Sy Syms

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This article is about the person. For the business school, see Sy Syms School of Business.
Sy Syms
At the second Annual Sy Syms School of Business, May 1, 2008
Born Seymour Merinsky
(1926-05-12)May 12, 1926
Brooklyn, New York
Died November 17, 2009(2009-11-17) (aged 83)
Manhattan, New York
Cause of death heart failure
Nationality American
Ethnicity Jewish
Alma mater New York University
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Ruth Glickman Merns (divorced) Lynn Tamarkin
Children with Glickman Merns:
--Marcy Syms
--Robert Syms
--Richard Syms
--Stephen Syms (deceased)
--Adrienne Syms (deceased)
--Laura Syms
two step-children:
--Cary Tamarkin
--Leslie Tamarkin

Sy Syms (May 12, 1926 – November 17, 2009) was an American businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who founded the SYMS off-price clothing chain in New York City in 1959.[1]


Syms was born Seymour Merinsky on May 12, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York.[1] He was the youngest of eight children to Jewish parents who emigrated from Russia.[2] 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.[1] After serving in the United States Army, he attended New York University on the G.I. Bill.[2]

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.[1] 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.[1] However, he was forced to change the store's name to simply, SYMS, after legal action was taken against him.[1] He later had his name legally changed to Sy Syms to match the store.[1] The company slowly expanded during the 1960s and 1970s. The company aired its first television commercial in 1974.[1] In the commercial, SYMS debuted the company's slogan, "An educated consumer is our best customer."[1] 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.[1] The chain now has approximately 30 locations in thirteen states.[1] Sy Syms remained the company's CEO until his retirement in 1998, when he was succeeded by his daughter, Marcy Syms.[1] 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.[2]

Personal life[edit]

His first marriage, to Ruth Glickman Merns, ended in divorce. They had six children: Marcy, Robert, Richard, Laura, Stephen (died in 1998),[3] and Adrienne (died in 1999).[4][1] His second wife was Lynn Tamarkin with whom he had two step-children,[1] Cary Tamarkin and Leslie Tamarkin.[5] Funeral services were held at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan.[5]