We sipped our favourite Apothic Red and the new Apothic Dark, networked, tackled waiters for some truly amazing burgers, and got some seasoned wisdom from Larry Rosen, CEO & Chairman of Toronto-based luxury men’s retail chain Harry Rosen.
It all went down Tuesday night at King Street’s Hush Restaurant, where some of the city’s most connected young professionals joined us for the ApothicWinesxNotable Discovery Sessions.
And both the wine and wisdom flowed.
Over the aforementioned Apothic Red and the new Apothic Dark (which just hit shelves), a packed house listened as Notable.ca CEO Julian Brass talked shop with Rosen.
The Harry Rosen name, of course, has been synonymous with quality men’s fashion since 1954 and is the country’s leading retailer in men’s high-end fashion. Larry’s dad, Harry, started the company two years before Larry was born and Larry’s involvement with Harry Rosen started on the sales floor when he was just 13 years old. After undergrad, an MBA, and a brief stint in law, Larry returned to his roots.
Here are some of the highlights from our talk with Larry:
On his father and following in his footsteps:
“My father was a true, true entrepreneur with a real passion for business. Though he’s retired, when he’s in town now, he’s at the Bloor St. store on Saturdays interacting with customers. He is so grateful for the customers.”
“I left corporate law to become a tailor. It was at a time of Harry Rosen’s rapid expansion across the country and I was welling with pride for what my father had created. I thought, ‘this is too cool’, and knew I needed to be a part of it, so I joined the company as a tailor.”
On staying on top in such a competitive industry:
“We are blessed to have such a focus on quality men’s attire and unmatched customer service. The most junior person on the executive team has been with the company for 15 years. I am also in the store on Saturdays, talking to customers. It’s important to understand the customer journey or you won’t do well.”
“We keep a record of clients, associates respond to that and that resonated with the customer. It’s not so much the case with this generation, but men historically hate shopping. Through their good advice, the staff makes shopping easier and less easy to hate.”
On cross-industry career lessons:
“People really want to learn and want people to mentor and teach them. We interview so many people who tell me that they worked in a company for ten years and learned and were taught nothing.”
On what he spends the most time on:
“I spend most of my time setting the standard and strategy for our customer relations. It’s not just about a couple of pins in the cuffs and sending it off to the tailor shop. Be strategic – why do customers pick you?”
On career advice:
“Find something that makes you excited, passionate, and inspired – but give it time. There’s no rush. In most companies, there are ‘hoppers,’ who are very impatient and don’t give it a chance to gel. Give it time and learn something. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
“I love our family story of succession. I would love to pass off the senior leadership to the third generation – my three talented sons – and watch them take it further.”
“I get 300 letters a week asking for contributions for charity auctions. We realized that we couldn’t possibly support all of them and decided to choose cancer research in 2000. Harry’s Run-Off for Cancer research has raised over $3 million for cancer research and our Golf to Conquer Cancer raised $800,000 in its first year. That’s more meaningful to us than chopping our resources up into a million causes.”
On men’s fashion:
“The younger generation of men has a better sense of fashion and style. Dressing is now situational and for the occasion – from great jeans on the weekends to business casual on Fridays. Business casual itself has changed. Before it was about a dress shirt and pants, but now it’s about a variety of great sports jackets.”
On what’s hot:
“The shoe business is really big right now. The shoe option didn’t used to be great, but now great shoes can make an outfit – whether at the cottage or the office. Outerwear is also big. Men used to have one coat, but now they have their Canada Goose parka, their Hugo Boss pea coat, and a selection of others. It makes sense – you’re seen more in your coat than anything else.”
On what’s notable:
“Anything worthy of consideration.”