Some people cruise through life under the radar, affecting a precious few in their closest circle; others have personalities so large and charisma so palpable, they change the temperature of a room just by walking into it. The original smooth operator, Frank Sinatra, had that kind of swagger in spades – the chairman of the board, the straw that stirred the cocktail. In this industry, if Sinatra had a funnier kid brother, it would be Dave Saracino.
“While Dave’s considerable experience in and deep knowledge of the promotional products industry distinguishes him from most other industry professionals, what really sets him apart is his magnetic personality,” says Ross Silverstein, owner of Top 40 distributor iPROMOTEu. “Nobody’s a more impressive ambassador.”
Canada-born Dave Saracino was working as a waiter at a successful restaurant in Toronto when he woke up one morning after a late night, looked around and decided to get a “real job,” he says. Scouring the Sunday paper’s want ads, he spotted a job at BIC (asi/40480). That was 31 years ago.
“I’ve had two mentors who were so instrumental in my career,” says Saracino. “First would be our past president of BIC Corp., Ray Winter, and the second would be former president of BIC Graphic, Jack Teague, who brought me to Florida 21 years ago.” The latter of which, during his Counselor Person of the Year acceptance speech many years ago, gave a nod to Saracino’s role as BIC’s “night shift” manager, making sure clients were thoroughly entertained.
“I’ve watched Dave Saracino advocate for the industry for years, both in Canada and the U.S.,” says Steve Levschuk, owner of the Ontario-based distributor Talbot Marketing. “He’s willing to help everyone, and there’s no one quite like him.”
It’s one thing when your colleagues at work or your good customers sing your praises, but it really speaks to the quality of one’s character when another supplier does as well. Witness Ira Neaman, owner of Top 40 supplier Vantage Apparel, and a past Counselor Person of the Year: “Dave Saracino is an industry icon and one who defines the term,” Neaman says emphatically. “Passionate about the business and all the people in it, if the industry was a brand, Dave would be the spokesperson.” It bears noting that Neaman has created a line of apparel – “DS” – around Saracino’s bon vivant, ring-a-ding-ding persona.
Saracino – now BIC’s vice president of field sales and based in Tampa – gets it, pointing out that he wouldn’t have experienced the success and career longevity he has without his vast and varied network of contacts. “Unlike many other industries, we have the ability to maintain friendships with both clients and competitors,” he says. “Without question, the relationships and friendships I’ve been fortunate enough to develop over the many years are unbelievable – we’re like family,” he says. “I just wish more people understood the industry and the power of relationships within it.”
Like all true characters, Saracino is a raconteur of the highest order, regaling industry cohorts with one of the most famous stories ever. “Oh, you mean divorcing and remarrying my wife, Lynda, three times over the course of 25 years?” he asks, laughing. “Yeah, that’s a doozy because she’s the love of my life.”
Memo Kahan, owner of the Los Angeles-based distributorship Promo Shop, is not only one of Saracino’s best clients, but a close friend as well. “To me, Dave exemplifies what our industry is all about,” says Kahan. “He is passionate, creative and in my 24 years in the business, he is the one constant. He represents BIC with great professionalism and savviness and is always looking out for his clients – and I don’t know of anyone who puts in more time talking about our industry and its relevance.”
And in the vein of Sinatra, Saracino maintains that one day, he’d love to own a small Italian restaurant where he’d be the host and sometime lounge singer. Because when you’ve lived and loved like Saracino – and Sinatra – then you know what life’s really about, baby. Safeguard’s Forrest Fairley, a long-time client of Saracino’s, couldn’t agree more. “Saracino is a legend,” Fairley says. “You know a man’s special when he has a drink named after him. And it’s delicious.”