said we were going to Miami like Gypsies! This was one of the brightest ideas of my life!”
Although the city of Miami is portrayed as a beautiful vacation spot, finding work was not as easy as they thought. At first, he was going to open a factory with a friend, but these plans fell through as his friend was unable to proceed. Sal knew that he could transpose his jewelry expertise and knowledge to the realm of South Florida. Nonetheless, he quickly realized that, unlike New York, South Florida was a seasonal business place. As he arrived in March, he nervously asked himself, “How will I make it until fall?
Soon enough, he went to New York, met with customers and visited Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Texas and California among other places. He became rather creative, opening territories instead of limiting himself to the seasonal Miami, by placing salesmen in these places. He was able to work in Miami by selling high end fashion jewelry as well as have his collections placed throughout the country.
As time transgressed, he formed a beautiful family. Twenty five years ago, his son David graduated as an accountant from the University of Florida. He decided to join him, and they have become a terrific team ever since, without leaving out his beloved daughter-in-law Virginia, who has won 23 design awards.
Sal Praschnik’s legacy of jewelry craftsmanship became established in Miami in their downtown factory. In 1985, Sal built a 5200 square foot building for jewelry manufacturing. Twenty one years later, he received an offer he could not refuse for the building, and coincidentally learned about the storefront availability in Bay Harbor. This area, where the store is currently at, is near delectable restaurants. In addition, it is close to his home and it has various functionalities. It is a jewelry store, with the manufacturing shop in the back.
Sal Praschnik continues to work the old-fashioned way, offering original designs in the highest quality. Because of the successful outcome in his venture to the United States, he is a man filled with gratitude to the country, but especially to his family, constantly referring and thanking his son and daughter-in-law, stating how wonderful they have been as a team.
Asked about his Jewishness, with that vibrant Cuban…or “Jewban” smile, Sal ponders about what it means to be Jewish. “You have to have it in your heart every day. It’s what you do every day that matters,” he says. And asked about the future, looking back at his admirable legacy, he looks to the years ahead with a grin saying, “Where there are women, there will always be a need for jewelry” A