By Alex Distefano
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"If the man had refused my offer," Fristachi says, "I didn't want to work there, anyway. I wanted to work for a good businessman."
Fristachi worked for many apparel manufacturers over the years. At Combat Uniform, he worked quality control and perfected the setup of a military epaulet. Boykoff, a ladies' suit manufacturer that made fashion suits often inspired by celebrities like Jackie O, hired him as an assistant designer.
But no matter who his primary employer was, Fristachi has worked at least part time for Sid's Pants for the past 44 years. Sid's is the mother company of an operation that has owned at various points in time Just Shirts, Jean Country, Jeans Only, Zachery's and Screeem. At the peak of its penetration into chain store mall retailing, Sid's owned nearly a hundred stores. But Fristachi has always loved the tailoring part of the operation as well as the business end. When his first grandson, Chris Vitale, was born 21 years ago, Fristachi made him a coming-home-from- the-hospital suit.
Now, on a recent day, Chris Vitale, by this time a good-looking guy with a buzz cut, walks into his grandfather's office wearing khaki cargo shorts from Abercrombie and a Nautica T-shirt from Sid's. Vitale recently completed the fashion buying and merchandising program at Nassau Community College and did a quality-control internship in Manhattan, at French Connection, which offered him a job as a production assistant.
But he came back to Sid's, where he brainstorms with his Grandpa.
When you ask where they get their ideas for new designs for the private label Epic, Fristachi describes a guerrilla-type seat-of-the-pants method, saying, "We watch who walks into the store. We sampled four different shades of gray trousers at the beginning, then watched to see which ones became the most popular. We go to the major menswear shows and see how they lay out the colors."
Noting the massive popularity of khaki in the fashion market, Sid's decided to do the color in rayon-poly-gabardine club pants. Seeing the fat-legged baggy trousers so popular in the street scene, Sid's created wide-legged dress pants, making 3,000 pairs for the Roosevelt Field store alone. They're not as wide as Aura Z's 60-inch big legs, but a dressier 24-incher. Cargo pockets? Added 'em to dress trousers.
Sid's is a mass-market mall retailer. Brad Pitt is probably not wearing the label. But the young suburban men who see Brad Pitt's films, who watch MTV and note Puffy's latest gear will buy the versions that Fristachi creates in the back room with the industrial sewing machine and presser, at Sid's in Roosevelt Field.
And that's likely to continue. Grandpa beams as grandson Chris comments on several aspects of the sales day that is bustling about out front. Nothing of critical importance, just the small talk of workday business: Vitale mentions that one of the sales staff has gone on an errand Fristachi checks the time clock to see how long he's taken. They talk about new items in stock and how they're moving on the sales floor. It's a seamless give and take between the two. They have been together since the first day that Vitale appeared on this planet. It couldn't be any better.