My “Power” Breakfasts With Marvin Traub

The Robin Report - Marvin TraubI’m remembering Marvin Traub not for all of his greatness in life, which has been adequately paid tribute to by those who were personally and professionally closer to him. Rather I am remembering him warmly and honorably over many breakfasts I was fortunate to have with him in the “power” breakfast capital of New York City: Loews Regency Hotel.

For those who are not aware of the Regency’s gravitas as the go-to-breakfast spot for the national and international power elite, you can start with the knowledge that such names as the Tischs’ (who own the place), Nancy Pelosi, Felix Rohatyn, George Stephanopoulos, Harold Ford, Al Sharpton, Gary Winnick, Jeff Zucker, Benjamin Netanyahu, among many others can frequently be spotted at tables that have been carefully reserved by “power” hostess, Rae Bianco, who for over two decades has managed to keep the often difficult to please “greats and near-greats,” happy. The Regency is likened to power spots The Hay-Adams in Washington DC and The Peninsula in Beverly Hills.

So, not yet a “power broker” (and not sure if I even approach being a “near-great”), I would always request that Marvin’s wonderful assistant, Amy Hafkin, make the reservations for our breakfasts. And, if I arrived earlier than Marvin, I was always treated by Ms. Bianco as though I belonged in her roomful of titans. She would graciously show me to Marvin’s table, indicating where I should be seated so that Marvin’s placement would allow a clear view of the room and the elites as they entered. Of course, it also afforded those entrants a better glimpse of Marvin. And, the recognition interchange included smiles, nods, sometimes a wave of the hand, or more often than not, a sincere shaking of hands.

Much of each event — and make no mistake, these breakfasts are events – is about seeing and being seen, among the powerful. And, I have been told by several who often dine there, including Marvin, that not a morning goes by at the Regency without at least a dozen or so famous faces showing up. In the rarefied space lived in by these power brokers, one can logically surmise that these breakfasts provide a venue to act out their greatness on stage, as well as to confirm it, assuaging the ever-present anxiety in the depths of their public egos that they might be losing it.

My sense was that Marvin did not need the “stage” as confirmation, but, he simply enjoyed it, as though it was his natural habitat. Likewise, I don’t believe he ever feared losing his greatness. Marvin was comfortable in his own skin (of greatness). And, by the way, he was not bashful about telling me on several occasions about some of his greatest accomplishments. But, having done so, I never once perceived of him as “grandstanding” or chest thumping. His statements were matter-of-fact and simple, said with a smile and a voice so soft I had to lean over to hear him (might be my own hearing issue).

In fact, as I was co-authoring my book: The New Rules of Retail; I asked him to read the galley in hopes that he would endorse the book. After reading it (which in itself was an honor for me), we met again for breakfast at the Regency where he pointed out and reminded me that he was one of the early pioneers, if not the “father,” of one of our “new rules” in the book: the need for retailers to create awe-inspiring shopping experiences. He was right, and I was frankly somewhat embarrassed that we failed to mention in the book how Marvin created game-changing, theatrical experiences during his tenure as CEO of Bloomingdale’s, firmly positioning “Bloomingdale’s: Like no Other Store in the World.” Of course we immediately included Marvin in the book. He endorsed it, and we were greatly honored by him doing so.

My only point in mentioning this interchange is to reiterate Marvin’ style and non-aggrandizing nature. He was not out to chastise me. In fact, he was highly complimentary of the book. And, his ego was not even close to being bruised. He was simply comfortable reminding me of the facts, modestly, and with a gentle smile on his face. He was one of the greats who was comfortable in his own skin.

And, the greatest thing of all about Marvin was that he made everyone in his presence feel equally comfortable in their own skin, no matter how great or not-so-great they were.

In Honor of Marvin, Let’s Raise Awareness For His Cause

Last May, as Marvin was fighting bladder cancer, he and his firm, Marvin Traub Associates (MTA), along with a men’s accessory company, hook +ALBERT, created a limited edition pin to launch the Pin Down Bladder Cancer (PDBC) campaign. Kicked off in July in honor of Pin Down Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, the program will benefit the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Bladder Cancer Research Fund.

At the time, and before he succumbed to the disease, Marvin made a statement pointing out that, “Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world and the most underfunded by a factor of 10. It affects over 600,000 people nationwide and we are thrilled to raise awareness around this noteworthy cause. We are truly grateful for the immense support the fashion industry has shown and look forward to spotting the pins on everyone’s lapels this July.”
Mortimer Singer, President of MTA, and creator of the PDBC campaign added at the time: “We are delighted to shed light on a disease that has spent too long in the dark. We encourage as many people as possible to visit the website, make a donation, get your pin, and set up team fundraising pages on PinDownBladderCancer.org.” To help keep Marvin’s dream alive, you can make a donation now; just click on: www.pindownbladdercancer.org or call: 646-723-2990 and ask for Amy Hafkin or Morty Singer.

Robin Lewis About Robin Lewis

Robin Lewis has over forty years of strategic operating and consulting experience in the retail and related consumer products industries. He has held executive positions at DuPont, VF Corporation, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), and Goldman Sachs, among others, and has consulted for dozens of retail, consumer products and other companies. In addition to his role as CEO and Editorial Director of The Robin Report, he is a professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at The Fashion Institute of Technology.