John Peterman

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John Peterman
John Peterman.jpg
ResidenceLexington, Kentucky
EducationCollege of the Holy Cross, 1963
OccupationFounder, Chairman of J. Peterman Company
Years active1987–2000, 2001–present
Known forFounding the J. Peterman Company
Notable work
Peterman Rides Again
Spouse(s)Audrey Peterman (married 1964)
ChildrenRobyn Peterman Zahn, Sean Peterman, Tim Peterman, Matt Peterman
Parent(s)Charles Peterman, Sally Peterman

John Peterman (born 1941)[1] is an American catalog and retail entrepreneur from Lexington, Kentucky, who operates The J. Peterman Company. He grew up in West Nyack, New York as the son of a banker and secretary.[2] He is known for founding the J. Peterman Company after finding a cowboy duster on a business trip.[3] Peterman was also a minor-league baseball player, Kentucky rancher, and an author.[4]

Early life[edit]

Peterman was the third of four children born to Charles and Sally Peterman. He had two brothers and a sister.[5] Charles Peterman became a loan officer and, later, the assistant vice president[6] of the Irving Trust Co. after working his way up from the mailroom. John Peterman grew up in Van Houten Fields, an agrarian commune in West Nyack, New York. Those who were part of the community built their own houses and grew a portion of their own food. Peterman learned to garden, tend chickens, and participate in other physical labor.[1] His mother worked as an administrative assistant after her children started school.[5]

As a high schooler, Peterman attended Clarkstown High School and participated in basketball, baseball, and football. He was recognized in the local newspaper for his performance in all three sports.[7] In baseball, he played second base and was voted All-P.S.A.L Baseball first team selection as a second basemen.[8] He graduated from Clarkstown High School in 1960.[7]

Education and baseball career[edit]

Peterman graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Massachusetts[2] in 1963 with a Bachelor of Science in economics.[5] He played third base on the Holy Cross baseball teams that went to the College World Series in 1962 and 1963. As a junior in 1962, he had a .362 batting average and as a senior in 1963, he had a .291 batting average and led his team with 17 runs batted in.[9] He also played minor-league baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for three years as a second baseman.[10] In 1963, Peterman had a one-day tryout with the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium where he played next to Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Tony Kubek, but did not sign with the team.[11] His baseball career ended in his early 20s after a leg injury.[12][13]

Business career[edit]


Peterman had a career in sales for 20 years after his baseball career ended. He worked as a regional sales manager in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama for General Foods and Castle & Cooke.[3] During his time in sales, Peterman sold dog food, cereal, pineapple, tuna fish, and inspirational tapes. In 1981, he was managing fertilizer accounts but was dismissed.[2]

Corporate consultant[edit]

Peterman became a corporate consultant after deciding “that was the first and last time I was going to be fired.”[3] As a corporate specialty-foods sales[1] consultant, he helped people make deals with other companies, and it allowed him to travel. During a meeting to help a client find an advertising company, Peterman met Donald Staley and they began to work closely together. They agreed to collaborate on any entrepreneurial ideas they envisioned, which led to several businesses.[3]


Together, Peterman and Staley started a mail-order company to heal sick houseplants as well as a manufacturing business making beer cheese; both were successful.[3] The beer cheese business was originally Hall's Beer Cheese and Peterman bought half the company. While he was selling beer cheese, he found a horseman's duster that would propel him into the retail business. The beer cheese was being sold downstairs and the retail business was upstairs until Hall's was eventually sold.[14]

J. Peterman Company[edit]

In 1986, Peterman was on a business trip in Denver, CO and decided to explore Wyoming. He went to Jackson Hole, WY and bought a horseman's duster because he liked it. After wearing it consistently, he and his friend Staley decided to sell more of the coats with an ad in The New Yorker. The ad sold about 70 coats and the J. Peterman Company was created. In the fall of 1988, the company's first catalog was published with black and white drawings and literary copy style. Color illustrations were introduced to the catalogue in 1989.[4]

Peterman found unique items to sell in the catalog and Staley wrote the product descriptions. Bob Hagel was the first J. Peterman Co. illustrator and art director. He made the decision to draw and paint the clothes from the catalog without bodies, so they appeared like "well-traveled ghosts."[15] The catalogue drew the attention of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood, and Tom Hanks. The company continued to grow and in 1995, the TV show Seinfeld debuted J. Peterman as a character played by John O'Hurley.[4] The J. Peterman Co. also became well known for selling movie replicas of the "Heart of The Ocean" necklace from Titanic. The company sold $1 million worth of necklace replicas along with other costume and prop replicas.[16]

