J. Palazzolo Son, Inc., a Long Island, New York-based private label manufacturer, has rounded off 100 years of service in 1998, celebrating its centennial milestone. The company represents this industry's sole surviving business legend, which was literally ''born in the U.S.A.'' and is still owned by the same family a century later.
The company dates back to 1898, known then as J. Palazzolo, Perfumer, a surprising offshoot of a barbershop. According to company president Joseph (Joey) Palazzolo, his grandfather and the company's founder, Joseph, was, by trade, a barber who immigrated from Sicily to America in 1892. He opened a barbershop on the lower East Side, and began experimenting with hair tonic solutions that would restore graying hair to its original color. His initial efforts gave way to hands-on trials with fragrance formulas, which he eventually formulized into perfume introductions, such as Divinia, Contessa Azzura, Bacio D'Amore and Venus.
Recognizing a fast-growing consumer base, the elder Palazzolo opened a perfumery, adjacent to the barbershop, which later doubled as a private formula contract manufacturing service.
The company steered off its established course in 1945 with the succession of Joseph's son Andrew as company president. With Andrew's vision as the driving force, the company became known primarily for cosmetic products assembly, until the 1960's, when it returned to its origins in fragrance product manufacturing and compounding.
Joey Palazzolo took over the company helm in 1986 after his father Andrew suffered a stroke. ''He left me a great foundation to build on,'' Mr. Palazzolo said of his father, who died in 1989.
Mr. Palazzolo stressed the importance of passing on the torch to his four children when they come of age, while remarking on the present contributions of other family members. ''This is as family-run business with a very hands-on approach, he said, adding, ''it's a team effort.''