Although it’s peak summer, we caught Jill Zarin working from her Boca Raton, Florida bedroom. However, Zarin has been a longtime Hamptons dweller with her late husband, Bobby Zarin. “Both divorced and dating, Bobby and I were living in Manhattan. We had no friends together, and we really did not know where to settle. We looked out the window at Waterside by 23rd Street by the East River where we saw the marina: Why don’t we get a boat and just start cruising to different places to see what we like! One of our new friends drove the boat for us and took us to West Cove Marina, Sag Harbor … we never left.”
Living on a series of bigger boats, the novelty wore off for Jill and Bobby. They bought a house on Deerfield Road, Sag Harbor in 2006. Here too, they went through a series of renting and buying houses. When Bobby died from cancer in 2018, Jill sold her existing real estate and moved to Florida.
Zarin’s 28-year-old daughter Ally Shapiro wanted to remain in NYC and the Hamptons. “I was looking for a specific Sag Harbor condo, right next door to where we kept our boat,” Zarin continues. “I got lucky … the perfect location with two tennis courts and a swimming pool (which is where I am now).”
Zarin began her career originally working for Filene’s. When she married Bobby, she became an executive in his prominent family textiles and fabrics business. “Bobby owned a restaurant in Remsenburg for a time,” she adds.
Then Hollywood called! The producer of Super Nanny left a message on Zarin’s home answering machine about a new program he was going to produce using glamorous moms and their children in the upper echelons of NYC. “I played it for Bobby wondering if the message was legit. Bobby figured if this caller was actually the producer of Super Nanny he must be real. The rest is history!”
Zarin was a star of the second series under The Real Housewives brand (the first was The Real Housewives of Orange County). The Real Housewives of New York took off thanks to Andy Cohen. “He worked directly with us many times,” Zarin recalls. The show enjoyed mega attention and a lot of money was spent promoting it.
“After Season 4, I had a parting of ways. One of the most exciting points during that period was when Harper’s Bazaar published a multi-page spread on us. I’m not a model, I’m not six feet tall, I’m not beautiful. … It’s a little girl’s dream to be in a high-fashion magazine like this. … A manicurist, a seamstress, a famous clothing stylist and a celebrity hairstylist all on the set at the same time at our disposal for the photoshoot … I felt like Cindy Crawford for the day!” There was major coverage in People magazine, and regular pops on Zarin’s whereabouts in many daily newspapers.
Jill Zarin Home is becoming a lifestyle brand. The Jill Zarin Home Rug collection has grown from a small business into a multi-million-dollar operation. This summer Zarin has been launching the Jill Zarin Do-It-Yourself Home Furniture line in stores like Wayfair and through
JillZarin.com. “I have built my brand cutting out the middleman and going directly to the consumers. Next is a candle collection. Then clothing, then accessories. My whole brand is about solutions and getting a lot of value.”
Zarin has a team of 10 full-time people including daughter Ally who is Chief Marketing Officer. (In March 2020, Zarin got media attention with a frank, transparent revelation that her daughter was conceived through a sperm bank, and not Zarin’s first husband.)
“We often butt heads on how to present our products. She will tell me: ‘That’s Jill Zarin, it is not Jill & Ally.’”
Zarin doesn’t miss The Real Housewives. “There were many times it became exhausting with physical work to be a ‘Real Housewife.’” Meanwhile, the episodes continue in reruns.