Philadelphia Inquirer

Quietly and elegantly, he’s selling ocean-view luxury
By Fen Montaigne
NEW YORK – It is 6:30 p.m. on Fifth Avenue, and inside Cartier, the fine French jewelry store, a private reception is under way.
Young, blond waiters in tuxedos walk delicately through the elegant setting of cut-glass chandeliers, elaborately carved wooden walls and sapphire and diamond necklaces and rings. “Champagne?” the waiters ask in a near-whisper as they strand before clusters of guests.
A violinist in an alcove above the showroom plays ‘30s tunes as the assemblage eyes the 1983 Cartier collection from Paris. An older man with a blonde-haired woman on his arm walks up to a jewelry case, where the bracelets and necklaces are spread out in front of a picture of the Eifel Tower.
“I would buy you the Eiffel Tower,” he tells his companion in a silken voice. “But I don’t think it’s for sale.”
There is a steadily increasing murmur of English, French, Italian and Hindu voices as the guests – dressed in everything from saris and Nehru jackets to leather suits and tweeds – stream in.
In the midst of it all stands Jack Studnicky, the Polish kid from Newark, N.J., who has spent most of his life selling things. He is here doing what he does best. On this night, in a glamorous Fifth Avenue setting, Studnicky is trying to peddle a piece of real estate on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. And his moment is about to arrive, as Ralph Destino, the president of Cartier, throws a soft pitch Studnicky’s way.
“If the Cartier building on Fifth Avenue is the East Coast’s most elegant old building,” Destino tells the guests, “I suppose the Ocean Club will be the East Coast’s most elegant new building.”
Destino thanks everyone for coming, and then begins to move away from the podium without introducing Studnicky, who is in charge of selling the 725 luxury condominiums in Ocean Club. But Studnicky, sensing that a door is being gently closed in his face, seizes the moment. He walks up to the podium before the crowd disperses and says a few kind words, never mentioning the condominiums. (“I feel something as discriminating as Ocean Club shouldn’t be pitched,” he says later.)
Studnicky thanks the guests for coming, the violinist strikes up “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and everyone returns to the canapés and champagne.
Such was the scene on Tuesday evening as Studnicky tried to promote one of Atlantic City’s more ambitious real estate projects – a $200 million, 34-story building that will house condominiums ranging in price from $150,000 to $1.25 million.
For Studnicky – who spent his early years in Newark graduated from Haverford High School and spent one year at La Salle College – it was just another sale. And he has been very good at selling ever since he got out of the Marines, read Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich and attended the Success Motivation Institute in Waco, Tex.
But could this super-salesman persuade the chi-chi crowd at Cartier to buy a condo in a town that many people, despite the arrival of casino gambling, still consider to be a decidedly unglamorous place? Could he hawk real estate in a town he agreed was “a hovel one block away from the boardwalk,” a place with the highest per-capita crime rate in the country?
Studnicky did not seem to be having much trouble. As his guests ogled the Cartier collection – “very sensibly and attractively priced,” said a store brochure, “ranging from $1,100 to $35,000” – Studnicky discreetly worked the crowd. He told one woman that in just three months he had sold 325 Ocean Club condos worth $60 million. To another guest he offered a private plane to fly to Atlantic City to inspect the construction site. (Work has just begun on the condos and they won’t be completed for two years.)
‘A gold rush”
“People have a great interest in Atlantic City,” Studnicky said to a guest. “It’s like a gold rush town. It’s bursting at the seams.”
All in all, said Tom Madden, Studnicky’s New York publicist, the reception enabled Studnicky to “Schmooze with some of the wealthiest people in the world.”
Not all of the big names that were invited made it to the party. Liza Minnelli didn’t show up; nor did New York Mayor Ed Koch or the president of NBC. But there were a baron or two, and a sizable number of wealthy individuals from the United States, Europe and the Orient. Artist Leroy Neiman was there, and he said he had bought an Ocean Club condo for between $250,000 and $500,000.
“When you drive down to Atlantic City and approach the city and see the mini-skyline, you’re seeing something very special there,” said Neiman. “Atlantic City still has a lot of kinks to work out. All you have to do is go there to see that. But it can’t go downhill any further. It can only go up.”
Renaissance city
Dr. Wellington Hsia, a New Jersey physician who owns some of the condos, said, “It took more than one day to build the Roman Empire.”
And New York real estate broker George R. Gordon, holding a caviar canapé in each hand, commented, “This development is part of a total renaissance of a city that was like a morgue before.”
Studnicky beamed as his guests praised Ocean Club. Resplendent in a black pinstripe suit, he made his subtle pitch, his eyes darting back and forth, keeping constant watch over the comings and goings of the crowd.
“Famous people like to be above the madding crowd,” said Studnicky. “They don’t want to be part of the mob. We believe people have a right to have a lifestyle. We’re selling a lifestyle.
And what, in the end, will Jack Studnicky get out of it?
“If it weren’t a lot of money,” said Studnicky, “I wouldn’t be there.”