IT is a long way from Mallow to Miami — 4,000.05 miles — even via Galway and Ibiza.
Sarah Lucey, a butcher’s daughter from Mallow, who landed in South Beach, Miami, on a wing and a prayer, is living the dream.
The 32-year-old is Director of Talent Management for Miami’s two most exclusive nightclubs, LIV and STORY.
“I still say a decade of the rosary every night before bed,” says Sarah.
That could be 5am?
“Yes,” says Sarah. “I come home from the club, get in my PJs and turn on the TV to watch Corrie or Eastenders.”
She comes from hard-working stock in County Cork — a family who worked long hours to make a success of their business. Grandad, John, at the forefront of innovations, was the first butcher in Munster to have a tiled shop, refrigeration and a stainless steel counter.
“As a child, granny Lucey would hold court in the back kitchen of the shop,” says Sarah. “People popped in for a cup of tea or a bowl of home-made soup. When Granny called us in for a hearty lunch, it was usually oxtail or tongue which I hated. I crave them now! I buy Irish sausages and black pudding online here.”
Sarah loves her home town, but she knew the world was a bigger place, waiting to be conquered.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world, growing up in the shop in Mallow,” says Sarah, who has almost 98,000 followers on Instagram.
“It gave my siblings and I a great sense of the hard graft involved in selling something as simple as lamb chops.”
The family still see that same little girl who made her own fairytale come true in the bright lights of the USA. They don’t take much notice that she mixes now with pop princesses and celebrities.
“When I was home for my first Christmas in seven years, my family kind of looked at me and went ‘hey’ and went back into the shop,” says Sarah.
“I was only home for three days, but nobody said; ‘Oh My God, you were with Kim Kardashian last week’. It’s like, Sarah, put on the gloves and clean out the turkey!”
Sarah believed she could make her mark in life, and with persistence and the people-skills she learned as a child in 57, Main Street, Mallow, she has followed her dream and made it happen. She knew her in-born, can-do instinct wasn’t make-believe.
“We Irish are warm and we’re intuitive. People like to talk to us,” says Sarah. “Back home, an old lady might be lonely, she’d come into the butchers for a chat. You know if people want to talk or not. You just want to be a nice person to them. It all translates to what I’m doing now; being on your toes in front of house.”
Sarah honed her skills early.
“Everyone lent a hand,” she says. “I would have been thrown into the shop when I was five or six years old. I could be selling a piece of lamb in the butchers, or I’m selling a big $100,000 table here. It is the same thing.”
After achieving a Commerce degree in UCC, Sarah added a Masters from Smurfit School to her port folio. She left the bosom of her family, and headed for the City of the Tribes.
“John Callanan, proprietor of the Skeffington Arms, and the people of Galway embraced me,” she says.
“I spent an amazing 12 months there. I believe nobody should leave a job under 12 months.”
Sarah was grounded, doing her homework, planning her route to the top of the tree.
“I wanted to be with the Big Dogs,” says Sarah. “I researched the top locations of night-life, and by night-life, I mean million dollar companies. I chose Miami. No contacts. No job. I applied for a visa and headed off.”
She met her Prince.
“I met a boy of course,” says Sarah. “Maxime is French, but he really wants to be Irish! After my 12 month student visa expired, we both headed to Ibiza in April, 2012. Maxime became lighting director of USHUAIA (a top Ibiza club), and I was stage manager.”
The pair worked night and day to realise their dream.
“That summer we worked 109 nights in a row with no days off, welcoming 8,000 to 10,000 people nightly.”
The young couple, full of the joys of life, made their mark and headed to the US.
“From there, David Grutman, an internationally-known hospitality guru, flew Maxime and I back to Miami to open his club, STORY on South Beach,” says Sarah.
“We are here eight years now. I am director of talent (Djs and celebrities) and Maxime is Technical Director.”
Did the ‘luck of the Irish’ play any part in the real-life fairy story that came true?
“I don’t believe in luck,” says Sarah. “When I’m asked how I got my position, I say, it’s simple. Persistence. Persistence. Persistence. You find one person you aspire to be and research them until you are blue in the face, down to what they eat for lunch. Send them a gift basket, find out where they’ll be at 11am on Wednesday. Hop in a car and make sure you cross their path. There is no magic behind my story. It is just drive and hunger. If you really want something, dedicate all your time to it, at least in the early years. Cut back on the drinking, get up early and just keep ploughing on.”
Sarah didn’t let the grass grow under her feet: “I mean, some days I didn’t want to get out of bed and go looking for these guys at 6am, but they’d turn around and there she is again. The annoying one from Cork!”
Life is different to what it was back in Cork.
“We have two clubs and a coffee shop, OTL, two restaurants, KOMODO and PLANTA, and a new donut spot called the HAPPY PLACE. My boss will tell me where to go based on the celebrities, personalities or interests, and I’ll host them,” says Sarah.
“I will make sure they have private jets/flights booked. Cars and security as well. The celebrities are my responsibility once they touch down in Miami until the second they leave.”
It sounds hectic.
“It does,” says Sarah. “But once you hang out with the DJ or person of interest a couple of times, you become buddies and it’s like hanging out with your friends. I do that 24/7.”
Is Sarah in a happy place?
“Sure, I get homesick. But it’s a path I chose, so I can’t complain.
“I miss the countryside, so I go camping in the Florida Keys. I need silence and nature to keep a balance.”
Is she star-struck?
“Never, thank God. People know I’m there to help, not to hinder. They are very kind and grateful. The big A-list names are the sweetest. I think to get star-struck you need to have grown up with someone. (Justin) Bieber, Kim and Kanye (West) would not have been household names growing up. So I would handle them like anyone else. I would probably go weak at the knees if I came across Roy Keane or Henrik Larsson.”
Any wicked witches or bad apples in the land of fame of fortune?
“I think to become that big, you can’t be rude,” says Sarah. “People won’t tolerate it in the industry.”
Is the grass greener, State-side?
“The mind is a funny thing,” says Sarah. “The second you start thinking ‘what if’, you lose. I enjoy my life and the present moment, but returning to Ireland is definitely on the cards in the very near future.
“My husband and I purchased a farmhouse and a few acres in Mallow which we are renovating. There is no place like Cork.”
She is looking forward to moving in with Jack or Charlie — possible names for dogs, when they do come home — away from the ‘Big Dogs’ that she chased for so many years.
Sarah knows about the allure of her homestead.
“My brother Ian, is a fifth generation of Luceys. Even though he has the opportunity to live somewhere else, he wants to raise his two little boys on the third floor. Because that is just in our blood,” says Sarah.
“They can smell the turkeys and they can hear the chefs coming into work at 6am.”
Sarah has made her dream come true in Miami where she landed on her feet.
“I love it every single day,” she says. “But you will see me walking down Patrick Street sooner rather than later.”