by Karen Alberg Grossman

MR magazine is saddened to report the passing of Ed Koolakian, the third-generation owner of Koolakian’s menswear store in Syracuse New York. He died on Tuesday evening of complications from leukemia. He was 71.

The store was founded in 1905 by Ed’s grandfather George Koolakian, a bespoke tailor who came to the States from Armenia to escape the genocide there. Ed’s father was recruited into the business by his dad at age 13 and became a bench tailor specializing in custom clothing. Ed continued the family legacy, joining the business in 1970 shortly after his dad retired.HH

Ed was honored in MR’s February 2020 issue that recognized independent stores in business for more than 100 years. He told us that his dad required him to learn tailoring if he wanted to work at the store. On the topic of fashion, he wisely observed, “Men want quality clothing with longevity.” And on a succession plan, he confided that his wife wouldn’t let him draft his son or daughter into the business so they’re both pursuing satisfying careers in other fields.

His son Todd spoke for the family. “My Dad was an extraordinary man in so many ways and my mom, my sister and I love him so much and will miss him dearly. He loved those around him deeply, supported his community meaningfully and was an all-around incredible person.”

Says retailer John Massara from Projex 214 in Syracuse, “Even though our stores are just a few blocks from each other and we share customers, we became good friends these past few years. Claudia and I had many dinners with Ed and his wife Cindy. We even vacationed together in the Dominican Republic. I thought I lived and breathed retail but when we vacationed together, I finally had to tell Ed to stop talking business. He truly loved what he did.”

Says multi-line rep Gary Lowy, “I met Ed about six years ago when I became a sales rep. He welcomed me into his store and shared his vision and his needs. Our business relationship evolved into friendship thanks to Ed’s warm personality. We shared stories about our families and the state of our industry. He was very proud of his grown children and shared their successes, hoping to spend more time on the west coast in the future. He and his wife Cindy loved to travel. Ed loved to ski almost as much as he loved his store and his customers.”

Ed is survived by his wife Cindy, his son Todd, and his daughter Tiffany. He will be very much missed by many industry colleagues and friends.


  1. Ed was a wonderful man and kind to all. I hope this message gets to his family.
    David Katz
    Sales Rep

  2. Thank you for this wonderful write-up. The outpouring of love and support for my Dad has helped comfort my family and I during this very tough time. My dad loved the menswear industry and cherished his relationships with customers, vendors and other business owners. He would be very humbled by the kind words shared about him. Thank you!

    -Todd Koolakian and the entire Koolakian Family

  3. Hi Todd, I interviewed your dad for our Century Store issue and found him to be a real class act. I’m sure you know, but I will tell you again, he was so so proud of you! May his memory be a blessing for you and all the family. Sincerely, Karen Alberg, editor in chief, MR magazine

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