• Cecile Corral

Industry Legend Bud Frankel Dies

Long a legend in the home textiles industry, Arlee Home Fashions founder Bud Frankel died on Feb. 15 from complications resulting from a stroke. He was 79 years old. The funeral was held Feb. 18 at Riverside Memorial Chapel here.

Frankel had a long career in the industry. He started out on the retail side, as a young man working at his father's fabric store in Garden City, N.Y. He later left and co- founded with his brother, Bob Frankel, Frankel's Home Furnishings — a retail chain primarily serving the New York metro area.

In 1975, Frankel started Arlee Home Fashions, a vendor of decorative pillows and related coordinate products. Over the years Frankel, who served as company ceo until his death, layered on other businesses, including throws, placemats, chair pads and soft window treatments.

While he manufactured his goods domestically for years in the South, Frankel is considered to be one of the first industry players to venture overseas to source product. Arlee grew quickly to the operation it is today. Last year Arlee rang up $45 million in decorative pillows alone.

One of his favorite projects was the addition of the pet bed program about two years ago. Inspired by his and wife Marsha Caparelli's two Yorkshire terriers — Buffy and Daisy, Frankel created this new pet lovers' program that helped business to continue recent expansion.

Frankel often was aptly called "Buddy" by his colleagues in the industry.

"He gave me my first start, at House Beautiful in 1961," said Marvin Schecter, evp of window treatment competitor S. Lichtenberg. "He was a terrific man, but tough to work for — he wanted the best of people and knew how to run a business. He was a good competitor, an entrepreneur, and we had a good relationship."

"He was a tough businessman, but I always respected him and enjoyed his company," said Corey Faul, president of Newport/Layton Home Fashions, a longtime rival of Arlee's in the decorative pillow business.

"I considered him a friendly competitor," Faul continued, adding he knew Frankel for the past 20 years. "He was a nice and fun person to be with. He will definitely be missed in our industry."

Frankel's son, David, who is president of Arlee and worked alongside his father for the past 15 years, said industry knowledge garnered over his many years of experience "was something my dad shared and imparted to all of those that worked with him; we have all benefited from his experience."

He continued, "People who knew my dad forever considered him the dean of the industry, one of the founders, both in retail and manufacturing. That unique perspective will definitely be missed."

The reins at Arlee will not shift, said David Frankel.

"The core people who run it day-in and day-out are still here," he said.

David remains president; his brother Sean Frankel works in tandem with brother-in-law Lido Mazzei as sales managers; Caparelli is senior vp and director of design; and Robert Panko is vp, product development.

"It's really a family business," David Frankel said.

Frankel is survived by his beloved wife Marsha; children David and Sean, Joanne Kelvin, Barbara Mazzei, and their spouses; and five grandchildren.

Donations in his honor can be made to The Bud Frankel Family Foundation established to provide resources for the education of children in need, c/o Morgan Stanley, Attn: Ira Mark, 1211 Ave of The Americas, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

Cecile CorralCecile Corral | Senior Product Editor, Home & Textiles Today

Cecile B. Corral has been a product editor with Home Textiles Today since late 2000. She covers the area and accent rug, kitchen textiles, table linens, beach towels, decorative bath and decorative pillow categories, as well as some retail subjects.

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