Icon: Arthur Rutenberg
Founder, Arthur Rutenberg Homes, Clearwater; age 84
[Photo: Steven P. Widoff]
» One time we were sitting around and, literally, my younger brother Dan started drawing on the back of an envelope. He put the master bedroom over to one side and created an entry into the dining room. He was trying to come up with a plan with almost no hallways to provide more square footage of livable space. What he did was develop the first split floor plan.
» I'm not very much of a political animal, but if I were, my pet peeve would be the amount of government. It can get ludicrous. Approximately one-fourth of every dollar spent on a house has to do with government.
» My father came over to this country in 1903 from what is now Poland, but it was Lithuania at that time. They kept moving the border around. He was 11 years old and worked for a nickel a day. Eventually, he owned his own retail store.
» My first business, I started when I was 21, with three of my brothers, a retail business, house wares, gifts and later it morphed into furniture. We made a living. What I learned was it took about the same length of time to sell a $10 item as a $300 item. So I learned that selling higher-priced items is probably a better business than selling low-priced items. That's what pushed me into wanting to build houses.
» Lots today are selling for somewhere between 40% and 50% less — sometimes worse — than they were before, and homes are about one-third less. If you have a lot of product around, you're just taking a hit right now.
» As an old guy, I've been in this business in every cycle since World War II, and this is certainly the deepest and longest cycle we've had.
» Why did it happen? It happened because credit was easy. More homes were being bought by investors than we understood. When your barber tells you he just bought three condominiums, you might expect the markets are a little bit askew.
» The lesson we usually learn from something like this is nobody learns. But if you are going to learn anything, it's when assets are running up in price, you have to know when to get off the train.
» Flying is about the only hobby I still have. I still fly myself, although every year at my physicals the FAA gives me a hard time because I'm reasonably bionic. I've had five bypasses and a couple of stents. But I'm still licensed to fly. What I fly now is a little Cirrus SR22, just a nice single-engine airplane. It's a flying computer is what it really is. You go in there and press the buttons and it flies.
» The split plan worked partly because of what was intended — more livable space — but it also became very popular that you could have a little separation from the kids.
» I'm not an architect or really too great at designing houses, but I know when I look at a house plan if it'll work.
» Nobody had money during the Depression. My mother was a piano teacher. She would teach the dentist's kids piano, and he would fix our teeth. I had a very industrious upbringing. You learned to work.
» It's not like you get this one big hit, this one big lucky break, and that's how you find success. You have to earn your wings every day. What you've done last week is nice, but if you're building resources that can be brought to bear again, that's the trick.
» After high school, I wanted to go to an engineering school, but Northwestern's engineering school didn't at that time take many Jewish kids because they couldn't place them. There was too much of a bias then toward Jewish employees in the engineering field. I went to the school on a Saturday to look around, and I ran into a guy who wanted to know what I was doing wandering around the halls. No one else was there. I told him I was thinking about applying and so he took me for a walk around. We sat in his office and talked and he asked me if I wanted an application. He handed me one, and he initialed it. I found out later he was the dean of the school, so I got in.
» My father, being from Eastern Europe, liked his meat well-done. In Eastern Europe, if there's any hint of pink or red showing, that means it's not done, so we had well-done meat. In my household, you didn't waste food. You sat there and you ate it.
» To buy a house because it's an investment is probably in my opinion not the best reason to buy a house.
» I think Texas has shown us that to some extent if government can get out of the way, things can get better. If we could do that same thing in Florida, I think it's going to be all good.
In case you missed it:
- M.J. Soileau is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Susan Benton is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Terry Stiles is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Theresa Manuel is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Dan ‘Tater' Porter is a Florida Icon
- Joe Redner is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Nicole Johnson is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ron Magill is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Artis Gilmore is a ‘Florida Icon'
- An Interview with George Billiris
- Frank Morsani is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alto ‘Bud' Adams Jr. is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Winston Scott is a 'Florida Icon'
- Florida Icon: Carlton Ward Jr.
