The story of how Gliceria “Glecy” Rustia-Tantoco and Bienvenido "Benny" Tantoco, Sr. began selling trinkets collected from their travels all over the world in their living room in San Marcelino has been retold time and again, but it never fails to inspire. Six-and-a-half decades later, that small business has evolved into the retail giant we know as the Rustan Group of Companies. Looking back at the colorful story that inspired one of the most prolific family businesses in the country, here are some interesting milestones that Rustan’s hit in its 65-year journey.
Gliceria and Bienvenido Tantoco, the founding couple behind Rustan's.
The name Rustan comes from the combined surnames of Rustia and Tantoco and it almost had a completely different name.
It was almost called “Tanrus,” Benny told grandson Donnie in a feature by Philippine Star. Benny enlisted the help of his friend Jessie Bello, head of marketing for the Rufino Group of Companies, to make a logo and a name to go with their humble store. They decided to simply combine their surnames and since it is customary for the man’s name to come first, it was initially “Tanrus.” Benny wasn’t convinced with how catchy it sounded so he asked Bello to exchange the first three letters with the last three and got “Rustan.”
Glecy at her Malate office
In 1966, Rustan was the first to introduce licensing to the House of Dior.
Glecy at the YSL office in Paris
Glecy went straight to Christian Dior himself and asked him if they would be open to producing their products in the Philippines, Maritess Tantoco Enriquez, the youngest daughter of Benny and Glecy, told Town&Country’s Yvette Fernandez in its October 2017 cover story. They later went on to do the same for Oleg Cassini and YSL for Men. The YSL silk shirts were then priced between nine to 11 pesos. Glecy sourced the finest fabrics around the world, learned to manufacture from the masters and created their products right here in the Philippines.
The flagship Rustan’s department store in Makati was an architectural marvel.
It was dubbed the “The Jewel Box” because of its shimmering blue and black façade that glimmered under the sun’s light. Two years later, Rustan's Superstore Cubao was inaugurated in 1973. A structure that contained both a department store and a supermarket, the Cubao branch was the first mall of its kind.
Rustan's in Cubao
Apart from being an avenue for global brands, Rustan’s also helped foster local talent, such as Criselda Lontok.
At the recently concluded 34th anniversary of Criselda Lontok’s designs for Rustan’s, the designer paid tribute to Glecy, who gave her the opportunity for her first foray in designing. “Rustan’s has been a great partner in my journey,” Lontok gushed. “It was, in fact, Glecy Tantoco, the matriarch and founder of Rustan’s who gave me my first break.” Lontok initially worked as a merchandiser for ladies’ blouses in Rustan’s when Tantoco trained her.
In 1979, Rustan’s brought its Filipiniana line, Our Very Own, to the Philippines Fair in Japan, which set the standard for local crafts to enter the global market.
The annual celebrations tied to Rustan’s date back to 1979, during the first Italian Festival.
At the launch of Gucci with Patricia Gucci and Italian Ambassador Vittorino Rotondaro
It was a festival of all things Italian—not just fashion, but food and home products from Italy, too. These celebrations brought more international brands to the Philippines with Rustan's as the retailer. A year later, the Rustan Group brought in Gucci, an unveiling which boasted of Italian ambassador Vittorino Rotondaro and Patricia Gucci, the granddaughter of the fashion house’s founder, as guests of honor.
During the Festival of Fragrance at Rustan's Makati and Cubao
The introductory Rustan’s Christmas window appeared in 1990.
The first Christmas window in Rustan's Makati
It’s been 27 years since we first glimpsed the holiday window that exhibited a simple Christmas tree surrounded by a family and their presents. The decked-out Christmas store windows have become an annual spectacle that loyal customers have come to anticipate.
We also have Rustan Coffee to thank for the Starbucks we enjoy today.
Bienvenido Tantoco, Lisa Eggers, Jinlong Wang, Zenaida Tantoco, and Donnie Tantoco during a dinner with Starbucks executives
Rustan Coffee opened the very first Starbucks branch in the Philippines in 1997. It was located at 6750 Ayala Avenue in Makati, right across Rustan’s Makati.
Today, the 96-year-old patriarch, Benny Tantoco, still reaps the benefits that he and his wife sowed many years ago, and he enjoys these with his six children, 22 grandchildren, and 34 great-grandchildren—many of whom are involved in the family companies. Their assets now include five department stores, 26 Rustan’s Supermarkets, and over 2,000 international brands licensed to the company.
During its 65th-anniversary party, Chairman and CEO Zenaida Tantoco paid tribute to her mother, to whom she said the entire family owes the Rustan’s legacy. “Rustan’s is a story not about just a store. It’s the story of a strong-hearted woman who had a God-given gift, which she used fully to pursue her dreams for the Filipina, whom she believed has every right to be tastefully dressed by only the finest and most coveted names in style, whose homes should be impeccably furnished by the best the world has to offer,” she said.