Local Folks: Numa Saisselin

Local Folks: Numa Saisselin
The Saisselins: Numa and Laurie

Since 2012, Mr. Numa Saisselin has been president of downtown’s historic Florida Theatre, a non-profit organization and one of the most attended theatres in the world. “Our business is better than it’s ever been,” he said.

Numa and his wife, Laurie, moved from New Jersey to Avondale 10 years ago specifically for his position at the theatre. The board of directors had connected the Saisselins to a realtor, Carol Powell at Berkshire Hathaway. She and Allison Steilberg found the Saisselins a rental house on Pine Street. The neighborhood delivered everything Numa and Laurie had been looking for: a non-gated community, an old house rather than new, a park nearby, walkability to dinner and coffee, and the theatre close enough so that Numa could work odd hours.

“They parked us in Avondale. We were lucky enough to find a house three blocks away on Oak Street a year later,” Numa said. That’s where they’ve been since. “We love living in Avondale. We have absolutely everything we asked for.” That includes several super friendly neighbors whom they see every day. “Avondale’s just a great place to live,” he said.

Once upon a time, Numa was a French horn player. He did earn a bachelor’s degree in the instrument, but somewhere halfway through his schooling, Numa realized that he wasn’t quite good enough at it to ever be able to earn a living. Shortly afterwards, he discovered arts administration. “I feel very lucky that I figured out a career that was going to be good for me,” he said.

Numa and Laurie have been together for 21 years, married for 11. Numa tried to talk Laurie out of taking on his last name because, he said, “That’s a bear of a last name to go through life with. But she felt like it was important, so she took my name. She now admits that I was right,” Numa said.

Completing the Saisselin family are a 2-year-old Great Dane named Cooper and a 4-year-old pit bull named Ruth. “The dogs are our children. They get along great,” Numa said. He is the designated dog walker and usually does so in shorts and a ripped T-shirt, not nearly as nice as he dresses for work. But sometimes, people still recognize him. The three can be found in Boone Park most every day. A couple times per week, they load in the car and head to Riverside’s John Gorrie Dog Park or to Kanine Social. “I walk a giant dog. It’s amazing how many people you meet when you’re walking a Great Dane,” Numa said. 

Numa and Laurie Saisselin
Numa and Laurie Saisselin

As representative of the theatre to the community, a lot of Numa’s social activities are related to his work. But when he and Laurie socialize as a couple, at one of the restaurants in The Shoppes is where they might be found. They’ve been regulars at Biscottis for a long time. They enjoy The Fox. And their new favorite is Josephine. They feel fortunate to have so many choices within minutes of their house. “The pandemic changed our behavior a little bit,” Numa said. Since then, they don’t go out nearly as much as they used to and, instead, eat at home more often than before.

Aside from dogs and dining, Numa doesn’t have many pastimes. “I’m not retiring anytime soon, but if I eventually do retire, I am going to be terrible at it because I really have no hobbies,” he admitted. 

What Numa loves though, apparently, is Jacksonville. And it’s not only the Avondale area that he’s passionate about but also the heart of the city. He has been a board member of Downtown Vision for eight years and currently sits in the president’s seat. He finds it gratifying to be able to point out things that weren’t here when he first arrived—things like Brooklyn. That entire neighborhood between Water and Forest Streets did not exist back then. “It’s been super exciting to see downtown as well as the neighborhoods surrounding the urban core developing over the last 10 years. Anywhere you look, you can find an example of something new,” he said. 

Supporting arts and entertainment throughout Jacksonville is something that Numa encourages all residents to do—going into the neighborhoods like San Marco, Riverside, and Avondale for a meal and a drink or going downtown to see a show. “Go to something you’ve never been to before. Try it out. See if you like it. It adds a little something to your life,” he said.

Numa mentioned the national ranking of VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and the capital improvement plan going on at Florida Theatre. Though the theatre will be closed from July to October for major renovations, Numa and the staff will be busy booking fall shows during that time and selling seats. He said that guests can expect it to look like a brand new building when it reopens.

From Numa’s view, “If you’re not exploring a little bit, you’re really missing out on something.”

By Mary Wanser
Resident Community News

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