A Holiday Tradition: The Leonardo Strassi “Black Box”

Mon, 03 December 2007, 3:20 pm

Leonardo Strassi LogoThe holiday buying season sometime in the late 70’s must have been momentous for a clothing company named Leonardo Strassi. One Christmas, my Dad’s family gave too many zippered ski vests, bell-bottom jeans, or wide-collared flower shirts from the same store. These items of good taste were all packaged lovingly within the same kind of black garment box from Leonardo Strassi. When all of these suspicious boxes were retrieved from under the tree, then opened at once, the legend of “The Box” was born into Rzepkowski Family lore.

“The Box” is a bit strange by today’s garment box standards. It is all black, illustrated only by a Unabomber-looking gentleman with a gigolo moustache and some fine sunglasses. It is a thin box that only can contain the slightest of gifts. Underwear? Yes. Sweatshirt? No way! Every Christmas since that time, the Boxes have arrived under the tree. At first, there were some chuckles as Leonardo showed his classic good looks. Then, in the early 80’s the family realized that these boxes were becoming treasured family heirlooms to be passed down from generation to generation. The rule became that the holder of “The Box” must regift it to another family member sometime in the upcoming year. It was used not only for Christmas, but also for Birthdays, anniversaries, and any other momentous life occasion.

So rich became this tradition that my grandmother began inscribing the lid with the giver and receiver of “The Box”, the event, and the date. After 30 years of keeping up this ritual, “The Box” has become a gift in of itself. Opening one provides many minutes of joy as you first feign surprise that you didn’t know what it was, then recite the previous holders of the treasure, and finally let the awesome responsibility of passing it on set in. The younger generation can all recall when we received our first Box.

Leonardo Strassi Box Interior
Interior of Leonardo Strassi Box, 2007

As legend has it, there are only 4 Boxes left in circulation (no one really knows), each with a colorful history of birthdays, Christmases and anniversaries gone by. The histories reveal new family members, special events, and of course 30 years of Christmas memories. So, this year instead of a Nintendo Wii, or an iPod, a tattered black Box is on the top of my list.

Kris & Mason with “The Box”
Mason with his first Box in 2002

A note to the Rzepkowski clan. If you have more clarity on the details of this story, please leave it in the comments. I submitted this story to a request at the office for holiday traditions. Quite honestly I couldn’t remember all of the details, so this account sounded close enough, but I want to get the record straight :)

Christmas 2007, a Box returns to the Rzepkowski’s of Webster
As if she were channeling Leo himself, Tricia executed the perfect reveal of the “Box”. This time around, Leo was overstuffed with a fleece sweatshirt which disguised the normally slim form factor. When she tore into the present, the first thing we saw was the Gigolo man staring right back at us. Have a look at the amazing video…

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Read: 5 comments on “A Holiday Tradition: The Leonardo Strassi “Black Box””

  • 1 Terry Rzepkowski 08 December 2007

    Kris:
    My brothers may, or may not at this point in their lives recall the orignal events much better, but here is what I remember. Grandma Esther made the purchases at the now long defunct Seneca Mall in Buffalo. Where else at this point in time could you find a store as hip as Leo’s.
    The time period was 1969. The four boxes were for her 3 boys and her one adopted exchange student from Thailand Mathee. Inside of these boxes were treasures that today would be sure to bring more on E-bay than the boxes. They were shirts that would make us all look like colleagues of Kirk and Mr. Spock from the Star Ship Enterprise. I know that somewhere in photo albums these shirts exist as the final frontier. I remember that Mathee bore a striking resemblance to Sulu in his shirt.
    Live Long and Prosper.
    Terry

  • 2 ziprz 10 December 2007

    Wow, I didn’t realize the Boxes reached back into the 60’s. That makes you guys, how shall I put this…experienced. And thanks for sending the logo which now properly decorates the top of this post. I might have some pictures of my Dad sporting that same huge ‘stache, shag hair, and thick glasses. hmmm….I wonder who he got his style from.

  • 3 Duane 11 December 2007

    If one thumbs through the Rzepkowski family albums one will note (especially in fishing trips to Canada photos) that each and every one of those Rzepkowski boys at some time in their not so sordid pasts have each sported that particular look! Fortunatly their sister,Wendy, has been spared the metamorphasis. It is sort of that Charles Bronson meets Lee Majors (The SIx Million Dollar Man) look. I think Terry may have sported it when he was a bartender in Florida. Mason,please take note and be carefull! The “look” will be hot again but it may take another 50 years for it to cycle back. Kris, you had better hurry, your window of opportunity is beginning to close. 70’s retro is all ready on the decline! You need a major stache, side burns and aviator glasses.

  • 4 Duane 11 December 2007

    Grow your bangs while you are at it! It is cool to toss your head to the side to sweep them out of your field of vision. Shall we add Rogaine to your Christmas wish list?

  • 5 Linda Strasberg 22 January 2010

    You still have the box?

React: with wreckless abandon


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