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Dick Braeger Dies at 74

The Cole Haan founder and owner of Garys is lauded for his people skills and ability to spot trends.

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Dick Braeger, founder of Cole Haan and owner of the Garys specialty men’s stores, died Friday, Feb. 24, after a prolonged illness. He was 74.

As one of the original three founders of Cole Haan Footwear, Braeger is credited with much of the company’s success, culminating with the sale of brand to Nike in 1988.

“Dick was a leader in the footwear and retail clothing industries,” said Garys director of marketing and advertising Steve Loucks. “As the founder of Garys, Dick was a savvy businessman who introduced many new styles [and] trends into the industry. He was a warm, kind, and generous man armed with a terrific sense of humor. He put anyone who met with him at ease. He was one of a kind.”

Others in the footwear industry were also feeling the loss from Braeger’s passing.

"Dick Braeger was a craftsman who understood how to connect with people,” said Matt Rubel, former chairman and CEO of Collective Brands Inc. “He understood how to bring to life great product with romance and a story that would capture your heart. He was a great merchant who brought style and sophistication to Cole Haan and left a legacy that has lasted. I will miss him, as will many."

Barbara Roche, a partner at International Attire in New York, who knew Braeger for more than 20 years, called him a giant in the industry. “It was like he had a crystal ball,” she said about Braeger’s trend sense. “He saw what was going on before it happened.”

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