May 12, 1926
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||November 17, 2009
Manhattan, New York
Cause of death
|Alma mater||New York University|
|Spouse(s)||Ruth Glickman Merns (divorced) Lynn Tamarkin|
|Children||with Glickman Merns:
--Stephen Syms (deceased)
--Adrienne Syms (deceased)
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.
He initially began a career as a sportscaster and reporter in Maryland and West Virginia. However, in 1950 Syms returned to New York in order to work at the family's store, Merns. 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.
His first marriage, to Ruth Glickman Merns, ended in divorce. They had six children: Marcy, Robert, Richard, Laura, Stephen (died in 1998), and Adrienne (died in 1999). His second wife was Lynn Tamarkin with whom he had two step-children, Cary Tamarkin and Leslie Tamarkin. Funeral services were held at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan.
- "Founder of SYMS discount clothing store dies". San Francisco Chronicle. 2009-10-17. Retrieved 2009-11-18.[dead link]
- Duhigg, Charles. "Sy Syms, Founder of Discount Chain, Dies at 83," The New York Times, Wednesday, November 18, 2009.
- New York Times: "Paid Notice: Deaths SYMS MERNS, STEPHEN" August 31, 1998
- Washington Post: "Clothing retailer Sy Syms, 83" By Patricia Sullivan November 18, 2009
- SY SYMS Obituary November 18, 2009