We live and work in an era of great division. It seems harder than ever to get people to come together with so much societal, political or even competitive tension pulling them apart.
Even in the housewares business, one-sided demands remain an everyday obstruction at a time when retailers should be embracing the mutual benefits of increased cooperation with vendors.
Leave it to charity— in this case housewares charity— to be a great unifier.
The theme of tonight’s (March 12) 21st annual Housewares Charity Foundation gala is “Unite, Celebrate, Support.” Emphasis on “Unite.”
It is a major achievement by the industry leaders that started HCF 21 years ago to have built a platform that each year welcomes a ballroom full of housewares players, including fierce competitors, for an evening of armistice that has raised more than $49 million, including more than $28 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
It’s a just a touch ironic, if not deliberate, that this evening’s HCF gala at the Navy Pier brings to the same stage Dillard’s Bill Dillard III as Humanitarian of the Year and Amazon’s Shelley Salomon as Lifetime Humanitarian, representing, respectively, a venerable department store pioneer and the most disruptive force against traditional retailing.
They are united tonight by housewares charity.
Raise A Glass
It’s fitting, too, that Georg J. Riedel of crystal glassmaker Riedel, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award this evening. This industry deserves to raise a glass to what has become a remarkable annual assembly of good will.
Unity, it sometimes seems, has become a lost cause.
Tonight marks the first Housewares Charity Foundation gala since the passing of Conair Corporation founder Lee Rizzuto Sr. from pancreatic cancer in December.
Rizzuto, among the HCF architects two decades ago, was a staunch supporter of the housewares industry’s charitable initiative. Such impassioned philanthropy continues today at Conair under Rizzuto’s family and company president Ron Diamond.
Rizzuto, who pioneered the pistol-style hair dryer, built his family business into a global hair care powerhouse before vaulting the company into kitchen products by acquiring Cuisinart in 1989. Rizzuto set standards for innovative product development and marketing propelled by enthusiastic sales and service.