Greg Thomajan, Owner of Zareh, Inc.

Fifty years later, Greg Thomajan of Zareh Boston still does his own thing. In 2,400 square feet in Boston’s financial district, Greg Thomajan has built a terrific little men’s clothing business (founded by his father) working Monday to Friday from 9 to 5. On his 50th anniversary at the store, we asked for his secrets.

Zareh Thomajan

50 years at Zareh’s: what’s your success secret?

Show up on time for work every day and good things happen.

How’s business?

Why have you opted to stick with clothing and furnishings when the world has moved toward sportswear?
Business is unremarkable: better than last year, but nothing like what it was. For the last five years we’ve been hanging around $2.1 million, but when the economy blew up, we gave a third of that back. We’re slightly north of 1.6 today.
I’ve stuck with clothing because it’s all I know. I don’t know my ass from elbow when it comes to sportswear and I never did!

What lines do you carry? What’s selling best right now?

My lines are Oxxford ($2,500 to $5,000), Hickey Freeman ($1,200 to $2,000), Robert Talbott, Schneider, Ferragamo and Vineyard Vines. My “hot” item is a half-zip, cashmere pullover from Hawick of Scotland ($475). I’ve sold 500 of them in the last four years!

How has the precarious stock market impacted your sales?

Adversely.

You’re famous for your personal essay-style print ads; are you still doing them? What about social media?

With the exception of an anniversary ad, we’re not doing much these days. As for social media, I’m computer illiterate. Things like Facebook and BlackBerries are, to me, from another world (or maybe they’re real and I’m from another world).

What have you learned from 50 years at Zareh’s?

A lot, but the best lesson was the one from my dad on the day I showed up for work (July 1, 1960). He said, “Son, don’t spend every buck you make in a good year.” And I haven’t.

What would you do differently if you could?

I would have bought a building. But I have no regrets. I would be richer today, but at least whatever success I’ve enjoyed was in the apparel industry rather than real estate, and that is meaningful to me.

How has the industry changed in recent years? How does it need to change?

The disappearance of the “mom and pop” shops like mine. As for how it needs to change, you’ve got to ask me things that I can answer!

Do you look for new lines at market? Why or why not?

I don’t! I never (as in never ever) leave my shop which is hardly a recipe for discovering new lines. Ninety percent of what I know about what’s going on in the marketplace, I learned from [the late salesman] Dave Ryan. Without him to lean on, I just stay with the vendors that I have and hope for the best.

What’s the average age of your customer and how do you attract the next generation?

Average age is 45 to 65; we get younger customers via referrals and Vineyard Vines.

Who is your competition and what’s your advantage?

Everybody who sells clothing is competition. My advantage, and there’s no way of phrasing this without sounding like a jerk, is passion. Most guys in their right mind would rather be on the golf course than in the shop, but I’d rather be in the shop. While there’s no shortage of guys in my industry who are smarter than I am—none have out-worked me.

Any hobbies or favorite pastimes?

Having fun with Grady and Boomer, my two golden retrievers (who come to work with me everyday). I’m an avid reader (mostly non-fiction) and I spend entirely too much time worrying about the Red Sox.

Your plan for the next 50 years?

If you get to my age and concentrate on anything beyond the next 50 minutes, you’re asking for it!

Reprinted courtesy of MRketplace.com. All rights reserved

 

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