Strouds to 'partner' brand, mgmt. team
Andrea Lillo -- Home Textiles Today, April 10, 2001
NEW YORK — While most retailers here at market last week looked for new products and trends, Rob Valone and Gary Van Wagner looked to quell rumors and renew industry confidence in City of Industry, CA-based Strouds.
Talking exclusively to Home Textiles Today, Valone, vp, gmm, and Van Wagner, vp and cfo, enthusiastically shared their vision for the troubled retailer as well as information on their new partner: Walter Cruttenden, founder of a brokerage firm in California, as well as a long-time Strouds customer.
"When we recently focused on alternatives for the company, we looked for partners, and found someone with knowledge of the company and customer," said Van Wagner. "It was a good fit. The way Walter manages his business and understands customer service is in alignment with what Strouds stands for." Cruttenden even met Bill Stroud, the retailer's founder, who also felt that he was the right person.
In addition to founding an Orange County-based brokerage firm called Cruttenden Roth, Cruttenden also co-founded e-offering, a direct-to-public IPO, which was then sold to E-Trade. He has now turned to Strouds, and is one of four partners, including Valone, Van Wagner, and Cruttenden Partners. This is the second time he has been involved with Strouds, since he was one of the original underwriters of the Strouds IPO.
"The new company will capitalize on management, and the group will buy the assets out of bankruptcy," said Valone. "We will continue to strengthen the brand. The customer knows Strouds ... We're very fortunate that we've got a pretty solid organization."
Strouds goes back to court April 12 when the bankruptcy court is expected to approve the sale. The closing should come at the end of April. The sale will include the 50 remaining stores, the corporate office and two distribution centers.
Valone will then become president, and Van Wagner coo/cfo. Turnaround specialist and current president Thomas Paccioretti, whose contract runs out April 30, will not have a position with the new company.
"As the core management, Rob and I have strong beliefs in the company. You have to have passion for the business to go forward," said Van Wagner, who commutes the 30-minute drive to the office with Valone every day so they can discuss business details.
What role Cruttenden will play is also undetermined, Van Wagner said. "He wants to be there as a resource for us. Whether that means as a sounding board or whatever, he wants to be supportive," though day-to-day operations will be up to Van Wagner and Valone.
"Substantially" all of management will remain, though the two couldn't get specific. However, Strouds has "outstanding, solid merchants."
"We're back, we're healthy, and we'll be around for a long time," Valone said.
"We're linen experts and we'll stick with that," Valone said. "There's a place for us in the market — it's a brand built over 21 years."
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