IT’S IN THE DETAILS:
Rago with custom
drawers, right, for
storing their hardware.
Raul Bermeo, below,
mixes a custom color
in the dyeing and refinishing studio for an
orange Prada bag.
RAGO WOMEN: Hannah
Schleer, right, worked
in the hand engraving
department of Tiffany’s
until she came to Rago
nine years ago. Now
she handles the Michael
Kors and Burberry accounts. Employee Anna
left, frequently has her
father is proudly displayed in the customer
waiting area, along side a grainy snapshot of
the first generation, Louis and Thomas Rago, standing outside the shop in 1911.
Rather than resting on their father’s
laurels (and his father’s, and so on), the
brothers have elevated the shop from local resource to the hub of North America’s
“Thank God for the Short Hills Mall,”
says Tom. As the brothers tell it, the upscale mall’s proximity (about a 20-minute
drive) fueled their strong relationships
with high-end manufacturers.
The Mall at Short Hills is anchored by
Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Nor-dstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, and includes chic retailers like Miu Miu, Prada,
Gucci, Cartier, Jimmy Choo and Bulgari.
Tony, who worked as a commodities
trader on Wall Street before joining the
family business in 1988, sniffed an opportunity in the mall, which had debuted
several years earlier.
“Kenneth Cole had just opened, so I
went to the mall and asked if they had any
repair guys coming in,” says Tony. “I said I
would do all the repairs for free, and if they
liked our work to keep using us instead.
Well, the manager at Short Hills moved
on to be the regional manager for Kenneth
Cole and took our business with him.”
The same arrangement fell into place
with other stores in the mall. When a man-
ager moved across the country or was pro-
moted, he or she would recommend Rago
Brothers to the new manager. “That’s how
it grew,” says Tom. “All of a sudden they
want us doing repairs for the whole East
Coast. ‘Okay, Delaware called!’ and then