Joseph Khezrie, the 90-year-old founder of the iconic streetwear store Jimmy Jazz, passed away this month. Khezrie emigrated from Syria more than six decades ago, during a period of violent instability in that country’s history, and raised his family in a working-class neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“His love for this country knew no bounds,” CEO James “Jimmy” Khezrie said of his father to Footwear News. “In his early years, he saw an advertisement while commuting that stuck with him for life: ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.'”
In 1988, Joseph and James Khezrie opened their first Jimmy Jazz store on the corner of Delancey Street and Orchard Street in NYC’s Lower East Side. The shop, however, was actually named after the younger Khezrie’s favorite song by the British punk band The Clash, which was called “Jimmy Jazz.”
Since that initial launch, Jimmy Jazz expanded into New York City’s five boroughs and beyond. The company now has over 170 stores nationwide, with locations in states as far away as Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky. In paying homage to its hip-hop roots, though, Jimmy Jazz spent $3 million four years ago to renovate its 10,000-sq.-ft. flagship store in Harlem, right next to the Apollo Theater.
The retailer has been namechecked by a number of rappers, too, including Lecrae (“In the beginning, Jimmy Jazz for the clothes/ TV Johnny for the gold, them was the goals”) and Dave East (“We hustle smart (smart), never just wanted any cash (nah)/ These n-ggas robbing from Pathmarks, stealing from Jimmy Jazz”).
The official IG account for Jimmy Jazz eulogized Joseph Khezrie, highlighting in its post that he “was a deeply loyal, respectful and hard-working man.” The caption concluded, “We aspire to continue his legacy and make Jimmy Jazz the best it can be. Rest in peace.”