May 12, 1926
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||November 17, 2009
Manhattan, New York
Cause of death
|Alma mater||New York University|
|Spouse(s)||Lynn Tamarkin Syms|
|Children||Marcy, Robert, Richard, Stephen, Adrienne and Laura|
Syms was born Seymour Merinsky on May 12, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of eight children to Jewish parents who emigrated from Russia. His family decided to change their surname from Merinsky to Merns when his father and son opened a store on Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan which was also called Merns. Syms went to Midwood High School in Brooklyn. After serving in the United States Army, he attended New York University on the G.I. Bill.
In 1959, Syms opened a men's clothing store on nearby Cortlandt Street in New York City's Financial District. The store, which was initially named Sy Merns, competed directly with his family's original store on Vesey Street. However, he was forced to change the store's name to simply, SYMS, after legal action was taken against him. He later had his name legally changed to Sy Syms to match the store.
The company slowly expanded during the 1960s and 1970s. The company aired its first television commercial in 1974. In the commercial, SYMS debuted the company's slogan, "An educated consumer is our best customer." The slogan is still used by SYMS as of April 2011.
By 1983, Syms had taken the company public with an initial public offering and expanded the chain to include eleven retail locations. The chain now has approximately 30 locations in thirteen states. Sy Syms remained the company's CEO until his retirement in 1998, when he was succeeded by his daughter, Marcy Syms. On November 2, 2011, Syms Corp. and its subsidiary Filene's Basement, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after more than a half a century in the clothing business.
Sy Syms remained the company's chairman until he died of heart failure at his home in Manhattan, New York City on November 17, 2009. He was survived by his wife, Lynn Tamarkin Syms; four children, Marcy, Robert, Richard and Laura; two stepchildren; 10 grandchildren; and three sisters. Two of his children, Stephen and Adrienne, predeceased him.