Local Celebrity Spotlight: Donna Cohen

Donna Cohen is a very talented interior designer that lives in Gainesville and works in our local area. You will find her at many charitable events either volunteering or as a guest.

Where are you from, when did you move to Gainesville, and why?

I was born in the small town of Granville in upstate New York. I went to school in Boston, and was home for a summer after working in Boston between jobs.

I met David, my husband, and that was it! It’s funny because the women in the family knew of him as we had been shopping in his family stores since I was a teenager! We were getting tired of the cold and a business opportunity came up in Ocala. When he came home one day and asked, “Do you want to move to Florida?” I jumped at the chance. David had a condo in Boca Raton on the ocean so I thought, “great”! Can you imagine the night we arrived in Ocala 30 years ago…CULTURE SHOCK! We stopped to get gas and I couldn’t get over all the trucks with guns on them! A friend that we knew said, “You cannot live in Ocala…Gainesville is a university town”, so we took his advice and here we are…. love it now!

How do you relax?

I relax by lighting a candle, pouring a glass of wine, and then cooking!
Where do you like to go for a weekend getaway and why? I like to go to St. Augustine to relax, or NYC for my city fix!

What do you listen to in your car?

I listen to Sports Talk Radio… every day! I love Brady, Shane, Steve, Pat, Jeff, and Zach – the local guys on there.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My grandfather was an immigrant. His last name was Scaccia when he came through Ellis Island, from Italy. They changed his last name to Scott. He had a restaurant in Granville New York called Scotties that served American food. The diner had daily homemade specials. He also sold magazines, newspapers, record albums, candy, ice cream, etc. I started working there when I was twelve years-old. My shift started at 5:30am. There was no fooling around – customer service was key and there was always something to be done! It was a very quick lesson on good work ethic. My hair was a grease pit when I came home! I am grateful now… just not then! The restaurant is still there but my uncle has someone else running it now, although he still closes up!

Who inspired you as a child?

Jackie Kennedy–the epitome of grace and elegance!

What is in your fridge?

Leftovers, because I cook far too much food, like my Italian grandmother who spent Sundays making it and then sending dinner to every one of her married children. That was always our Sunday dinner growing up! So, I have linguine with clams, beef enchiladas, meatloaf, lemon fusilli pasta, and farfalle with sausage and cream… I make a lot of Italian dishes!

What has been your best financial investment?

My beautiful home!

Do you have a favorite quote?

From my mom, “always make sure you have on clean underwear in case you get in an accident!”

What is your favorite thing to do locally?

Saturdays in the Swamp!

What is your favorite thing to snack on?

Sauvignon Blanc wine for everyday drinking, Sancerre for weekends, and Montrachet in Paris. It’s hard to get wonderful Montrachet here and it’s pricey, but love it! Of course, a wonderful cheese and bread… I could live on that!

What is your favorite movie?

The Big Chill. We had only been in Florida a short time and was missing all of my peeps up North and making new friends. It was a bittersweet movie and I must have seen it at least five times!

What drives you crazy?

In my business, subs who don’t show up and don’t call! Or anybody who does that for that matter.

What is your favorite meal?

I think the atmosphere and table setting is as important as the meal. If you have delicious food but the surroundings and table settings are ugly…what’s the point?

What have you always wanted to do but never done?

A week or longer taking a cooking class in Italy – cooking and tasting all day, shopping in the market, drinking wine, and surrounded by olive trees.

What gadget can’t you live without and why?

My flat iron! As long as my hair looks good, I am fine, even without makeup! And I have a lot of it! We all have our idiosyncrasies!

What advice would you give your younger self?

More education. I did love school and I wish I had gotten my Masters and taken more CEU classes. My favorite CEU class was an eight day trip to Paris given by an FSU design professor. It was so hands on, and spouses and partners were welcome. I learned more about design on that trip than in a classroom.

What was your first car and what do you drive now?

It was a 1974 Silver Camaro. I thought I was hot stuff, brand new and fast! I bought it myself and then got a speeding ticket the first day I drove it off the lot! Now I have a 2013 Nissan Black Nissan Murano. It’s very practical for my business, since I always have tile, carpet, paint, and a myriad of other samples to carry around to show clients!