Joseph Denofrio

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Senior Vice President for Fashion, Macy’s

Joseph Denofrio, a New Jersey native, completed 16 years of

education in the Catholic school system. Graduating from

Seton Hall University with a BA in government, he immediately

began a retail career with Macy’s through its college

recruitment program.

Although home has never exceeded a 10 mile radius, business

travel for product development has provided exposure

to various cultures, life styles, and standards of living around

the world.

Looking back on his school years, Joe credits the Boy

Scouts National Honor Society and serving as business manager

of his high school’s yearbook as key experiences that

prepared him for the business world. Eventually, he became

Senior Vice President of Fashion for Macy’s and spent much

time developing his expertise in women’s and men’s fashion,

to complement his retail experience in home furnishings.

Joseph Denofrio

Aim High

I guess aiming high works as well in the candy business as it does

in the courtroom.

Time goes by quickly when we’re having fun and doing

something we like. That is the one thing that we all have

in common, and that’s how I feel about the years that I have

spent working in the retail business. It’s been a lot of hard

work, mind you, but always fun. No matter what else I’ve

Source: Printed with permission from Joseph Denofrio.

tried, no matter where others attempted to lead me, the one

consistent source of fun for me was, and still is, the search

for that perfect item on my shopping list.

These items have changed over the years. The earliest

search that I can remember was for a box of 64 Crayola

Crayons with the built-in pencil sharpener. I found it and have

been shopping ever since. My most recent search has been

for a log cabin built on a lake. I am happy to say that as of this

writing, I am sitting in the kitchen of my dream home, overlooking

that lake.

In between the crayons and the lake is more than 35 years

in the retail business that has brought me from my first job

in the world’s smallest candy store to Macy’s—“the world’s

largest department store.” When I was 12, the owner of my

local candy store asked me if I wanted to work for him during

my summer vacation. I started working four hours a day

for a dollar an hour and still remember receiving my first

$20 bill in a bank envelope. Looking at pictures of myself during

this time in my life, I think I must have spent my entire

pay right there in the candy store!

Carl, the owner of the store, was the first of several role

models who over the years taught me about personal proprietorship.

Carl’s name was on that store, and he worked hard

to ensure that it was the best that it could possibly be. I remember,

even at 12, feeling very proud that he had entrusted

me with certain duties that he said no one did better than I.

Today, I delegated a task to someone at work and told him it

was because he could perform it better than I could. He did.

Thanks Carl.

This job continued through my high school years. I did

great at school. I scored very high on the standardized tests

and received a lot of advice to aim for a conventional profession.

The guidance counselors kept repeating “law school,”

but my mind was on planning the best candy and ice cream

presentations anywhere. I guess aiming high works as well in

the candy business as it does in the courtroom.

College was very important. I attended a university that

had its own law school and I did well during my four years

there. I was accepted to continue on, and join the law program.

The two most important realizations that I had during

my college years were:

1. That there were a lot of talented and capable people

sitting next to me in class and working hard would be

the only way that I could measure up.

2. I couldn’t wait until 4:00 PM every weekday. That was

the time that I went to my job at the local department


Putting realizations 1 and 2 together, I accepted a job in

Macy’s Executive Training Program, after a college recruiter

came to visit my campus.

Twenty-five years later, I was still working hard at what I

loved. I felt as energized before retirement as I did the day I

started. I have now covered every level of management from

executive trainee through senior vice president. Some jobs

during the years were harder than others. I stuck with it because

the retail operation never stopped exciting me. As I

climbed through management, I never forgot how proud my

first boss Carl was to have his name on the front of his store.

I guess you can call me “Joe Macy.” I’ll always appreciate that

someone recognized dedication and talent in me. I’d like to

return that favor to all of you talented future retailers.

Always remember:

Put your name on it,

Find your role models,

Discover what it is that no one else can do better

than you,

Keep your eyes open for the talents in others,

And most important,

Have fun and you’ll have a happy and successful