Joan Kaplan is a wife, mother and realtor who loves to roll up her sleeves and dig in … whether it be digging in the dirt, a home renovation or a new bestseller. Today, she shares her newest ventures: a new recipe book and her new nonprofit, The Kaplan Family Foundation. Welcome, Joan, as today’s FACE of Atlanta!
Tell us a bit about you—where did you grow up? How did you land in Decatur?
After being raised in Chesterfield, MO, a suburb of St. Louis, I attended Bradley University and moved to Louisville, KY, for my first job with Ford Motor Company. They promoted me and moved me, gratefully, to Atlanta rather than to Detroit, which was an option.
Tell us about your family—human, furry or otherwise.
We have a full house, which includes my husband of almost 25 years, two daughters, a rescue cocker spaniel mix dog, two rescue cats, five backyard chickens (three were rescued) and two beehives. My very independent, 90-year-old Mom lives two blocks away.
You’re a top-selling realtor. How did you get into real estate?
It started as a hobby flipping houses. The process of transforming worn-out houses into comfortable and pretty homes was so fulfilling, and I fell in love with a couple of them, which we kept and still own as rental property. When neighborhood agents and brokers started contacting me for my opinions, insights and answers about real estate, I knew it was time to get my license.
What is your favorite part about the job?
I love the “matchmaking” aspect of being a realtor—matching buyers to homes or for sellers, finding an ideal buyer for their home.
Describe your favorite home you’ve ever sold.
Oh, it’s really tough to select just one, yet this funky, ’70s modern home with great bones and a panoramic view of the Chattahoochee River really stands out in my mind and fills my heart. My sweet and artistic young buyers bought it, knowing they had both the vision and the ability to craft it into the spectacular showplace it is today. It’s so gratifying that they now live in it with two young daughters and have great neighbors and tons of friends that all love the space, as well.
Let’s talk about your newest endeavors, The Kaplan Family Foundation and the recipe book. How did the idea for the foundation originate?
One of my dearest friends, Sharon Spiegelman, and I were talking about our hopes and plans and dreams, and she declared she wanted to be a philanthropist. That resonated with me deeply, and I thought, I feel so lucky and I want to give back, too. I researched and found out that starting a philanthropic fund was simple and made sense for us.
How did you decide on the four charities that The Kaplan Family Foundation supports?
I believe in keeping things local, and there are many wonderful philanthropic organizations based in my neighborhood, the Oak Grove area of Atlanta. A few focus on some aspect of housing, and we know and respect the founders of each, which is very meaningful to me. We narrowed it down to these four: Ruffus Rescue helps find homes for dogs, including our beloved dog, Oreo Cookie Kaplan, whom we adopted from Ruffus five years ago. One Good Deed promotes the concept of “neighbor helping neighbor.” Contribute 2 America caters to the homeless who live under the I-85 bridge at North Druid Hills. Atlanta Hospital Hospitality House is a “home away from home” to outpatients and relatives of patients hospitalized in 30 Atlanta area hospitals and medical facilities.
Tell us about the recipes in the book. Where did they come from?
Great food is a passion of mine, and simplicity is imperative, so I opt for preparing meals at home that are easy to put together, partially due to time constraints and partially since I’m not really a good cook. My husband calls me a great “assembler.” Even when we entertain, it’s with simply prepared recipes, which I gladly share when asked. Fifteen years ago, I copied and collated a few recipes at Kinko’s and sent them out to friends and family. Seven years ago, I similarly created the second edition of the recipe book. I really wanted to create a third edition, and decided to do so to celebrate my 10th year in real estate. It felt like a great gift to share with clients and supportive friends, and the idea grew to be a mechanism to raise funds for our philanthropic fund.
And how does the recipe book support the foundation?
The recipe book is a gift, and if someone is inspired to donate to the foundation or to a charity of their own choice, then I feel it is successful.
What goals are you hoping to achieve through the foundation?
Spreading the word about the recipient charitable organizations is the main goal, and inspiring others to give back to their own communities is my hope. Setting up a philanthropic fund is just one way, and a very easy one. There are literally thousands of different ways to contribute or give back.
What is the easiest way for the community to support the foundation?
Visiting our website at thekaplanfamilyfoundation.org is the easiest way to learn more or to make a donation.
What do you think is the coolest thing going on in Atlanta right now?
The BeltLine in an amazing connective ribbon running through our communities for everyone to freely enjoy. I especially loved being part of the nighttime Lantern Parade.
When you’re not working, how do you like to relax and unwind?
In the morning, gardening and putting my hands in the soil, pulling weeds and nourishing my garden is a relaxing way to start my day. In the evening, I wind down by reading, but usually am so exhausted I can only read a few pages or paragraphs before I fall asleep.
Is there an event coming up that you’re excited about?
Yes, I’ve enrolled in a new, mindful triathlon called Wanderlust 108 that is being held at Piedmont Park in October, which includes a 5k run, an outdoor yoga experience and a guided meditation.
You have one day to spend in Atlanta, and money is not an object. How do you spend the day?
Rise with the sun, feed the pets and spend an hour working in the garden before my family awakens, picking fruit and flowers from our garden and eggs from our chicks. We share a simple breakfast before heading over to the BeltLine, where we meet up with friends for a nice, eight-mile bike ride. Then I meet some girlfriends for a foot massage, mani/pedi and lunch at a dive restaurant on Buford Highway. When I get home, my family and I huddle together to read on the couch for an hour before my husband and I get ready to go to Chastain for a concert with another group of friends who drop off their kids at our home. A catered dinner from Alon’s is delivered and a limo drives us to the concert, where we have a front-row table. We enjoy a nightcap at our friend’s rooftop patio at the Ritz Residence, where we savor a nighttime view of the city. We make a quick stop at Waffle House for a midnight snack before heading back home.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
Oh there are stacks of books! I’m currently reading three or four and, depending on my mood, will pick up one of these: Being Mortal, Tell the Wolves I’m Home and Chinatown Recipes.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
Yoga, a chai tea concoction I make daily with fresh ginger and, although embarrassed to admit it, my iPhone, which connects me to people, places and can help me find answers to many questions.
Thanks, Joan, for sharing a look at your life today. To learn more about how to contribute to The Kaplan Family Foundation, visit thekaplanfamilyfoundation.org.
Thanks to Catrina Maxwell of catmaxphotography for the great pictures in today’s article.