The Rose family forging a legacy in Yonkers

Photographs by Reece Alvarez.

 

The Rose family not only collects and produces hard-to-find and unusual décor — they themselves are a bit of a rarity.

“People know us as unique, that is our genre. Everything you see is handpicked,” says Randolph Rose, co-owner of FEA Home and its sister companies R.J. Rose Realty and the Randolph Rose Collection of custom-made bronze sculptures.

For the past 10 years, the Rose family, originally from Scarsdale, has been rehabbing a 170,000-square-foot, multi-tenant loft building at 500 Nepperhan Ave. in Yonkers, part of the Alexander Smith Carpet Mills Historic District.

The five-story building is three football fields in length and, in the more than 140 years since its creation, has morphed from a bustling industrial center employing more than 7,000 people to a virtually unused warehouse.

Now in its latest iteration under the guidance of the Rose family, the building is becoming a major destination for artists in Yonkers.

“When I bought this building, there was only one tenant and that was us,” Randolph says. “Now we have 29 tenants.”

They include 15 artists in commercial lofts who are part of a growing creative community recently recognized by Yonkers as the Carpet Mills Arts District.

The area is also the current focus of a coalition represented by Randolph (the Owners Coalition) working together to redevelop the district as a creative and commercial hub.

FEA Home has already made the Nepperhan Avenue location something of a sight to see. With home décor ranging from museum-quality antiques and antiquities to exotic oddities like opium beds and petrified dinosaur eggs, the Roses have filled several thousand square feet and multiple floors wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with treasures.

Randolph began his career and collection in the 1970s when he joined his cousin Stephen Gano’s already prospering business exporting rare finds from Thailand to a mutual aunt’s antiques store in Manhattan.

“My job was to take a one-man business that was his and make it more well-known,” Randolph says. “I spent three years traveling the country doing trade shows.”

After joining his cousin, Randolph went on to own several showrooms under the Far Eastern Art and Antiquities name in Lower Manhattan as well as Palisander in the Decoration & Design Building.

Trade shows have proven to be a particular source of good fortune for Randolph and over the ensuing 25 years he turned his knowledge of them into a veritable golden goose.

He and his sons have tailored their custom bronze sculpting business to a variety of niche markets focusing on a new trade show theme every few years. Now Randolph Rose sculptures can be found across the country, from parks, schools and libraries to shopping centers, country clubs and corporations. They’re even found internationally in Spain, Russia and Ukraine.

“I always look five years ahead,” Randolph says. “What’s going to happen when the market gets saturated, what are we going to do next.”

He attributes some of his luck in business to one of the early antiques he acquired — a 19th century “One of a Kind Shakyamuni Buddha Sculpture” from a temple in Myanmar.

Prominently featured in the FEA Home showroom, the nearly 5-foot tall Buddha with piercing ivory eyes and a gold leaf headdress is considered priceless by Randolph.

“I’ve never wanted to sell it. It’s been my good luck piece since 1972,” he says. “I turn down six figures all the time.”

The piece was featured in the first anniversary celebration of Studio 54 and was also rented to introduce the campaign for the Christian Dior perfume Poison — but that is just the start of the celebrity attraction.

With tens of thousands of historic square feet, the building and its wares have drawn the attention of film and TV producers. The recent Leonardo DiCaprio hit “The Wolf of Wall Street” featured FEA Home décor, and Woody Allen is expected to use the location for filming this month.

What Randolph and his now-retired partner began is now being passed on to Randolph’s sons, Austin, Jordan and Harlan. The three brothers have worked beside their father and mother, Ellen, to expand the business and include real estate, with Randolph leading the charge.
“It is about a sense of pride of continuing a legacy and being in a unique business,” Jordan says.

“We don’t just do one thing — we are an antiques dealer, a real estate company, we are designers, we do custom sculptures,” Harlan says. “It is just a unique entity that all three of us were drawn to. The funny thing is none of us thought we would ever join the family business.”

With their successful businesses maxing out their space in the current building, the family is now looking to buy a 210,000-square-foot property next door at 179 Saw Mill River Road — also a part of the Carpet Mills District — which Randolph expects to close on by Labor Day.

Working with Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, Randolph hopes to capitalize on the already present artist community in the area and create a Yonkers’ version of Brooklyn or Hoboken, with an anchor tenant on par with Facebook or Google.

“We love this business,” Randolph says. “Everyone is here not because they have to be here, but because they want to be here. I don’t know many people who can say that they still love their business after 50 years.”

He hopes to solidify the family legacy with a new generation of grandchildren he’s trying to persuade to join the companies — though if his sons are any indication, it won’t take much convincing at all.

For more, visit feahome.com.

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