Brothers guide Franklin Park firm started by father
Peggy Pyzek with Renzo Company organizes clothing at the shop. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:06AM
FRANKLIN PARK — A former CPA and a former toy designer are the second generation to run Renzo Company, a designer and seller of children’s clothing and toys.
Robert Stone is the idea man at Renzo Company.
“I do the ideas and Jeff does the accounting,” Robert Stone said. “I create the idea and produce the idea and get it here. He takes over on getting it out.”
That makes Jeff Stone the get-it-done man.
“I make sure goods come in and go out,” Jeff said. “I do the accounting. The business end. I do a little bit of everything around here.”
Both handle sales, Robert Stone said.
Due partially to the success of a line of knit dolls called Zubels, the Stone brothers are in the process of purchasing a 5,000 square foot warehouse at 10144 Pacific Avenue. On March 4, village trustees in Franklin Park approved a property tax rebate for the property.
The business was started by their father, Alan Stone. He sold infants’ clothing to stores. The company that employed him transferred him to Chicago in the early 1960s.
“One of the accounts I was selling to had a little children’s store,” Alan Stone said. “Renzo Arancio. He would bring in knit goods from Italy. When I saw the product Renzo was bringing into the store, I saw the potential for a business.”
The two formed a partnership. Arancio would import knit goods, and Alan Stone would sell them to stores. Two years later, when Arancio retired, Stone bought the business.
While the idea had potential, it took a while to be realized.
“In order to support the business, I didn’t take any salary,” the elder Stone said. “All the money went back into the business to support inventory. I had to stay on the road selling my other products. I had to support the family. It must have taken close to five years.”
He started out in the basement of someone’s home, then rented a storefront on Grand Avenue in Elmwood Park. In 1968 he built a warehouse at 2351 N. 25th Ave. in Franklin Park, where the business is today.
His son Robert Stone studied computer science at DePaul University and industrial design at Illinois Institute of Technology and also attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Robert Stone worked for a couple of toy companies; first, designing video games, then, focusing more on toy design.
When one of the toy companies went out of business, he joined his father’s company.
“My goal is to develop the next must-have toy, like the Cabbage Patch or the Beanie Baby,” Robert Stone said.
He and staff designers create clothing designs for children up to age six. They co-own a factory in the Philippines that produces their designs. They sell to about 2,000 stores, the majority in the U.S. but also in Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. Among their clients are high-end boutique stores and high-end department stores like Nordstrom, Nieman-Marcus and Dillard’s.
During the recent recession, some of those boutiques closed. Then there’s online shopping.
“The Internet is taking over a major segment of this business,” Jeff Stone said. “Now we’re selling a lot of baby clothes on the Internet.”
In recent times Robert Stone has created the “Jock Monkey.” It’s a bit like a sock monkey but with a sports twist. There’s also the “Zilly Girls” which was inspired by the Spice Girls. It’s the increase in the Zubels toy line, where sales are growing at 60 percent a year, that led the firm to buy a second building.
Jeff Stone earned an accounting degree at Washington University in St. Louis and MBA at Loyola University in Chicago. He was as CPA in St. Louis for a while then joined Renzo Company in the mid 1980s.
The two may be co-owners, but they are also brothers.
“We run the business and fight brother to brother,” Robert Stone said. “It gets loud around here. We can scream and yell but never hit each other. Eventually it works itself out.”
As for their father. he’s pleased his sons have taken over the business.
“They’re in touch with me on a daily basis, letting me know how it’s going,” he said. “I talk to my children every day. The father and sons got to know each other a lot better.”