WITH DEGREES IN BIOMEDICAL AND ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI AND MULTIPLE HARVARD BUSINESS COURSES, MAX ALCALAY WAS POISED TO FOLLOW A FORMAL CAREER TRACK. BUT WHEN AN OPPORTUNITY AROSE TO OPEN A FURNITURE STORE IN SOUTH FLORIDA, HE JUMPED ON IT, LEADING HIM AND HIS COUSIN ALBERTO CAMHI TO FORM ADDISON HOUSE.
By Patricia Hoyos
Originally from Cali, Colombia, back in the 1980s Max Alcalay envisioned South Florida as a sophisticated city with world-class appeal. He started Addison House with one store, selling traditional furniture, although he says he always personally favored modern styles, which is why eventually he would transition from the traditional to the contemporary furniture that the store is known for today. As the store grew, Max partnered with his first cousin Alberto Camhi to take the store to new heights.
Unlike Max, whose love and appreciation for design came later in life, Alberto did develop a keen interest in design from a young age. He earned a degree in architecture in Colombia and went on to work as an architect in Jerusalem. He also owned one of the largest acoustical ceiling and lighting companies in Bogota, Colombia, before moving to the United States. Together, they expanded Addison House to three showrooms, and in the spring of 2014, they welcomed the addition of their newest division—Addison Kids.
While many consider that working with family, especially cousins, can be a recipe for disaster, Max and Alberto have used their family dynamic to their advantage. Their partnership allows them to focus on their individual strengths. They have been able to separate their personal lives from their work lives by having distinctive roles within the company. One characteristic they do share is the same philanthropic spirit as both of them are avid community supporters.
Max and Alberto, along with their families, have supported the local and international Jewish community by partaking in different sponsorships and events throughout the years. They feel the responsibility to help and support the work of organizations that focus on issues such as Israel’s security, and helping children, the elderly and needy families in the South Florida community and in Israel. They also support continuous efforts for preserving and promoting Jewish traditions and customs through religious, cultural and educational activities in community centers, synagogues, schools and camps.
For years, Max and Alberto have been attending the Annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference in Washington, D.C. On a local level, they have hosted numerous events in their Aventura store for the North Dade chapter of AIPAC, in which important leaders have gathered to show their support for Israel and the community. They strongly believe in AIPAC’s efforts to ensure that Israel’s security remains at the top of policy makers’ agendas.
Additionally, Max and Alberto support organizations like the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Chabad and WIZO. They’ve also made Addison House a sponsor of the Maccabi Games hosted at the Michael Ann Russell JCC, in which more than 1,900 children, adults, and everyone in between register each year to participate in the games of this week-long, family-oriented Jewish sporting event.
“Every one of us has a social responsibility to make our community a better place for all,” said Max Alcalay, president of Addison House. “When you have a business that is part of a community, you owe it to that community that has contributed to your success, to give back in whichever way you can. We are proud to support so many organizations which we believe in and to host events in our showrooms that contribute to those organizations achieving their missions.”
It is entrepreneurs such as these, who understand that broad community success translates into individual business success, that make the Jewish communities around the world stronger and better.