Astute women are nothing new to Palm Beach. From Marjorie Merriweather Post to Lilly Pulitzer, adept women have shaped the cultural and aesthetic landscape of The Island since its inception as a resort. Generally gifted with a knack for bringing people together and creating memorable moments, it should not surprise anyone that women are behind Palm Beach’s newest wave of major projects, namely The Colony Hotel, Grandview Public Market, and the revitalization of Royal Poinciana Way. Motivated and guided by good taste, the women driving these projects channel their love of community into their vision for each one’s future. All hailing from multigenerational Palm Beach families, each has a vested interest in contributing to the quality of life in Palm Beach for generations to come.
When asked to describe the impetus behind Grandview Public Market, cofounder Kristen Vila demurs, “I like to think the project chose me.” Vila’s first encounter with the venue was with flashlight in hand, peering into a defunct 12,000-square-foot windowless cold storage space. “I saw a space that could be transformed into something playful that could feed the community both literally and culturally,” she says. Originally conceived as a multi-vendor food hall able to identify and incubate new culinary talent, Grandview quickly evolved into a more holistic lifestyle center with shops, a weekend farmers’ market, and revolving roster of weekly events including yoga, live music, and holiday celebrations. Located in the Warehouse District of West Palm Beach, Grandview draws a diverse crowd from both Palm Beach and farther afield. As Vila looks to replicate the success of Grandview in other cities, community is first and foremost. “Grandview is thriving because the community has adopted it,” she says.
Originally Palm Beach’s Main Street, Royal Poinciana Way occupies a large space physically and emotionally. The Frisbie sisters, Katie, Franny and sister-in-law Ashley, are each integral parts of the Frisbie Group, their family’s real estate development firm driving the revitalization of Royal Poinciana Way and several other Palm Beach projects. As leasing manager for Royal Poinciana Way properties, Franny has brought exciting businesses such as Fritz Galleries and Nantucket favorites Skinny Dip and Maven. Both she and Katie, who manages design and construction of residential and mixed-use projects, hold master’s degrees in real estate from Georgetown. Ashley B.C. Frisbie who joined the group in 2017 to run marketing and public relations, is a Colgate grad and former fortune 500 advertising exec. The women’s collaboration with each other is indicative of their approach to their projects. “We strongly feel an inclusive process creates a more thoughtful outcome for our community and town,” says Ashley. It is not all work for the Frisbies; the three also find time to enjoy much of what Palm Beach has to offer together, whether it be tennis, boating, or welcoming the next generation of Frisbies when Ashley celebrates the birth of her first child this spring.
Sarah Wetenhall, CEO of The Colony Palm Beach, first came to The Island over 20 years ago when her future husband’s father was part owner of the historic hotel. Thus began a romance with both her future spouse and the iconic property. After she and husband Andrew Wetenahll acquired The Colony in 2016, she took charge of revitalizing the grande dame and assuring The Colony’s charm and appeal thrive for many decades to come. Mission critical was to have some fun. Paddleboards, beach cruisers, and a punchy pink beach buggy to chauffeur guests to and from sandy destinations are hallmarks of Wetenhall’s vision for a joyful resort experience that feels quintessentially Palm Beach. Next on her list was a total overhaul of The Colony’s culinary program and the launch of new restaurant CPB. “I had a clear vision of what both food and ambiance at The Colony should feel like,” says Wetenhall. “Fresh and unique, but also cozy and whimsical, like spending time in the Palm Beach home of your chicest friend.” Wetenhall also enlisted Kemble Interiors to actualize her vision with renovations of The Colony’s Coral Ballroom and CPB’s dining room and lounge. “Palm Beach is a treasured haven for our family,” says Wetenhall, “and my goal is to share that feeling with all our guests.”