In 1999, the J. Peterman Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company was unable to sustain its rapid growth and was bought out by Paul Harris Stores. However, in 2000, Paul Harris Stores went bankrupt and Peterman was able to buy back his namesake brand.[16] The J. Peterman Company catalogue has been relaunched and Tim Peterman, John Peterman's son, was the CEO of J. Peterman Company until 2014. The president of the J. Peterman Company, as of 2018, is Kyle Foster.[4] The company has developed "Peterman's Eye," a social networking site, and an online catalogue that offers mail-order inventory as well as unique antiques.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Peterman has been married to his wife, Audrey (née Aramini, born to Ann and Albert Aramini), for about 54 years. They have four children:[2] Robyn, Sean, Timothy, and Mathew.[18] Peterman's daughter Robyn Peterman Zahn, a popular writer and former actress, is married to the actor Steve Zahn. They have two children, Henry James Zahn and Audrey Clair Zahn.[19] Sean was a cattle and grain farmer until he was tragically killed July 23, 2015 in a farming accident in Lexington, KY.[20][18] Peterman's son, Tim Peterman, was the CEO of J. Peterman Company from 2008 until 2014, and helped build the company's web presence.[21] Around 2014, Matt Peterman started working at the J. Peterman Company as the Creative Director after spending time in Los Angeles, CA in the film business.[4]

Peterman owns a cabin on a 550-acre parcel of land in Lexington, KY that was formerly farmed by his son Sean.[1]

In 2001, John Peterman presented a lecture titled “The Painful but Essential Art of Failing” to his alma mater, College of the Holy Cross. Peterman spoke to the pre-business program at the invitation of Nancy Baldiga, the pre-business advisor and associate professor of economics.[22]


After the J. Peterman Company filed for bankruptcy and was bought by Paul Harris Stores, Peterman wrote a book titled "Peterman Rides Again." It is a memoir that explores Peterman's life, from his early baseball career to finding products for the catalog while traveling.[23] It also chronicles the rise and fall of the J. Peterman Company and Peterman's “hard-won lessons in entrepreneurship.”[24] The book was published November 6, 2000 and has 225 pages.[25]

  • Peterman, John (2000). Peterman Rides Again. Paramus, N.J.: Prentice Hall Press. ISBN 0-7352-0199-4.


  1. ^ a b c d Vinjamuri, David (2008-03-31). Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 22–49. ISBN 9780470282083.
  2. ^ a b c d "Suburban Cowboy John Peterman Rides the Long Coattails of His Dude-Ish Duster to Catalog Success". Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  3. ^ a b c d e Witt, Karen de. "A Legend in His Own Ad Copy, and on 'Seinfeld'". Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Kyle-Foster". Zoom-Info. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  5. ^ a b c Jurgelski, Susan. "Putting on the ritzy / The man, the myth, the legend, the catalog and the new line of furniture". LancasterOnline. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  6. ^ "Rockland County Times 21 October 1971". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ a b Basson, Sam (1960-01-14). "Spice of Sports" (PDF). Orangetown Telegram. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  8. ^ Basson, Sam (1959-06-18). "Lions Share to Rams, Suffern, Bucs in All P.S.A.L. Baseball Selections" (PDF). Orangetown Telegram. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  9. ^ "Bio - John H. Peterman". Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  10. ^ "John Peterman Minor League Statistics & History". Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  11. ^ Walters, John (1998-11-02). "YANKEE STADIUM FOR SALE HOME PLATE AND OLD SEATS AT J. PETERMAN'S AIN'T CHEAP". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  12. ^ "The real J. Peterman turns to a Texas company for a baseball product in his spring catalog". Dallas News. 2018-04-04. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  13. ^ "John Peterman Has 40 Million Reasons To Smile". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  14. ^ Ace (2016-04-26). "How J. Peterman Is Resurrecting Retail". Ace Weekly. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  15. ^ Alpern, Emma (2018-03-23). "The Reason J. Peterman Catalogs Use Art Instead of Photographs". Racked. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  16. ^ a b Fishman, Elana (2017-12-13). "How Titanic's Iconic Necklace Almost Sank an Entire Company". Racked. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  17. ^ Frank Silverstein (2009-01-25). "J. Peterman rides again". MSNBC. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  18. ^ a b "Sean Peterman". Legacy. July 27, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  19. ^ "Robyn Peterman". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  20. ^ "J. Peterman's Son Killed In Farming Accident". Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  21. ^ Schiller, Kristan (2012-07-06). "Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy to Reinvent a Brand". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  22. ^ McNamara, Katharine (Spring 2001). "The Single Most Important Job" (PDF). Holy Cross Magazine. 35: 41.
  23. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Peterman Rides Again by John Peterman, Author Prentice Hall Press $25 (288p)". ISBN 978-0-7352-0199-6. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  24. ^ "College of the Holy Cross | Holy Cross Magazine". Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  25. ^ "Peterman Rides Again". Retrieved 2018-08-27.

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