From her early childhood dreams of owning a big company one day to hearing her management professor at Boston University say there is nothing like running a family business, Amy Sue Lebovitz knew she wanted to be part of her family’s logistics and warehouse company.
But it took two decades of perseverance, of becoming a lawyer and working for a few banks in lending law, before Lebovitz joined Romark Logistics, a New Jersey-based company that serves customers worldwide. Her father Roy Lebovitz founded the firm in 1957, beginning with a 5,200-square-foot warehouse.
Her dad believed the logistics industry, or “warehouse and trucking” as he often described it, was not a business for women, Lebovitz said. It is a world dominated by men—with truck drivers, warehousemen, unions, etc. He spent years trying to convince her to do something else, to become a doctor, a lawyer, or anything else.
“I totally agree that he was technically correct, that our business is underrepresented when it comes to women,” Lebovitz said. “Very often I’m the only woman in the room. But there’s a push to change that and we have to be the ones to make it available.”
Today, Romark Logistics provides warehousing, transportation, packaging, distribution and fulfillment services to food, beverage, pharmaceutical, commodities, and retail customers. It maintains over 5 million square feet of storage capacity with warehouses located in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Texas.
Lebovitz, who joined the firm in 2002, serves as executive vice president, general counsel, and co-owner of Romark Logistics. Her brother Marc Lebovitz is president and co-owner.
Pursuing Her Dream
Lebovitz, a William Blair private wealth client, grew up in Newark and then Springfield, New Jersey, as the oldest of five children—four girls and the youngest, a boy. She always loved to learn and credits her parents and grandparents for her passion for education. Lebovitz’s grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine-Slovakia region before World War II to escape Hitler’s persecution of the Jews.
“My grandfather would often tell me, ‘Amy they can take everything away from us but the one thing they can’t take is our education,’” she said.
That philosophy has guided Lebovitz and her family throughout life. She attended grammar school in Springfield, then applied and was accepted to three college-prep schools in New Jersey and New York. For two of the three, Pingry and Horace Mann, she would have been a member of the first class of women to graduate in 1978. Instead, she chose Newark Academy which had turned co-ed four years earlier.
“They knew how to educate girls,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a pioneer in everything I did. That included being the first girl to have a Saturday bat mitzvah at my synagogue. Saturdays were traditionally reserved for boys to have their bar mitzvahs.”
“It just seemed like everything I wanted to do always required a little more energy.”
After Newark, Lebovitz went on to Brandeis University then Boston University, where she majored in finance and married shortly after graduation.
It was an era when women typically married young and had children; few sought careers outside the home, she said. But the marriage ended 11 years later. Her parents were very supportive, and Lebovitz and her three young children moved in with them while she attended law school at Rutgers University–Newark, worked two part-time jobs, and raised her kids.
After graduating from law school, Lebovitz approached her dad about joining the family business. He remained steadfast in his views that the logistics business wasn’t a place for women, encouraging her to find another job. She can still remember him saying: “You have to bring something to the table, you can’t just graduate from law school and go right into the business; what are you going to do there?”
So she did. Lebovitz worked for several firms, gaining experience in lending law and taxation, Y2K management, a company merger, and then 9/11 happened.
“The whole world changed after that. I said: ‘Dad, I did what you wanted. I went to law school, gained outside experience, and I think I’m ready.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Amy I don’t know what you’re going to do but OK.’
“We never looked back after that.”
That was 20 years ago, and Romark Logistics has grown and evolved. Lebovitz’s father passed away in 2010. Her son Michael joined the firm seven years ago after graduate school and several years working for tire maker Pirelli.
He had to “bring something to the table,” said Lebovitz, reminding Michael of what his grandfather often said. “In my case, it was my father saying it because he really felt it was a man’s business. In my son’s case, it was because I understood the value of having a finance degree, a law degree and a strong sense of how other companies were working.”
The past two years have also been an extremely busy, challenging time for Romark. The resilience and flexibility of our workers to meet the increased demand for supplies during COVID has been amazing, she said.
“My father, the visionary that he was, knew that when times are good people buy candy, liquor, pet food, olive oil—all the things we warehouse. When times get bad they really, really buy them. So we have this recession-proof kind of inventory and our business grew. We essentially doubled our employee base during COVID.”
Lebovitz said she didn’t think her father would recognize the business today. There are more voices, new cultures, new observances.
Today, Romark employs 745 people, with women making up 32% of the workforce. Ten years ago, only 14% of its 318 employees were women.
“I would have welcomed both my daughters into the business but they chose different careers,” Lebovitz said. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t have a granddaughter or nieces interested to work in the family business.
“There is so much room to bring a different lens to our business—a very positive lens or viewpoint. I love to see the possibilities in people.”
Looking back on her career, Lebovitz shared a lesson from early on while attending Rutgers law school. At the time, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came to speak to Lebovitz’s class. Ginsburg’s message was simple and direct: “Be thankful to all the people who supported you and believed in you along the way,” she recalled.
“That was a powerful lifetime message for me and I try never to lose that in my view of how I treat people.”