Dick Braeger, Gary’s Owner and Cole Haan Shoes Co-Founder, Dies at 74

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Richard “Dick” Braeger, a leader in footwear and men’s retail clothing industries, died Friday at his home in Newport Beach. He was 74.

Braeger was co-founder of Cole Haan shoes and owner of GARYS, a men’s specialty clothing store with its flagship at Fashion Island and branch stores in Del Mar and Tustin.

Dick Braeger. Photo courtesy MRketplace

“We were very fortunate to have worked for one of the great leaders in our industry. Armed with terrific sense of humor, Dick was a “one of a kind” mentor and friend. To know him was to truly love this kind and generous man,” said Director of Marketing and Advertising Steve Loucks in an email on behalf of the clothing store. “He will be missed by all of us here at GARYS.”

Braeger recently said in an interview with MR Magazine 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.”

Braeger inherited his love for shoes from his father, according to an 2007 MR interview.

“Shoes are my baby,” he told the magazine.

His career in the business began during his college years, when he worked at a shoe store while attending UCLA, according to a MR Magazine report. For graduation his boss took him to a shoe store in Chicago.

While working as a salesman for E.E. Taylor & Company  in the 1960’s, Braeger started a shoe line for the company‘s Cole Haan brand.

Around the same time, in 1966, the first GARYS was opened out of a house in Brentwood by Gary Wasserman. The store sold “upscale men’s clothing to the area’s elite clientele,“ according to the website.

Just three short years later in 1969, Braeger quit his job as a sales representative and partnered with Wasserman, bringing high quality shoes to GARYS closet.

Over the years, GARYS expanded with stores in Los Angeles, Marina del Rey and Newport Beach. The Fashion Island location opened in 1978.

Braeger bought the store became the sole owner in 1984. He expanded the Newport Beach location five times and today the Fashion Island store takes up 17,000 square feet.

“His stores have pioneered some of the most well known casual-wear lines in the business including Nat Nast and Tommy Bahama,” according to the GARYS website.

“Dick was a savvy business man who introduced many new styles/ trends into the industry,” Loucks said.

In 2007, Braeger was honored with MR’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Friends and family describe him as warm and kind-hearted with a terrific sense of humor.

“He put anyone who met with him at ease,” Loucks said.

He is survived by wife Julie; son John; daughter Kari; and granddaughter Bianca.

Dick Braeger with his son John and daughter Kari. — Photo courtesy of Steve Loucks
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