In life sometimes things just click. That was exactly the case with Aaron & Co. co-owners Barry Portnoy and Richard Laudino.
Portnoy recently reflected on his business partner, who died in early February after a year-plus-long battle with cancer at the age of 62. Laudino, his brother, Frank Jr., and Portnoy represent the second generation of family ownership at the Piscataway, N.J.-based distributor.
“We were different people, but we really got along,” Portnoy told Supply House Times. “We were true co-managers and it worked. Everything clicked. We could do the good cop-bad cop better than anybody and then flip in the middle of the meeting and nobody would know. Everybody can’t be the same. There is a yin and a yang. I’m more of a crazy guy and Richard was more private and proud, but he let me be me. Richard was a really good man. We trusted each other.”
Laudino’s son, Michael, joined the company eight years ago after a run as a lawyer. He represents the third generation of family along with Portnoy’s daughter, Lindsey Portnoy Rodner.
“My dad shaped me into who I am in a lot of respects,” Laudino said. “If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t be in the industry. Dad always encouraged me to do other things. He never once told me to come work for Aaron & Co. I told him one day I would like to get back into the industry because I saw it my whole life and knew what he, my uncle Frank and Barry had built is special and I wanted to be part of it. What a wonderful father he was. He was always very involved with my life. He will always be my mentor.”
Frank Laudino, who recently retired from the company as chief information officer, also has fond memories of his brother. “In age, we were nearly equal and we experienced life very much the same our entire lives even down to our chosen careers in our multi-family-owned company,” he said. “For me, Richard was my anchor for overseeing many of the company’s financial, customer and vendor relationships at a skill level many professionals would be challenged to achieve. Even though his passing has left my heart broken, I still am nourished by how proud I can be having him as my dear brother.”
Portnoy said Richard Laudino played a large role recently in certain recent initiatives designed to strengthen the company for years to come. “Richard blessed the plan we have for the future,” he said. “He’s a hell of a man. He got out of his sick bed to pass the baton to me in front of his son. Richard was a proud man and he always told the truth. We went through some succession planning things in 2015 and our attorney said he never saw three guys on the same page with zero degree of acrimony. Even though the three of us are different, nobody is selfish. We always have tried to do the right thing.”
Both Michael Laudino, who recently was named the company’s plumbing products manager, and Portnoy have the same goal in mind going forward.
“I want to continue my dad’s legacy and continue to carry on Aaron & Co. the way it has been built,” Laudino said. “That’s very important to my father, uncle Frank and Barry. This is a special and unique company. It’s a family here and that’s what I love. We want to maintain the culture that has been built here.”
Portnoy added: “My responsibility is to lead our next generation. There is a tradition and a heritage here that must be continued for Richard. What a partnership we had.”