Obituary: Sydney H. Rodin

Rodin was a promo industry pioneer who formerly helmed what was once the largest supplier of party favors in the ad specialty space.

In a way, any promotional products professional that has ever sold a branded party favor, such as noisemakers and party hats, owes a little gratitude to Sydney Herschel Rodin.

During his work as owner of Rodin Industries, Rodin was instrumental in bringing party favors to the forefront of ad specialties, making them a significant category in the industry.

Syd Rodin at a promo trade show in bygone days.

That fact is a prominent part of the proud legacy left behind by Rodin, who passed away at age 91 at the end of August. At the time of his passing, Rodin was with his wife, Geraldine (Geri), and three of his children.

“Syd was a pioneer in the industry,” said Norman Cohn, chairman of ASI. “He was well-respected and well thought of by anyone who did business with him. He cared about customers and always put them first. Syd and I both believed that family is one of the most important things you have. Syd was able to balance family and business, and mentored the next generation extraordinarily well.”

Mike Rodin is a testimony to his father’s excellent mentoring when it comes to the promo business. Owner of the successful Des Moines, IA-based distributor IMPACT Promotional Marketing (asi/230181), Mike Rodin said the family is still processing the loss of a larger-than-life patriarch who was as honest as he was smart, driven, brave, tough and fair. “My father was honest to a fault,” said Mike Rodin. “Honorable, loyal – he operated with the highest integrity and business ethics.”

Like his son after him, it would seem Syd Rodin inherited a knack for business from the family genes. His father, David, emigrated from Russia in the early 20th century and, after U.S. military service, established Rodin Novelty Co. in 1918. The company was successful. Once Syd Rodin concluded his own military service with the Merchant Marines during World War II, he returned home to take a more prominent role in the Iowa-based family firm. In 1953, Syd took over as president and focused the company on the ad specialty market. He was attracted to the industry by the large distributor sales force, and because it would help even out sales throughout the year in the highly seasonal party favor business, according to a Counselor article from 1999.

Outside work, Syd Rodin was a private pilot, ham radio operator and avid hiker/traveler.

The decision to get into promo changed Rodin’s life, setting him and the company on a path to new heights of success. Eventually renamed Rodin Industries, the company operated for a time in Chicago before moving to Scranton, PA. Under Syd Rodin’s guidance, the company that bore his last name manufactured and imprinted its own products. Years of sales expansion enabled Rodin Industries to be the largest supplier of party favors and party supplies in the industry.

Both Syd and his wife Geri, who was very involved with the company, earned the Small Business Person of the Year Award in 1985 from the Small Business Council of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, according to Mike Rodin. Rodin Industries also won multiple awards from Promotional Products Association International, Mike Rodin said. “My father loved this industry, and he looked at ASI as family,” he said.

In 1996, Rodin Industries shut its doors for good, as Syd Rodin and Geri went into semi-retirement. The pair moved to Arizona, and Syd continued selling in the promotional products space for another supplier, telling Counselor in 1999 that he’d never truly retire.

Of course, he also enjoyed life away from work. He delighted in his family; Syd and Geri Rodin loved traveling and hiking. He was also a private pilot and a ham radio operator, and as a ham radio operator, he even assisted many people during terrible flooding in Pennsylvania in 1972. “Syd was an honest and courageous man, and had a warm sense of humor, even to the end,” an obituary said.

Said Norman Cohn: “Syd was an icon in the industry who will be sorely missed.”

A service will be held on Saturday, September 15th at 1:45 p.m. in The Chapel at Cedar Crest Village, 1 Cedar Crest Drive, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444. Flowers may be sent to The Chapel at Cedar Crest or donations made to Cedar Crest Resident Care Fund, 1 Cedar Crest Drive, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444.