May 12, 1926
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||November 17, 2009
Manhattan, New York
|Cause of death||heart failure|
|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 of Jewish parents who had 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. 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 City in order to work at the family's store. 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. By 1983, Syms had taken the company public with an initial public offering and expanded the chain to include eleven retail locations. At its height, the chain had 48 locations in thirteen states. 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 CEO until his retirement in 1998, when he was succeeded by his daughter, Marcy Syms. He remained the company's chairman until he died of heart failure at his home in Manhattan, New York City on November 17, 2009.
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, by whom he had two step-children, Cary Tamarkin and Leslie Tamarkin. Funeral services were held at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan.
Sy Syms Foundation
The non-profit Sy Syms Foundation was founded by Mr. Syms in 1985 with his personal funds, with a mission to support education. Through its generosity, it has given away over $30,000,000 and has contributed toward the continued growth of many institutions of higher learning including the Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University, and many organizations which provide funding for education.
Marcy Syms was instrumental in developing many of the grant-relationships made possible by her late father's generosity, and is a founding trustee of the foundation, elected to the role of president in 1997. The foundation has its offices in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
- "Founder of SYMS discount clothing store dies". San Francisco Chronicle. 2009-10-17. Archived from the original on November 19, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-18.
- 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
- "Sy Syms Foundation | About Us". Sy Syms Foundation. Retrieved 2017-01-15.