Dick Braeger, owner of Garys and a founder of Cole Haan, dies at 74

Dick Braeger, a founder of Cole Haan and owner of the Garys better men’s specialty stores in California, died Friday after a long illness. He was 74.

Braeger was a legend in both the menswear and shoe businesses. His career started during college at UCLA when he worked part time at a shoe store. It was while he was working for a shoe company in 1969 that he became a partner at Garys, a Brentwood, California store that Gary Wasserman had opened a few years before. Braeger brought Cole Haan shoes, a brand he founded, along with other shoe vendors to Garys, opening a large shoe department. He bought Garys from Wasserman in 1984.

In July, 2010, Braeger told MR that he was most proud of “Taking Cole-Who? to Cole Haan…and then selling it to Nike. And, of course, having my children take over the family business.” His son John and daughter Kari now run Garys, which has its flagship in Newport Beach and satellites in Tustin and Del Mar.

“It’s a very sad day here,” said Steve Loucks of Garys Newport Beach. “He was like a father to all of us. Such a generous and kind man, and such a savvy business man.”

“The industry has lost a great merchant, a beloved mentor, a wonderful friend,” said MR editor-in-chief Karen Alberg Grossman. “Dick Braeger was a visionary in so many ways, and always there to share his wisdom and knowledge with others. He loved this business — and continued to inspire us, even in retirement. He will be greatly missed.”

A private memorial service is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, February 28 at his home.

A more complete obituary will be posted tomorrow.

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