Longtime Sarasota businessman and philanthropist Ed Kalin never really settled on a traditional hobby. He played golf a little bit, fished here and there. He owned a boat for a time.
Then, in the 1960s and '70s, Kalin started doing some real estate deals. That became his passion, outside work and family. Kalin’s son Jeff says Ed Kalin would team up with a few other prominent Sarasota business leaders, from lawyers to doctors to Fortune 500 CEOs. This group often went in on deals together, from a 90-acre commercial site near Fruitville and Cattlemen roads that later became a Sam’s Club to the Main Plaza in downtown Sarasota.
“They would sit around for hours discussing the details,” says Jeff Kalin. “He obviously enjoyed making money off the deals, but for him, what he really enjoyed was the camaraderie of all the people.”
Ed Kalin died June 9 after a brief illness. He was 101.
“They broke the mold when they made him,” says Marc Cohen, the life partner of Kalin’s daughter, Leslie Malkin, who got to know Ed Kalin well over the past decade. “They don’t make them like that anymore.”
Ed Kalin was born in Perry, a small town southeast of Tallahassee, and raised in Hendersonville, North Carolina, according to his official obituary. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1941.
Kalin later served in World War II, a U.S. Navy officer stationed in the Philippines. He left the service with the rank of Lieutenant SG, and the honor of serving his country became a big theme in his life: Up until he died, Kalin, says his daughter, would stop and salute anytime he saw an American flag.
After the war, Kalin, in 1948, partnered with cousins Maurice and Thelma Rothman to found Kane’s Furniture in St. Petersburg. In 1950, after he married Alyce Weiss, Kalin opened Kane’s Furniture of Sarasota. (That store, focusing on higher-end merchandise, was a different business than the Kane’s chain the Rothmans grew into 18 locations statewide.) Ed Kalin’s furniture business occupied three separate storefronts in Sarasota from 1950 to 2016, helping to furnish thousands of homes in the region during a decades-long population boom.
Jeff Kalin worked for his dad at the furniture store, as a buyer and in other roles. It was there the younger Kalin saw the exacting, continuous improvement side of his dad. “He was tough to work for,” says Jeff Kalin. “But he was also tough, if not tougher, on himself before he gave himself any kudos.”
There was also real estate. At one point Ed Kalin had a hand in more than 100 properties in and around Sarasota. He did deals anywhere from the boardroom to the golf course to one time chatting up someone at a stoplight about a property.
Through all his business interests, Kalin, say several people who knew him, was a humble and genuine Southern gentleman, with an authentic curiosity of anyone he met. He was also loyal and generous, as he and Alyce donated to a host of causes, including the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Ringling College of Art + Design. One of Ed Kalin’s famous sayings was, “it doesn't cost anything to be nice and it pays dividends.”
Both Cohen and Malkin refer to Kalin has a mensch — Yiddish for a person with high integrity and honor, and one of the highest compliments in Judaism.
Leslie Kalin cites one aspect of her father’s life that proved that: his relationship with her son, Evan Danzig. Ed Kalin was a father figure in his grandson’s life, she says, with a standing grandfather-grandson Saturday lunch appointment for years. The elder Kalin taught his grandson how to drive, ride a bike and more. “They just had a beautiful relationship,” she says.
Leslie Kalin says one of the biggest lessons she learned from her father was resiliency, from business setbacks to moving and aging to losing his wife, who died in 2006. “He never complained,” she says. “He handled everything that happened in life with such grace.”