In the Studio with Fred Rossi
Fred Rossi '80 takes craftsmanship to the next level with designs that satisfy your eye, hand, and mind
Base Camp: Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.
Bona Fides: B.A. in Communications, University of Pennsylvania; MBA in Real Estate Finance, The Wharton School; Custom woodworker
Path to the Present
Fred Rossi '80 P’10 ’12 seems to have the whole work-life balance thing figured out. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. After a decade of success in the financial sector, Rossi took a year off in 1999 to act as the general contractor and primary builder of his family’s house in his hometown. Once the last nail was driven, he felt adrift.
“I told my wife, ‘I don’t want to go back into Boston. I don’t want to manage people. I don’t want to report up to people. I don’t want to put on a suit and tie every day, but I don’t know what I’m going to do,’” he recalls. “She said, ‘You’re being kind of an idiot about this because everybody who comes into the house asks us who built it, who designed it, or who made something on the interior, and the answer is always you.’ So, that was the beginning.”
Rossi launched StudioRossi, working from a 350 square-foot workshop. By 2016, business was booming, precipitating a move to an airy, 1800 square-foot space in Beverly. Today, he’s got a digital marketing team, a website that’s fully e-commerce capable (www.StudioRossi.us), and recently struck a deal to develop a furniture line he’ll market jointly with Found Design Studio.
Rossi works primarily with designers and architects these days, and 2021 was his highest-volume year ever. Suffice it to say, the craftsmanship is splendid.
The leap from being a “suit” to a “creative” seems less cavernous in the context of Rossi’s younger years. His first exposure to theater arts came at the Prep, and he later built sets, became a technical director, and produced shows he took on the road while in college. After graduating from UPenn, he built sets for TV commercials in Manhattan from 1984-88, living in Brooklyn’s socioeconomically precarious Park Slope neighborhood. These were visceral times in New York; Woody Allen and Madonna ruled the AC and DC currents of the city’s arts culture, independent film was bursting forth, and an unknown Spike Lee was hawking flyers outside cinemas to promote his movies. But visceral doesn’t always pay the bills or feed the soul.
“You have to be geographically flexible in the TV/film business—or industry flexible,” says Rossi, who married his wife, Faith, in 1986. “I wanted to be in the Northeast.” That meant grad school and a pivot to the world of MBAs.
“What I’m doing now really wasn’t a change, it was a logical progression,” explains Rossi, who relocated to Manchester in 1993. “It was going to happen whether I saw it coming or not. I missed the theater arts, but I left that because I wanted intellectual stimulation. So, it’s like: ‘How do you combine the two?’”
It’s also altered his intersection with both family and the outside world. Rossi coached Little League for a decade, has mentored Boy Scouts (including more than three dozen Eagle Scout candidates) for 23 years, trains regularly for Half Iron Man triathlons, and chaired the Manchester Finance Committee for nine years.
“I’ve had the flexibility to grow personally, professionally, and community service-wise, plus spend a lot of time with family,” says Rossi, whose multigenerational Prep ties run deep, including his father, Alfred ’55, and his brother, Geoffrey ’84.
“Now, we’re growing the business. I’m a big believer in balance—it’s critical in my marriage, as a parent, and in service to others.”
That last piece has remained a big priority.
“Community service is a direct line back to my father and St. John’s,” he says. “The school culture was the same then as it is now: See the world as having opportunities for you, but needs for others. And when those needs become opportunities, it’s a total win-win, right? Then you’re doing service because it’s enriching for everybody involved. That’s the best kind.”