Zareh Thomajan, founder of Zareh, Inc.

Zareh, Inc. was opened in Boston in 1933 by Zareh Thomajan, who soon became as famous for his creative and philosophical advertising as for his traditional upscale clothing. Zareh's advertisements have been excerpted in the New Yorker and in a book, The Thief of State Street, 30 Years of Audacious Advertising with Zareh and included in a book "The 100 Greatest Advertisements." by Jullian Lewis Watkins. Click here to read the featured ad.

Zareh Thomajan30 Years of Audacious Advertising with Zareh

Every time we receive a shipment of gabardine shirts (and we got a large one yesterday) I am reminded of that pulsing day in September, 1933, when this shop was opened. That was a nervous day for me because after much preparation and more prayer it was my first real opportunity to sense the temper of my neighborhood. One day wouldn’t foretell my future I knew but it would give me an inkling. When I say that I was as short of breath as a sailor on shore leave I am indulging in no idle metaphor.

Anyway, someone finally walked in and was he a pipperoo! He was oldish, had a battered felt hat worn off center, was wearing an ancient tweed suit that was a challenge to the Morgan Memorial and sported a nondescript topcoat buttoned with absolutely no thought for relevance. I proceeded to meet my bride. Cupping his left ear with his hand he asked me if I like the shirts we were displaying in our State Street window. I said I did. Then he asked me if I liked the ties featured in the same window. I still stood my ground. Then without a word as to prices he said, “I’ll take the three combinations.” It happened that these “combinations” were $7.50 gabardine shirts and $3.50 cashmere ties, so the three units displayed meant a $33 sale. I was literally ashiver but I was trained never to quote a price to a customer unless the price was asked for, so I wrapped my little package in silence and gave it to our hero. Now, please remember the background – this is September, 1933, this is Boston, this is my first customer in an enterprise that even my best friends thought was sheer lunacy, and above all else, remember my man. But, to go on, he took the sales check, reached into his wallet, paid me the precise amount and without saying a word started walking toward the door. Just before getting there, however, he retraced his steps and said, “Who owns this store?” I said that I did after a fashion and then he did something I’ll never forget. He stuck out his hand and said, “My boy, you have more ─ ─ nerve than anyone I have met in a long time. I know you’ll succeed.” With that he walked out.

Well, that’s all there is. That gentleman since has become one of my best customers and still buys those same gabardine shirts from me, except now they’re not quite as good as they used to be and cost ten dollars a piece.


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