James Romano joined Belle Maison right after graduating from SUNY/ Binghamton in 1994, and he hasn’t looked back. He worked in the warehouse as a kid, learning the business from the ground up, and while his parents never pressured him, he always knew he wanted to join the family business and “build something of value.
Small companies have to be nimble, and James has worn many hats, directing warehouse operations, sales, and vendor and customer management. His primary focus now is applying his expertise in supply chain management to increase efficiencies, drive product innovation, and grow the business through retail, catalog, and online outlets.
A strong growth period in the 80s was followed by another major change. Again, Elie saw it coming: the European manufacturing industry he had relied on (he once owned a mill in Spain) wouldn’t be able to compete with Chinese manufacturers, and Belle Maison moved much of its manufacturing to China. More growth was fueled by the acquisition of the Stylemaster brand and the creation of Renaissance Home Fashions and Twill & Birch, adding retail distribution and catalog sales to the mix.
The youngest child, Liz Romano, was the last to join the family business, where she found a creative home. Trained as a photographer at the Rhode Island School of Design, Liz joined Belle Maison in 2000 and immersed herself in daily operations for several years. Then she became “a catalyst to streamline the brands and move the business into a focused direction,” says James.
Liz rebranded existing product lines, jumpstarted the company’s marketing strategy with updated packaging and ads, and created the company’s first in-house design studio. Drawing on an exclusive pattern archive, the talented design team put their collective passion and expertise together to create Belle Maison’s fourth brand, Colorfly, to appeal to a more upscale, design-savvy customer.
As the younger generation of Romanos gradually takes up the reins, Elie sees himself as an advisor, there to offer his wealth of experience and business acumen. The Romanos share a love for travel, good food, and quality design. They also share a Mediterranean ethos of “work to live, not live to work.”