Rustan’s CEO Nedy Tantoco; 77
Zenaida Rustia Tantoco, who ferried Rustan’s, the luxury retail empire founded by her parents, through the ups and downs of retail and the pandemic, died on Thursday night, Feb. 8, according to a statement from her family. She was 77.
Tantoco, “Nedy” to family and friends and “ZRT” to her employees, was a formidable figure in business, admired for having inherited her mother Gliceria’s business savvy and indefatigable spirit. Nedy was a hands-on leader known for her close attention to detail, poised from the beginning to carry on the legacy of her parents.
As chair and CEO of Rustan Commercial Corp., she led the expansion and diversification of the Rustan Group of Companies in the years following her mother’s passing in 1994 and that of her dad, Bienvenido Tantoco Sr., in 2021.
Ropes of retail
The Tantocos pioneered luxury retail in the Philippines when they started Rustan’s—a portmanteau of the founders’ last names—in their living room in San Marcelino in Paco, Manila, 72 years ago this year, where they would display the exquisite objects they brought home from their travels.
They found immediate patrons among Manila’s social set, who trooped to their home-slash-store for unique finds.Nedy and her siblings—older brother Bienvenido Jr. (Rico) and younger sisters Menchu Lopez, Marilou Pineda, Marilen Tantoco and Maritess Enriquez—would learn from an early age the ropes of retail and merchandising from their parents.
Gliceria often brought her daughters on buying trips, including the time she started doing business with European houses like YSL and Dior in the 1960s. In San Marcelino, the children helped entertain the customers who were also their parents’ friends.
They would open the Makati flagship of Rustan’s Department Store, where it is still located today, in 1970, the same year they signed the exclusive distributorship with Lacoste, only one of hundreds of global brands under the various retail arms of the now diversified Rustan’s Group, including SSI Group, Rustan Marketing Corp., Rustan Coffee Corp. (Starbucks), Sta. Elena Realty, among others.
“Rustan’s is a story that’s not about just a store [but] of a strong-hearted woman who had a God-given gift, … who forged with confidence into the world of international luxury retailing with boldness of vision, impeccable taste, timeless vigor and a deep love for her family, God and country,” Nedy said in tribute to her mother during the 65th anniversary of Rustan’s.Nedy, in turn, was revered by her children and nephews and nieces, many of whom have joined the family business. She was not only a loving mother and aunt in their close-knit clan, but also the respected chief of their business empire.
“Nedy uncompromisingly upheld the sacred values taught by their parents in running a family enterprise,” said the family’s statement. “Although known in the industry for her astute professionalism, Nedy will always be better remembered as a nurturing force in fostering family empowerment and unity. These, she believed, were key for their family’s future generations to thrive.”
Nedy was also a philanthropist and patron of the arts. As chair and president of the nonprofit group Philippine-Italian Association, she produced cultural events like concerts and art exhibitions that promoted cross-cultural exchange between the Philippines and Italy, and endorsed scholarships for talented Filipino performers and visual artists.
Apart from her siblings and their spouses, Nedy is survived by her longtime partner Patrick Jacinto, her three children and their spouses—SSI Group president Anton Huang and Nina Herrera and daughters Nikki and Isabelle; Rustan’s VP for store development and expansions Michael Huang and Kathy Yap and their children Kenzie and Kameron; and Catherine Huang Endriga and Dr. David Endriga—and the family of dogs she doted on: Sabrina, Tricia, Tessa, Katlinka, Skippy, Bocelli and Tequila.
Nedy’s wake will be held at 25B Tamarind Avenue, Forbes Park, Makati City, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Feb. 10 to Feb. 12, then at Heritage Park, Taguig City, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Feb. 13 to Feb. 14. The funeral Mass will be on Feb. 16, 10 a.m., at Santuario de San Antonio Parish Church, Forbes Park, Makati City.