Hall of Fame: Jim and Larry Tarica

Jimlar Corp. Co-Presidents Jim and Larry Tarica seem like an effortless team, but in fact, their partnership almost never happened.

In a recent conversation with Footwear News at their New York showroom, the brothers recalled how Larry was slow to join the firm founded by their parents in 1956.

And even after he did, Larry, now 61, lasted less than two years before announcing plans to become a lawyer. It took a serious talk with his elder brother to make him stay. “I pleaded with him to just give me one more year,” said Jim, 70. “He agreed to do that, and fortunately, within that year, he caught the shoe bug.”

Fast-forward 40 years and the brothers have taken Jimlar to new and unexpected heights, growing and evolving the company from its initial role as a footwear importer to being a service provider to brands such as American Eagle, a licensee for Coach and Calvin Klein, owner of the Frye Boot label and finally to being a division of Li & Fung Ltd.

At the time of its acquisition last year, Jimlar pegged its annual revenue at $540 million. That’s a big change from the early days.

“When I started [in 1962], we were selling $2 million worth of shoes,” said Jim. “I never dreamed it would be what it is today.”

The changes haven’t always been easy, which Larry credits to the company’s strong values and one particularly instructive family argument. Early in their career together, the brothers were engaged in a heated debate about a business strategy. So their parents, losing patience, sequestered them in an office until they came to a concensus.

“They said, ‘We don’t care about losing money, just come out of that room with one answer,’” recalled Larry. “So we did, and that really has set the tone for our relationship and the relationship our team members have in the company.”

As a result, he added, many of the changes the firm has seen have been fairly smooth, including the deal with Li & Fung.

Jimlar’s new parent agrees. “We have not seen in most of our acquisitions the level of organizational depth that they had built around them,” said Rick Darling, president of LF USA. “That’s why we selected them.”

The company’s strategy of presenting a unified front also has extended to its relationships with licensors and retail partners.

Jimlar has worked with Coach for almost 20 years, first as a supplier and then as a licensee. “It’s a tremendous partnership between two companies that we believe is a model for how two companies can act as one,” said Larry. “We, together with Coach, operate the footwear business as if it’s one company. It’s the longest-existing footwear license in the shoe industry.”

Throughout their partnership with Coach, Larry and Jim said they have been lucky to have Lew Frankfort and Reed Krakoff as partners.

“Jim and Larry Tarica are remarkable people who have created a company culture that reflects their values of integrity, fairness, compassion and drive for excellence,” said Frankfort. “They treat their employees, customers and partners as family, which is very unusual, especially in our industry.”

Since 2004, the company also has been the footwear licensee for Calvin Klein and its many labels.

Tom Murry, president and CEO of Calvin Klein Inc., noted that he initially approached Jimlar to be a licensee based on the company’s strong reputation. “Jim and Larry have created such a successful business largely because they have great experience and talent and are very professional,” he said. “Jimlar has helped enhance our brands with a strong shoe business that offers excellent quality, design and value.”

The brothers have also found success with Frye, which Jimlar licensed in 1993 and bought outright in 1998. The brand reportedly has seen strong double-digit sales gains in the past several years and this summer opened its first store, a flagship in New York, to much fanfare.

As Li & Fung’s shoe expert, Jimlar has earned further acclaim with the Rachel Zoe brand, which it designs, manufactures and sells.

Unsurprisingly, the Taricas’ retail partners are enthusiastic about the brothers’ contributions to the industry — and their individual businesses.

“What makes them interesting is that not only do they have a wonderful licensing business but they also have a great private-label group, and they own Frye,” said Muriel Gonzalez, GMM for cosmetics, fragrances and shoes at Macy’s. “They’re able to understand the shoe business from many different angles. Anyone like that can see the whole picture, and they’re very good at that.”

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