Question of the day:
If you guessed that they are all produced by companies headquartered on Long Island, you are correct.
It's true, of course, that the heart of fashion still beats most powerfully in Manhattan. But who knew that the largest privately held shoe company in the United States has made its home in Great Neck for decades? Or that a husband-and-wife team has built America's largest privately owned swimwear company right here in Farmingdale? And bet you wouldn't guess that there's a sizable factory in Islip that knits some of the loveliest, softest cotton sweaters around.
Besides having Long Island as a common denominator, all three of these companies are family businesses that have managed to thrive. Here's a chance to get to know them better
MAKING A SPLASH
The company Swimwear Anywhere Inc., Farmingdale
Back story In 1995, husband and wife Joe and Rosemarie DiLorenzo, both swimwear veterans, opened shop on Long Island rather than in Manhattan "because of the children. It was just much easier," Rosemarie DiLorenzo says. Today, they run what she says is the largest privately owned swimwear company in the country, home to loads of licensed designer lines, including Carmen Marc Valvo, DKNY, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Juicy Couture. They also produce in-house labels, and have separate companies in California that make swimwear for athletes. While they don't release sales figures, Joe DiLorenzo says they sell significantly more than a million suits a year.
Of note One of the company's brands, Roxanne, was the first to sell bra-sized swimsuits in 1949. DiLorenzo calls it the "great-grandmother" of the category, and the company has grown the concept into an extremely important swimsuit staple (trust us, this is a very big deal).
Strong Island "Long Island gave us a lot of room to grow the business instead of fighting the traffic, though we're not so far away from the city. It's less stressful and it's more pleasant not to commute, and that's a big plus," DiLorenzo says.
Wrong Island "I hate lunch here. The catering is the worst." Uh-oh. Neighborhood delis, send over a menu.
IT'S A REALLY BIG SHOE (BIZ)
The company Jimlar Corp., Great Neck
Back story Founded by Greek immigrants Victor and Madeleine Tarica in 1956 (and eventually joined by their sons Jim and Larry), the company was based in Manhattan until the early '90s. "We were looking for more spacious quarters to create an environment where our team would not be too far away from the center of fashion and airports," Larry Tarica says of the move east. Tarica says sales are $500 million a year (that's more than 20 million pairs of shoes).
Of note In 1998, Jimlar bought The Frye Co., maker of those fabulous, legendary boots. They also hold licenses to produce Coach and Calvin Klein footwear. In addition, they have their own house brands, and design and source for many other companies.
Strong Island "I'm a fan," Tarica says. "We think that Long Island offers a wonderful balance between a terrific opportunity for a good lifestyle for a lot of our staff, and convenience and access to New York."
Wrong Island He won't come right out and say it, but his one negative about Long Island is traffic. "Accesses, bridges and tunnels . . . that's kind of a challenge," Tarica says. Um, yeah.
CLOSE-KNIT AND OLD SCHOOL
The company BKg & Co. NY Inc., Islip
Back story About 45 years ago, this was a sweater contracting business owned by husband and wife Billy and Bobbie Gerold, both from a long line of knitters. For years they ran a huge factory in Deer Park, contracting for big names such as Ann Taylor, Betsey Johnson and Banana Republic. About 15 years ago, daughter Kathleen Gerold, now the company's president, and her husband, Brian Kornfeld, the vice president, took over and moved to Islip, where they currently produce cotton-only sweaters exclusively for their BKg brand. She estimates they produce 60,000 sweaters a year, with annual sales in the $2 million range. She says businesses like theirs "are virtually extinct."
Of note Gerold says it would be less expensive to have the merchandise produced overseas, "but it's the quality of life, and this is the life I was born into." People stay with the company - one 80-year-old just retired (though she comes in for lunch on Fridays). And Gerold's father, also 80 and known nationally as a "knitting maven," still works. According to Gerold, the wash-and-dry sweaters flatter all body types and, with 40 shades, color is their "driving force."
Strong Island "It's 100 percent ideal. We're in this really nice town, there's this warmth and coziness, and we're close to Manhattan."
Wrong Island Says Gerold: "I don't hate anything about it. I've traveled a lot and know how good we have it. I don't even mind the taxes." Egads!