A Eulogy of sorts: Harry Rosen – a man who made a difference when first appearances mattered

It was 1977 when I first walked into a Harry Rosen Men’s Wear Store.

In 1960, after Mrs. Ida Whiley had taught me how to type and do basic bookkeeping while at Saugeen District High School, I went to Toronto and found a job as a Junior Accounting Clerk at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Canada factory at 3050 Lakeshore Blvd.West in New Toronto.

In the 17 years that followed, I was fortunate enough to have made it up the ranks to being the Manager of factory accounting for the plant and was responsible for all accounting activities for that facility.

The 1970s brought about real turmoil in the tire industry as fabric bias-built tires became obsolete and evolved to become constructed with steel wire, and built in a radial shape like they are today. Smaller tire companies became casualties as the investment to make this transition was enormous.

But that is only a small part and the beginning of a story about Harry Rosen Men’s Wear.

The tire company that had originally worked closely with Canadian Tire to make them a significant force in the retail tire business was the Seiberling Tire and Rubber Company. They had a factory north of Bloor Street in Toronto’s west end and Goodyear acquired them in the early 70’s.

As an accounting manager, there were always the frugal comments made in most social circles and I have to admit my $59.95 off-the-rack Eaton’s suits were my normal work attire. All of that changed however when there was an organizational restructuring at our Seiberling subsidiary, and I was promoted to the position of Secretary-Treasurer for that company.

The recent appointment of a Senior Goodyear Major Account Sales manager to President of Seiberling meant that, in my new position, I was going to be more involved directly with senior executives of CTC, Sears, Shell, Esso, etc. who all had Specially branded tires in their retail outlets. This was the business that Seiberling was in.

Very quickly, my new boss made it very clear that there would need to be a major upgrade from my “off the rack” suits. But little did I realize what that meant.

So, soon after I arrived at Seiberling, he said, “We are going out for lunch”. He was a member of The Boulevard Club on the lakeshore just below High Park. During lunch, he announced to me that, when we finished there, we were going downtown “to get me some new clothes”.

      Harry Rosen

An hour later, we entered the Harry Rosen store on Richmond Street near Bay. This store served the Bay Street crowd and the other executives in many of the new 20-story towers in the downtown core. When I looked at the prices, I felt sweat forming on my brow. Yes, I got my first made-to-measure suit there and two fine white shirts. And my boss picked out two ties for me that cost me as much as the suit I had worn into the store. When I said that this was more than I could afford, he snapped at me, “I know what your increase was to take your new job”. I shut up and thought, “I would like to have some left for my wife and children”.

In the long run, he was right. The quality was exceptional, and I spread out upgrading my wardrobe BUT never got to the point that I ever dressed as well as my boss. He remained my mentor for the rest of my work career. But I always have cared more about appearance as a result of that experience.

I expect that over the last 60-plus years many men across Canada have had similar experiences at the Harry Rosen stores.

Mr. Rosen died this past December at 92 years of age.

Thanks, Harry, you did a great job. “Rest in Peace”.

Written by” G. William Streeter January 11, 2024