June 2, 2007
By DANIEL P. JONES, Courant Staff Writer
WEST HARTFORD -- The owner of a Park Road retail landmark - the Bazilians shoe store his family started in 1930 - is retiring to climb mountains, ride motorcycles and do other stuff he missed out on for decades because of work.
Marc Bazilian, the store's owner and operator, will turn 65 next month and plans to retire by the end of the summer, if he can sell the business and sell or lease his building.
He says he wants to make up for time he didn't get to spend with his two sons. He wants to build kayaks and canoes, climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and take a motorcycle trip across the country.
"I've had friends who passed away at the same age recently and it's time," he said Friday. "It's time to say enough is enough."
His plans to close the store are not without some bittersweet feelings and fond memories of his 37 years on Park Road.
His father started the business with a store on Main Street in Hartford in 1930. It moved to New Britain Avenue in Elmwood in 1954. Marc Bazilian took over from his father in 1970 and opened the Park Road location that year when he was 27.
Some of his most loyal customers include children and grandchildren of patrons of previous Bazilians.
"It's been a very lovely experience," he said. "I've enjoyed it to this very minute."
On Friday afternoon, as customers browsed for Birkenstocks and tried on Merrells and Danskos, a few of the long-time patrons lamented Bazilian's intention to retire. But they said they understood his desire to do something else and enjoy himself.
Mervyn and Lois Strauss, a couple who live in town and shopped in the store since it opened on Park Road, said they were heartbroken when they heard recently the store would probably close soon.
"He has a wonderful personality," said Mervyn Strauss of Bazilian.
"He made you want to buy here," said Lois Strauss. "You feel a family here, and they're very accommodating. They would order things for me," she said. "In fact, they're ordering a pair of shoes for me now, even though they're thinking of going out of business."
Jane Schachter, another town resident who was shopping in the store, said her husband and two boys also regularly shopped in the store for years. "It was very, very customer friendly."
Bazilian feels the same way about his customers. He says he'll miss the contact with them, "but it's time to move on for me."
His wife, Nancy, is encouraging him to retire so he can do the things he wants to do. His two sons both earned doctoral degrees and have moved away, Morgan Bazilian to Ireland and Jason Bazilian to San Diego.
"I have a good feeling about it," he said of his intention to retire. "I feel so fortunate."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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