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Reny family members start young, return to fold
By J. Hemmerdinger
Sunday, January 2, 2011
NEWCASTLE - John Reny didn't always want to work at his father's stores.
For a brief period around 1970, he dreamed of playing guitar in a rock 'n' roll band.
But the family business drew him back.
Now he is president of Renys, and he leads the 14-store chain and its roughly 450 staff members with lessons he learned from his father, Robert Reny Sr.
One of Dad's lessons: Deal fairly with vendors.
"You always try to get a good deal, but you don't take their pants down all the way," Reny, 59, said his father taught him. "They've got to make money, too."
Reny started sweeping floors at his father's Damariscotta store in the mid-1950s when he was 5 years old, earning roughly 25 cents an hour.
Over the years, he and his brother, Robert Jr., held all types of positions. They drove trucks, managed the warehouse and maintenance, supervised stores and bought merchandise.
"You name it, and both my brother and I have done it," Reny said Tuesday from his office in Newcastle.
John Reny grew up in Damariscotta, but left town in the late 1960s for the University of Maine, in Orono, where he got a degree in sociology.
Rock music heavily influenced him during his youth. He played guitar and spent long hours listening to rock legends Neil Young and the Grateful Dead.
Last on his mind was a Renys career.
"There was a period from my teens to early 20s when this was the last thing I wanted to do," he said.
But in the mid-1970s, Reny's father asked him to manage the Bath store. Reny agreed, and found he enjoyed the work. He stuck with it, and moved up the Renys ladder.
Robert Reny Sr. died in 2009 at the age of 83, leaving the company under the leadership of two of his three sons.
John Reny, the oldest, is now president, a post in which he manages the company and purchases merchandise.
And Robert Jr., 58, of Bremen, is vice president in charge of operations, construction projects and buying clothing. He is retiring this year but will remain an adviser, John Reny said.
The third brother, Mike, never worked in the family business -- he's a lobsterman in Round Pond.
All of the brothers are part-owners.
John Reny has fond memories of his father, and admires his dad's quick wits.
Once in the 1980s, Robert Sr. sent John to Belfast to check out a possible site for a new store. Belfast was run down at the time, and John doubted a store there would succeed.
His father disagreed, and in 1987 offered to lease space on Belmont Avenue for $1 per square foot.
The seller balked, so Reny Sr. countered with 90 cents.
A deal was struck.
"He could pick 'em," John Reny said of his father. "That's a great store now."
Reny said he is a conservative businessman, just like his father. The company practices slow, deliberate growth and avoids bank loans. When Renys opens a new store, it's with "our own money and in our own way," he said.
Reny lives in Round Pond with his wife, Kathleen. The couple has two daughters.
Collette, 26, lives in Portland but is about to move to New York City to study international education at New York University.
And Faustine, 28, recently moved back to Maine from Boston, where she managed a restaurant.
Faustine has a master's degree in accounting from Suffolk University, and now works alongside her father, handling human resources and accounting issues for Renys.
John Reny said his family remains close. He and his brothers frequently get together, sometimes visiting their mother, who lives in Damariscotta.
Reny owns an old, 21-foot Seaswirl with a 120-horsepower outboard engine. Unfortunately, he said, he didn't even step aboard the boat this season.
And he still has the rock 'n' roll bug. He plays guitar in a four-man country rock band called the New Rangers, performing regularly in the summer at local bars.
Excerpt From: Portland Press Herald, December 2010
R.H. Reny, Inc.|
731 Route 1
Newcastle, Maine 04553