Joseph E. Brooks, the man known for bringing the department store chain Lord & Taylor to national prominence, died last week in Manhattan at the age of 84. In January of 1992, Michael Gross profiled Brooks (née Zatz) for New York in an article entitled "The Great Zatzby." You can read it via New York's Google Books archive here. "He wasn't your typical son of a kosher butcher," Gross wrote, chronicling the businessman's transformation from the humble Mr. Zatz, a confident "well-dressed young man" to Mr. Brooks, "one of retailing's most potent myths."
Brooks was described as a shrewd boss — "a hard taskmaster but an extremely generous paymaster. He was also a generous friend to loyal employees, for whom he's pull any string if he found them in sickness or distress." But above all, he knew the retail business: "Women's-apparel specialty stores are part science, part art," a former partner of Brooks's explained. "Joe had the track record necessary in a difficult business. He handled the business, but also the art."