As first reported Monday in a PPB Newslink breaking news alert, Bill Schmidt, Sr., CEO of Largo, Florida-based supplier Hit Promotional Products, passed away April 9 after an illness. He was 73. Schmidt was one of the most knowledgeable and influential figures in the promotional products industry, and also one of the most beloved by employees, customers and industry colleagues alike.

Schmidt became part of the promotional products industry when Cosco, his father’s company, acquired Hit and Colt & Dumont, then known as C&D Hit. Schmidt saw an advantage in importing goods and was among the first to import pens from Europe and buy products from Taiwan and China. In 2001, he purchased the company outright and changed the name to Hit Promotional Products, eventually moving it from manufacturing to importing and decorating exclusively.

In July 2015, he orchestrated the acquisition of supplier Admints and Zagabor.

In a statement released by Hit, the company remembered him fondly: “Bill Schmidt, Sr. was every ounce an industry icon. The small things are what everyone cherished most about him. He walked all three of Hit’s factory floors every single day, and genuinely cared about each and every person at the company. From the entry-level team member all the way up to CFO, he was admired and respected amongst all. He was not only a boss to so many people, but more of a father figure, friend and mentor to countless people across our company and industry.

“There is not a single person Bill Schmidt did not touch that he did not make better. Our company and family have lost a legend and he will be missed more than words can express.”

Schmidt left his mark on those who knew and worked with him. Wayne Greenberg, MAS, president of distributor JB of Florida, Inc./Geiger and former PPEF chair, says, “Bill had a huge heart. He was one of the first people I talked to about joining the Tomorrow Fund for PPEF. I told him it was for the kids and all he asked was, ‘How much?’ He was a great guy, and I’m going to miss him.”

Chuck Fandos, CAS, CEO of the Facilisgroup, says, “The promotional products industry has lost a giant in Bill Schmidt. Hit is such a great success story in our industry and Bill was the driving force behind that success. He built his business with his wife Liz and two sons, Bill Jr. and CJ, the hard way. They used their own money, worked harder than the competition and had the guts to go to China before many others. Bill loved the sourcing side of the business and was damn good at it. He passed that talent on to Bill Jr. and CJ. Bill was loved by all of the Hit employees and respected by all of his competitors. He leaves a huge hole in the industry but taught so many the path to success; he will live on and on.”

In 2014, PPB spoke with Schmidt about his thoughts on the industry and his philosophy on business. Early into his 70s, he had no thoughts of retirement. “When you like what you do, you don’t ever want to retire,” he said. “I love this business. I go back to what my father and grandfather always told me: success is solving problems. That’s what you have to do every day. Sometimes coming to work I think, ‘I’m not going to stop at the factory today.’ Then I think, ‘You have to do this.’ I go there and see something I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been there. I enjoy what I’m doing.”

Schmidt is survived by his wife Liz, and two sons Bill Schmidt, Jr., Hit’s vice president of operations, and CJ Schmidt, its president.