Jaana Moisio with (l-r) Caroline, 7, Lauren, 11, and Moisio’s husband, Tom Bennett. The girls have three piggy banks marked ‘save,’ ‘spend’ and ‘share.’ The ‘save’ money goes to the bank to pay for college and the ‘share’ goes to the Children’s Home Society. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Jane Smith
Finnish-born Jaana Moisio moved to southern Palm Beach County as soon as she finished her education in the colder climes of Canada and Ohio.
She knew the area and enjoyed its warm winter weather when she visited her Finnish great-uncles during their annual snowbird trips to the Lake Worth-Lantana area.
“I wanted to get out of the cold, so I ended up moving here,” she said.
Since then, Moisio has established deep roots in the coastal community.
She was living and working as a divorce lawyer in Boca Raton when she met her husband on a skiing trip to Taos, N.M. “It was a setup that everyone knew about,” she said, except for Moisio and her soon-to-be husband, Thomas Bennett, a money manager living in Delray Beach.
Through her work at the Hodgson Russ law firm, she became involved with the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches. About eight years ago, she invited Cora Brown of the Children’s Home Society to sit at the firm’s table for a luncheon. Brown told her about the more-than century-old statewide agency where she is now regional director of philanthropy.
Moisio learned about its Nelle Smith Residence for abused and neglected teenage girls. The group also has a Transitions home where pregnant teens and teen mothers with their babies live in a group-home setting.
“They have so many needs; the recession really hit them hard,” she said.
Soon, Moisio was on its board and served for six years. She had to give up the board seat as her business grew, but she still is a “wonderful ambassador for us,” Brown said.
Moisio, now living in Point Manalapan, remains active in the organization by attending and hosting money-raising events, holding diaper drives, making sure the charity is well-known at her daughters’ school at Christmas time, and even indoctrinating her two daughters, ages 11 and 7, who have three piggy banks — marked save, spend and share. The “save” money goes to the bank to pay for college and the “share” goes to the children’s group, Moisio said.
When her first daughter was born, Moisio, then age 38, was still working as a lawyer and didn’t have time for shopping to set up a nursery. Even so, she managed to create an elegant nursery for Lauren.
It soon became the talk of parents at the Unity School in Delray Beach. At age 2 and a half, Lauren was enrolled in its preschool program. She had play dates and when parents came over to pick up their kids, they saw Lauren’s room and asked who designed it.
Soon Moisio found herself sketching designs for parents while wanting to leave divorce law because she did not want to become “hard and bitter from seeing the worst in people.” After her husband suggested she charge for the designs, that thought became the catalyst she needed to leave the law firm.
She created the palmbeachtots.com website to sell luxury furnishings for little ones. Her store ended up in Palm Beach Gardens not because she did any demographic studies that showed it was a good area for her merchandise but because she knew the owners of the Downtown at the Gardens. They simply invited Moisio to translate her online store into a real shop, where she stayed for two years.
Ever the pitch woman for the Children’s Home Society, she talked the project’s managers into adding the charity to its list receiving monthly donations from its carousel proceeds. She also held an author signing for Annie Falk’s Palm Beach Entertaining at her store. All of the proceeds from the book, which retails for $45, go directly to the children’s group.
The book is still available at her store, which now sits on South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. She found that location serendipitously.
As her daughter Lauren grows up, she is developing her own style and prefers modern furniture. Moisio, being a good mom, was driving that stretch of Dixie Highway, known for its antique and consignment shops, searching for suitable items when she saw the perfect desk for her daughter.
She got to talking with the store owner and saw that her Palm Beach Tots store would fit in well with the other stores on that stretch of Dixie. And now she is talking with her retail neighbors about hosting an event for the Children’s Home Society.