Robert A. Bernstein is an entrepreneur, retail-marketing expert and advertising adviser to some of the world’s most successful brands.
Bernstein is a native Kansas Citian and communications graduate of the University of Oklahoma. In 1964, together with Skip Rein, a man he’d just met but who was destined to become his life-long partner, he founded Bernstein-Rein (www.bernsteinrein.com). Today it is one of the six largest independent ad agencies in the country with 350 associates and annual billings of more than $500 million.
In 1976, Bernstein created The Happy Meal. It’s become an international icon accounting for billions of dollars in worldwide sales and remains the only McDonald’s promotion to become a menu item. He’s turned a handshake with Sam Walton into a 30-year client relationship with what has become the single-largest company in the history of the world. And he helped a new start-up franchiser from Florida that had little more than its blue and yellow torn-ticket logo, launch the brand that became synonymous with the video rental industry.
In fact, Bernstein liked the concept of Blockbuster Video so much, he obtained franchising rights for several markets in the western United States and formed a wholly owned subsidiary called Serendipity Entertainment to operate the stores. Today, Serendipity is the largest Blockbuster franchise in the world with 100 stores in 15 states in four different time zones. In 2000, Blockbuster awarded him the Chairman’s Award in recognition of his outstanding performance and commitment to continued growth.
Bernstein’s affinity for multi-unit retailing inspired him to embark on a new venture at a time when most men of his accomplishment might have been tempted to do some serious laurel-sitting. He saw a need in the salon and beauty industry and in 1995 launched a chain called Beauty Brands (www.beautybrands.com). With 49 locations in 13 markets and 10 states, Beauty Brands combines a full-service salon and spa within a dynamic retail superstore. Each 5,000- to 9,000-square-foot location offers a one-stop total beauty experience.
As successful as he is in business, another facet that truly has become Bernstein’s trademark is his legendary dedication to the community. His personal contribution of time is generous to a fault, especially when kids are involved. He has been instrumental in helping create many nonprofit organizations and establishing several scholarship programs. Bernstein continues to serve on dozens of civic boards and has been blessed with countless honors. In fact, May 21, 2003, was declared “Bob Bernstein Day” by the mayor of Kansas City.
Construction is underway on The West Edge (www.thewestedge.com), a $116 million, 2.4-acre multi-use complex designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. The West Edge will be home to Bernstein’s three companies, a 130-room boutique hotel, two restaurants, specialty service/retail shopping, a thousand-space underground parking garage, a 260-seat auditorium and the Advertising Icon Museum (www.advertisingiconmuseum.org). In the neighboring block, Bernstein also purchased the 60-unit Carlton Plaza apartment building and has converted it into luxury condominiums.
He is married to Dr. Phyliss Bernstein, a clinical psychologist. They have three children — Steve, Susan and David — who each are involved in the family businesses.