Norman Glassberg, founder of Trade Associates Group, Ltd., died on April 26. He was 70 years old.
He was on a business trip attending the Canton Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, China, doing what he loved best, the work of tag, when he passed away, according to a company obituary.
“Norman was true visionary and a best friend,” said Barbara Turf, former CEO of Crate & Barrel. “His business timing was always impeccable. His work ethic was enviably consistent. Norman’s innovation and brilliance commanded employee and industry respect. He will be deeply missed.”
Born in New York in 1942, Glassberg graduated from New York University. In 1975, he founded the rep firm Trade Associates Group, Ltd., which he called “tag,” and opened a giftware showroom in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. A year later, tag became the American distributor for a small line of French-made candles, taking his young company in a new direction that emphasized wholesaling and the design of its own product lines. With the founding of tag, he realized his life’s dream of building a firm that would become an expression of his creative drive and marketing expertise, according to the obituary.
By 1985, Glassberg needed more space and so purchased a former factory on Chicago’s North Side. The historic structure was once home to Northwestern Terra Cotta, a firm that worked closely with Chicago architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and Daniel Burnham. Tag still calls the landmark building home, but has continued to grow to the extent that in the year 2000 a new warehouse of 150,000 square feet was built in suburban Woodridge. In 2006, the company expanded again with the acquisition of Parallel Lines, a Chicago furniture manufacturer and wholesaler, adding tag furniture to its product assortments.
“I like to think we’re a company that is more than the sum of its parts,” Glassberg had said. “We sell textiles, candles, ceramics, glassware, furniture, and housewares, but what we’re really about is a look.”
Glassberg was also a dedicated philanthropist who believed in giving back to the community. The list of charities he and tag contribute to includes dozens of local and national organizations, foundations, and public service groups. Glassberg also firmly believed in design and manufacturing standards that are responsible, sustainable, and earth-friendly, utilizing a long list of recycled and rapidly renewable materials in the design of tag products, according to the obituary.
Glassberg is survived by his wife, Eileen Glassberg, his three children David, Greg, and Jessica, and seven grandchildren.
A service celebrating his life and work will be held at the Chicago Sinai Congregation on May 8, at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers please make donations to: National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Attn: Colleen Oliver, c/o tag, 1730 W Wrightwood, Chicago 60614.