Evans C. Reitman-Swiss, a self-made textile executive and adept arbitrator, died Nov. 20 in Portland, Ore.
Reitman-Swiss, 91, died of complications from COVID-19 at the Hawthorne Gardens Senior Living Community, according to his son Jamy Ian Swiss.
Born “Reitman” in Brooklyn and raised there as well, he later took the surname of his stepfather, who worked as a bus driver, and was known professionally as Swiss. Described by his son as “a classic Depression [era] baby,” he got his start in the industry by unloading trucks before working his way up in the corporate world.
Reitman-Swiss was in his 50s when he decided to earn his bachelor of science degree from Brooklyn College. He later earned a degree at Brooklyn Law School. He also wrote poetry throughout his life and taught his son Jamy, who dedicated his first book to his father, to love it, too.
During a lengthy career in New York’s Garment District, the textile executive was said to approach business with proficiency, integrity, humor and agility in negotiating. As an arbitrator, Reitman-Swiss had a track record of reaching agreements that the parties involved considered to be fair and satisfying.
His career path started at Cadillac Textiles in the early Fifties, and continued on to Burlington Industries. Reitman-Swiss later started his own firm, Independent Textiles Consultants Adjusters Inc. along with Independent Quality Verifications Ltd. in the early Sixties.
On his own at ITCA, he specialized in negotiating chargebacks and other disputes among printers, dyers, converters and manufacturers. His independent firm was unusual at that time, since most large firms had their own in-house executives, as Reitman-Swiss later had at Manes during another stage of his career, Jamy Swiss said. “He also served as an arbitrator but ITCA was him being hired as a negotiator, basically,” his son said.
”Being a negotiator and arbitrator relies on a certain integrity and trust. He operated in an ethical manner always, but all of that was informed by expertise. He couldn’t have gotten the settlements that he was paid to achieve without people respecting his technical expertise as well. That whole area of the chargeback relationship between dyers, manufacturers, converters and so forth is at the heart of textiles is all about disputes and whose fault it was. He had to go in and get agreements because his clients, or later his employers, wanted the negotiations to come out to their advantage, and so he achieved that. And yet he would achieve it to everyone’s satisfaction.”
He emphasized, “The point was not to get the better deal. The point was to continue the relationship. That was the necessary outcome. You get the better deal but you maintain the relationship and continue to do business. That was how he spent his life,” adding that being ethical, fair, professional and an expert enhanced his skills.
Over time, Reitman-Swiss closed his company and segued back to being employed by another firm, Jersey Dye Corp. in Paterson, N.J. He later worked as an executive at The Manes Organization. He served as of counsel at Manes among other responsibilities.
After earning his law degree, Reitman-Swiss considered switching careers, or having another child with his second wife, Stephanie. Mulling this choice over, he discussed it with his family, friends and colleagues. Swiss said his father told him, “I talk to my coworkers and people I know in the business, and all my contemporaries keep saying things like, ‘I want to finish this when I’m done. I want to have these things finished when I die,’” Swiss said. “He said to me, ‘I don’t really get it. I want to be in the middle of a dozen unfinished things when I die.’”
He recalled how his father said in recent years, “‘You have to have a lot of irons in the fire. It’s the only way to stay warm.’ That was something he really believed in. His days were also full. He was always alive and engaged in the world.”
In 1990, Reitman-Swiss, ended his professional career, retiring from Manes, and relocated to Jacksonville, Fla., with his wife Stephanie to raise their young son, Harris. Dissatisfied with Florida media’s baseball coverage, Reitman-Swiss relied on reading the box scores for his favorite team of the New York Yankees.
A few years ago, the couple moved to Portland. In addition to his wife and sons, Reitman-Swiss is survived by his sister Lorraine and another son, Jody.