- Florida Icon: Mel Tillis
- Robert M. 'Bob' Beall II is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Peter Meinke - A life in poetry
- Carl Hiaasen is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Nan-Yao Su is a Florida 'Icon'
- Roland Martin is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Florida Icon: Derrick Brooks
- An interview with Annika Sorenstam
- Iconic Florida developer H. Irwin Levy
- ‘Alligator' Ron Bergeron is a Florida Icon
- Howard Schnellenberger is a Florida 'Icon'
- Florida Icon: Barbara Mainster
- Florida Icon: Walter Lanier ‘Red' Barber
- Louise Gopher is a 'Florida Icon'
- H. Lee Moffitt is a 'Florida Icon'
- Kiran Patel is a 'Florida Icon'
- 'Florida Icon' Howard C. Tibbals shares life lessons
- Alex D. Brickler is a 'Florida Icon'
- Life lessons from hockey great Phil Esposito
- Lucy Morgan is a 'Florida Icon'
- Donald Goodman is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ed Droste is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ray Ferrero Jr. - Florida Icon
- W. George Allen is a 'Florida Icon'
- Tom James is a 'Florida Icon'
- Patrick Smith is a 'Florida Icon'
- Jerry Uelsmann is a 'Florida Icon'
- John L. Parker is a 'Florida Icon'
- C.C. 'Doc' Dockery is a 'Florida Icon'
- Toni Jennings is a 'Florida Icon'
- Dave Barry is a 'Florida Icon'
- Shaquille O'Neal is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ruth Alexander is a Florida Icon
- Brian Johnson is a Florida Icon
- Florida Icon: Sam Gibbons
- Thomas 'Blue' Fulford
- Icon: Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits
- Icon: Charles E. 'Chuck' Cobb Jr.
- Icon: John DeGrove
- Icon: Charles Gray
- Icon: Harry Crews
- Icon: Burt Reynolds
- Icon: Tibor Hollo
- Icon: Gary Mormino
- Icon: Richard Gonzmart
- Icon: Bob Graham
- Icon: Ward Hall
- Icon: Eugenie Clark
- Icon: Warrick Dunn
- Icon: Chris Evert
- Icon: Preston Haskell
- Icon: Joseph Kittinger
- Icon: The Fanjul Brothers
- Icon: Romero Britto
- Icon: Steve Raymund
- Icon: Cesar L. Alvarez
- Icon: Juan 'Chi Chi' Rodriguez
- Icon: Gay Culverhouse
- Icon: Gene Leedy
- Icon: William R. Hough
- Icon: Peter Prichard
- Icon: Ed Price
- Icon: David L. Paul
- Icon: Jan Garavaglia
- Icon: Claude R. Kirk Jr.
- Icon: Don Zimmer
- Icon: Kenneth H. 'Buddy' MacKay
- Icon: Dick Vitale
- Icon: Michael Gannon
- Icon: Marcella Hazan
- Icon: Tony Little
- Icon: Wade L. Hopping
- Icon: Edgar Mitchell
- Icon: James Rosenquist
- Icon: Bob Martinez
- Icon: Arnold Palmer
- Icon: Don Shula
- Icon: Mike Peters
- Icon: Margaret D. Lowman
- Icon: Doug Williams
- Icon: Bob Butterworth
- Icon: Fred Schultz
- Icon: Eugene Patterson
- Icon: Harris Mullen
- Icon: Bill Haast
- Icon: Marion P. Hammer
- Icon: Albert Dunlap
- Icon: Joseph Woodrow Hatchett
- Icon video: Joseph Hatchett
- Icon: Talbot 'Sandy' D'Alemberte
- Icon: John Walsh
- Icon: James Robert Cade
- Icon: Nathaniel Pryor Reed
- Icon: Gus Stavros
- Icon: Betty Castor
- Icon: Mary Ann Carroll
- Icon: George Steinbrenner
- Icon: Ferdie Pacheco
- Icon: Vic Dunaway
- Icon: George Smathers
- Icon: Phyllis Apple
- Icon: Nick Bollettieri
- Icon: Harris Rosen
- Icon: Max Mayfield
- Icon: Carrie Meek
- Icon: Andres Duany
- Icon: T. Willard Fair
- Icon: Bobby Bowden
- Icon: Stetson Kennedy
- Icon: Don Francisco
- Icon: Janet Reno
- Icon: Reubin O'D. Askew
- Icon: Clyde Butcher
- Icon: Willie Gary
- Icon: Wayne Huizenga