Norman Glassberg, founder of Trade Associates Group, Ltd. (“tag”) died Friday, April 26. He was 70. Glassberg was on a business trip attending the Canton Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, China – and doing what he loved best, the work of tag — when he passed away.
“Norman was true visionary and a best friend,” said Barbara Turf, former CEO of Crate & Barrel. “His business timing was always impeccable. His work ethic was enviably consistent. Norman’s innovation and brilliance commanded employee and industry respect. He will be deeply missed.”
Born in New York in 1942, Glassberg graduated from New York University with a degree in biochemistry. But his interests soon turned to the home products industry, especially giftware and housewares. He became a sales representative and sales manager, and soon was offered partner status with International Design Group (IDG), now known as Pottery Barn. However, he respectfully turned down the position. He had another idea in mind, and so on April 1, 1975, arrived in Chicago with the goal of establishing his own company.
Glassberg founded a rep firm he called “tag” (Trade Associates Group, Ltd.) and opened a giftware showroom in the Merchandise Mart. A year later, he took advantage of an opportunity to become the American distributor for a small line of French-made candles, taking his young company in a new direction that emphasized wholesaling and the design of its own lines of products. With the founding of tag, he realized his life’s dream of building a firm that would become an expression of his creative drive and marketing expertise.
tag grew rapidly. By 1985, Mr. Glassberg needed more space and so purchased a former factory on Chicago’s North Side. The historic three story structure was once home to Northwestern Terra Cotta, a firm that worked closely with Chicago architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and Daniel Burnham. tag still calls the landmark building home, but has continued to grow to the extent that in the year 2000 a new warehouse of 150,000 square feet was built in suburban Woodridge. In 2006, the company expanded again with the acquisition of Parallel Lines, a Chicago furniture manufacturer and wholesaler, adding tag furniture to its product assortments.
Today tag is recognized as one of the country’s leading designers and distributors of quality giftware, tableware, home décor items, furniture, and seasonal accessories. tag products are sold at thousands of retailers from coast-to-coast and around the world.
“I like to think we’re a company that is more than the sum of its parts,” Glassberg has said. “We sell textiles, candles, ceramics, glassware, furniture, and housewares, but what we’re really about is a look.”
In addition to his accomplishments in home products design and distribution, Glassberg was a dedicated philanthropist who believed in giving back to the community. The list of charities he and tag contribute to includes dozens of local and national organizations, foundations, and public service groups. Glassberg also firmly believed in design and manufacturing standards that are responsible, sustainable, and earth-friendly, utilizing a long list of recycled and rapidly renewable materials in the design of tag products. tag also practices ethical, fair trade policies, and prioritizes manufacturing resources that preserve cultural traditions, encourage hand crafts, and provide a living wage to craftsmen and artisans.
Glassberg is survived by his wife Eileen Glassberg, his three children David, Greg, and Jessica, and his seven grandchildren Jack, Teddy, Max, Carolyn, Tommy, Ellie, and Sean.