The founder of Rex Carton Co. and former owner of Capital Bank, Gildo Mazzolin was a co-founder of Casa Italia, and Man of the Year at the 1989 Italian Cultural Center Gala. A former officer at Capital Bank, Amy Mazzolin was the chairperson of the event honoring her father.
Today, Ron Lemar is president of Rex Carton and Amy Lemar is a private banker for Wintrust Financial Corp., and the pair teamed up recently to co-chair a wildly successful 2013 ICC gala.
So let’s follow the trail that Gildo Mazzolin blazed from the very beginning.
As many successful Italian-American men did in the 1940s, Mazzolin took the plunge and went into business for himself. With the nation just beginning to recover after World War II, Mazzolin borrowed $500, relied on his 10 years of working for two other box container companies, and in 1948 started Rex Carton Co., a manufacturer of corrugated packing, near Grand and Ashland Avenues.
“My grandfather was a natural businessman,” Ron Lemar recalls. “He didn’t have a lot of education. He did it from the gut. My grandfather knew everything goes in a box and it’s been a great business to be in all these years.”
The success of Rex Carton afforded Mazzolin the opportunity to go into banking. He rescued Capital Bank in 1967, turning it around with the help of his only daughter, Amy Mazzolin, who worked her way through the ranks to vice president of Capital Bank of Chicago and president of Capital Bank of Westmont.
“My mom is tough,” Ron describes. “She was a woman in a man’s business in the ’70s. She had to be tough. She’s a pistol.”
She worked for her father at both the carton company and the bank as a young woman, taking time off to raise three children — Gil, Ron and Amy — before returning to the banking business.
“We were a very close-knit family,” Amy Lemar explains. “We learned to have a strong family identity, to look out for each other and take care of each other. We inherited a very strong work ethic.”
Gildo Mazzolin made sure that all of his grandchildren had a place to apply their work ethic when they began their professional careers.
“My grandfather used to say ‘When you graduate and work for me…'” recalls Ron. “I graduated on a Friday from Regis College in Denver and was at Rex Monday.”
“I graduated from Regis on a Saturday and was at work at the bank on Monday,” Amy adds.
Their brother, Gil, also began his professional career at Rex Carton, eventually blazing his own trail in real estate.
With their grandfather and mother as their inspiration, Ron and Amy have made the most of their opportunities.
“We have a big picture of my grandpa on the wall here at Rex,” Ron explains. “When I come in here, I see him every day, and I know that I have to live up to his legacy. As long as I’m in this business, I’m going to do everything I can to make it successful.”
Ron has been running Rex for the past 20 years, and under his stewardship, the company has quadrupled in size.
“I’ve upgraded the machinery,” Ron explains. “I just bought a new press from Italy, and we’ve upgraded the computers. I’m trying to stay one step ahead of the competition. It’s all about efficiency.”
“I was tutored by the best, my mom,” adds Amy. “She taught me that even the little guy who has just $5,000 in his account, that’s his own business, his own blood, sweat and tears that make up that $5,000.”
When her grandfather sold the bank in 1998, Amy worked at Park National Bank before signing on as a private banker with Wintrust Financial Corporation.
“She’s an excellent banker,” says Ron. “Her follow-through is great. When you need something done, it’s done. She doesn’t just care about the numbers, she cares about her customers. She considers them friends.”
One of the things that Ron and Amy both admired about their grandfather was his dedication to his heritage.
“He was an American first, but he was always proud to be Italian, too,” Amy recalls.
That pride inspired a legendary generosity, with Mazzolin throwing his support behind Villa Scalabrini, the Italian Cultural Center, Holy Rosary Church and Casa Italia.
Ron and Amy are proud to bring things full circle by chairing the very event that their grandfather was honored at and their mother chaired nearly a quarter of a century ago.
“My grandfather was one of the founders of Casa Italia,” says Ron. “It’s a way for me and my sister to honor our grandfather’s legacy. It was very important to him.”
With Ron upholding his grandfather’s legacy at Rex Carton, and Amy carrying on the family tradition in banking, and both Ron and Amy serving as board members at Casa Italia, the apples haven’t fallen far from the tree.
Imagine the picture of Gildo Mazzolin that hangs at Rex Carton. Now imagine that you’re looking into his twinkling eyes. You can probably guess what he’s thinking.
Gil had a plan, and it’s working.