Family businesses are notoriously difficult to keep going through the generations. According to the Harvard Business Review, about 70 percent fail or are sold before the founder’s kids can come on-board, and just 10 percent remain alive and kicking for the grandchildren. With all three of his sons working in the family businesses—and still enjoying one another’s company—New Rochelle’s Randolph Rose (pictured, second from left) is bucking that trend.
His family companies include FEA Home, one of the country’s largest collections of Far Eastern antiquities; the Randolph Rose Collection bronze statuary business; and commercial real estate firm R.J. Rose Realty. The younger Roses, including Austin, 40, (far left) vice president of advertising and marketing, Jordan, 36, (far right) vice president of sales, and Harlan, 30, (second from right) vice president of operations, worked weekends and vacations throughout childhood, unloading trucks and polishing furniture. Randolph and his wife, Ellen (seated), a company VP, are still surprised—but delighted—that all three followed in their footsteps.
The family firms date back to the ’70s, when Randolph’s cousin, stationed in Bangkok during the Vietnam War, began sending art to be sold in an aunt’s Greenwich Village antique shop. That business, the genesis for FEA Home, took off. And when Randolph looked for warehouse space, the low rents of the old 1800s-era commercial buildings of Yonkers beckoned. Meanwhile, on his frequent world travels, Randolph noticed and started to import bronze statuary. When he decided to design and cast his own statues, the Randolph Rose Collection debuted in 1995.
Far Eastern antiquities like this mask are sold by FEA Home, one of the Rose family’s three businesses in Yonkers.
The newest company, R.J. Rose Realty, launched in 2007, owns and leases the historic 170,000-square-foot Alexander Smith Carpet Mills building at 500 Nepperhan Avenue in Yonkers, where the Rose firms are based. A tenant since 1985, Randolph bought and renovated the building five years ago. Now completely leased with home, design, and art tenants, it recently acquired the neighboring 201,000-square-foot “Worsted Building.”
Visitors to 500 Nepperhan should consider donning their sneakers—it’s 10 football fields long. The seemingly endless miles of hallways are punctuated by groupings of Asian furniture and accents, and an industrial ambiance abounds. Each of the millions of old objects within tells a fascinating story, from the 1800s Burmese Buddha rented for the Studio 54 opening, to Ming Dynasty burial ceramics.
So how do businesses that supported one family grow to support three more? “We all sat down to plan how to bring in more business,” says Randolph. The family also engaged a small business consultant, a business psychologist, and a PR firm to help them strategize.
Fortunately, patriarch Randolph has been open to innovation, and both generations have a healthy respect for each other. The sons pushed for an Internet and social media presence. Harlan recalls his dad saying that no one was going to buy a bronze sculpture from the Internet. Happily, he was wrong. “Now we’re getting phone calls from places like California,” says Harlan. Another new income stream is using the building as a special event space and place to film TV shows and movies.
With a third generation of four grandchildren already on deck, the Roses are focused on the future. Randolph has enlisted 11 neighboring landlords representing 1.5 million-plus square feet to create CMAD—pronounced “cee-mad,” it stands for the Carpet Mills Arts District—and the City of Yonkers is on board. His plan? To attract artists and creative industries and turn the neighborhood into a destination like Red Hook or Hoboken, with first-floor retail and eateries. Randolph would also love to see loft living come to CMAD to increase street traffic—and make his grandkids’ commutes extra easy.