Houston Loses a Retail Legend: Tootsies Founder Mickey Rosmarin Dies

Rosmarin and his beloved store have been the at the center of Houston's fashionable and charitable worlds for four decades.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen June 17, 2016

Diane lokey farb  micky rosmarin  photo by jenny antill nwtdee

Mickey Rosmarin with Diane Lokey Farb.

Image: Jenny Antill

For more than four decades, Tootsies founder Mickey Rosmarin defined style for Houston's fashionable crowd. He died in his home of a heart attack on Friday at the age of 63. 

A Houston native, Rosmarin (whose given named was Michael) first opened Honest threads on Lower Westheimer in Montrose in the early 1970s at the age of 21, selling vintage and recycled clothing. He launched Tootsies in 1975, first with a location in the Galleria area before moving to Highland Village in 1985, and eventually in 2011 to a sparkling 35,000-square-foot emporium in West Ave, with additional locations in Dallas and Atlanta. Tootsies was the first retail store in Houston to carry European imports, starting in the late 1970s with Rosmarin flying over to hand-pick designers to carry. As gregarious as he was shrewd, he also nurtured local Texas designers.

"Luxury retailing is built upon strong personal relationships. Nothing is more rewarding than dressing four generations of a family. I love that shared history," Rosmarin told Texas Monthly in 2011, which noted that the fashion empresario also had a hand in reviving brands like Kork-Ease shoes and Waylande Gregory pottery.

Tootsies isn't just the biggest, best known and most intimately connected name in the Houston retail scene, it stands alone among Houston-grown department stores, a center of the local philanthropic, social and charitable worlds, led by Rosmarin's enthusiasm and commitment to the community. Employees including media and events manager Shelley Taylor Ludwick describe him as the generous boss anybody could ever have.

"It's kind of like the mayor dying, that's how important he's been to Houston," said Rosmarin's friend Mark Sullivan. 

Rosmarin attended Bellaire High School and the University of St. Thomas. He leaves behind a brother, Kenny Rosmarin; sisters Susie Rosmarin and Judy Pliner, daughter Aurey Harper and Laura Lee well as many dear friends and employees.

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