The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce has named Miami entrepreneur Cathy Bartel as “Businesswoman of the Year” in the award’s “Retailer and Restaurant” category.
Bartel is founder and CEO of Learning Express Toys of Miami, a specialty toy store retail company focused on children’s toys that inspire imagination and creativity. The Businesswomen of the Year award recognizes women who demonstrate excellence in the areas of business and community service while serving as a role model for fellow women.
Awards in five categories were given during the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce/AXA Advisors Businesswoman of the Year ceremony on Mar. 9 at the Coral Gables Country Club.
Bartel’s fellow awardees included Province Park Zamek of Just Ask Boo in the “Entrepreneur” category; Gabrielle D’Alemberte of the Law Office of Robert L. Parks in the “Philanthropy” category; Erbi Blanco-True of Great Florida Bank in the “Corporate” category, and Martha Martin of Baptist Health South Florida in the “Public service/Nonprofit” category.
Bartel launched Learning Express Toys of Miami in 2010 following a nearly twodecade law practice that included work as both corporate counsel to two publicly held companies and work in private practice. She was drawn to the Learning Express Toys franchise concept through her desire to offer a unique product in the retail market while providing rewarding experiences for children.
Today, less than 18 months after launching her first location in Dadeland Shopping Plaza on S. Dixie Highway (US1) in Pinecrest, Bartel’s flagship store is among the strongest-performing Learning Express Toys locations in the U.S.
“My decision to retire from law and start a neighborhood toy store was born out of my interest in doing something that would appeal to both children and their parents. As a mother of two, I see firsthand how education, imagination and creativity are all important elements of childhood, and the Learning Express Toys concept adds ‘fun’ into the equation.
“At the same time, our company is a springboard for creating local jobs and giving back to our community through support for local schools and charities,” Bartel added. Bartel regularly partners with South Florida schools and nonprofit organizations by hosting special events and spearheading promotions that direct sales proceeds back to the schools and charitable groups. In 2011 alone, Learning Express Toys of Miami teamed up with more than 20 community groups and schools.
Prior to launching Learning Express Toys, Bartel served as corporate counsel for Applica Consumer Products and before that as deputy general counsel at IVAX Corporation.
Beyond her entrepreneurship and years of legal practice, she has been a fixture in Greater Miami’s community giving landscape. Together with her husband, Jeff Bartel, she is active in a number of philanthropic organizations, including serving as members of the United Way of Miami- Dade’s Leadership Circle and Tocqueville Society, Florida Grand Opera’s Lyric Society, life trustees of the Vizcaya Foundation and of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and as a founding member of the Children’s Movement of Florida.
They also are active supporters of Miami Children’s Museum, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Miami Children’s Hospital, the Baptist Hospital and South Miami Hospital Foundations, New World School of the Arts, New World Symphony, and the Miami International Film Festival.
Bartel earned her law and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Miami. She resides in Coral Gables with husband Jeff Bartel, a retired lawyer and now chair of private equity firm Benworth Capital Partners. They have two children.
Learning Express Toys of Miami is a specialty toy retailer with its flagship Miami location at 9529 S. Dixie Hwy in Pinecrest, Florida. Learning Express is the nation’s leading franchisor of educational toy stores, providing an extraordinary shopping experience with knowledgeable sales staff who can offer expert advice on choosing the perfect toy, for every child, for every occasion. Learn more at www.miami.learningexpresstoys. com.