(Source: The Philippine Star, by Millet Martinez-Manaquil | Aug. 9, 2015)
The launch of a new Rustan’s in Ayala Center Cebu last Friday, led by their 94-year-old patriarch Bienvenido Tantoco Sr., is not just about the Tantocos opening their signature elegant department store that redefines retailing in Cebu, acclaimed as the crown jewel of the south.
It also signifies the belief of the Tantocos – hailed as the country’s luxe retailing royalty – in Cebu, which is second only to Manila in terms of development and infrastructure.
Nedy Tantoco, Rustan’s chairman and CEO, says: “With its total of 17,500 square meters in retail space including the supermart, Rustan’s Cebu is a significant investment that shows our stalwart belief in the growing Cebu economy.”
She adds that it matches Cebu’s rise as a global manufacturing center and lifestyle getaway for the rest of the region.
With an imposing facade and three spaciously gleaming floors devoted to top luxury global brands in cosmetics, fashion and homeware, Rustan’s Cebu likewise highlights local products, notably those of Cebuano design heroes Kenneth Cobonpue and Cary Santiago. For the opening week, it presents dining areas styled by Cebu taste setters Amparito Lhuillier and Teresin Mendezona.
The opening was attended by businessmen and socialities from Cebu’s top 300, as well as by captains of industry led by Fernando Zobel de Ayala, who provided the retail space in their Cebu Ayala Center, and Alfred Ty whose Marco Polo in Cebu was the hotel of choice for the inaugural guests.
Symbolically, Rustan’s Cebu also stands refined with a global aura, respecting the country’s history and culture yet going future-forward in its vision, just like the patriarch who began the first store in Manila in 1951 together with his wife, Glecy Rustia-Tantoco, in whose memory the store is dedicated.
Present were four generations of the Tantocos – from Benny Tantoco who served as Philippine ambassador to the Vatican and is still active in his 90s, to the 21-year-old Christian Tantoco who is on summer break from economics studies at Boston University.
Ambassador Tantoco and his late wife obviously taught their family an incredible work ethic, and more. He told his oldest grandson Donnie Tantoco, who is now Rustan’s president: “Rustan’s is not just a store. It is a heritage. Take care of this heritage.”
Donnie explains: “My grandfather loves this store that my aunt Nedy built. He said Cebuanos have been supporting and loving Rustan’s since we opened here in 1981 on Mango Avenue in a property owned by the Ludo Luym family.”
Anton Tantoco Huang, president of Stores Specialists Inc., says: “For over 15 years, we’ve watched how the market evolved and we’ve done very well in this part of the country. This new store in a new location on Cardinal Rosales Ave. is indeed a beautiful store and we continue to be encouraged by the warm reception of the Cebuanos.”
Ambassador Tantoco led guests in touring Rustan’s Cebu, looking at the details put in by his daughter Nedy with his grandson Michael Huang overseeing the project as VP for expansion. Assisting him were his grandsons Gino and Eman Pineda of Adora, Rustan’s recent luxe store addition, and his daughter Maritess Tantoco-Enriquez, the family gemologist who is also his travel planner.
“Even at his age, my father just can’t stay still. Next on his travel list is Israel which we will visit soon. Staying active is perhaps the secret to his longevity. Plus, eating a whole breakfast every day. This morning he had
danggit, longganisa and tapa with rice,” Maritess explains.
And why travel even in his ’90s? The Ambassador stresses: “Never stop learning. The whole world is a classroom. And every person you meet is a potential teacher.”
As for his retail journey with his family, it seems it is a never-ending one. Nedy says she is so inspired to do the best for Cebu because of the overwhelming turnout the past days. But then, Daddy Benny has a new plan as he tells her daughter: “Nedy, all our stores should be patterned now after the Rustan’s Cebu store. I like it.”