Hanky Panky’s two women founders have no plans to retire, even after 40 years of success

Emerald Pellot

Lida Orzeck and Gale Epstein co-founded Hanky Panky over 40 years ago.

In 1977, Epstein made Orzeck a bra and panties set of lingerie made entirely of handkerchiefs for her birthday. Orzeck was so smitten by the gift, the duo decided to see if any buyers were interested in selling the new invention. They were and suddenly the friends had launched a new business.

Hanky Panky’s take on lingerie took off quickly. Their cotton underwear with delicate floral embroidery was special at the time. Over the next four decades, Orzeck and Epstein’s business endured New York’s ever-changing fashion landscape. Even when other companies started manufacturing their clothing overseas, Hanky Panky retained its operations in the U.S.

“One of my biggest thrills is that everything is made 100 percent here in the United States,” Bernaldo Ortiz, executive plant manager, told In The Know. “Our raw materials are domestic, our sewing is domestic.”

Orzeck and Epstein’s values permeate the company, it seems. The co-founders have grown to feel a certain responsibility to their employees as leaders. To commemorate the business’ 40th anniversary, for example, Orzeck and Epstein did something unconventional.

“We decided to create an employee stock ownership plan, which shares the ownership of the company with our employees,” Orzeck told In The Know.

Orzeck and Epstein are still running Hanky Panky today. When they launched their business, they didn’t have a one-year or five-year plan. Instead, they picked up knowledge along the way. That combined with their work ethic was a winning recipe. They have no plans to retire.

“I hope I never have to retire. It keeps the mind nimble,” Epstein said.

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