Kenny Fabrikant of Rosey Jekes

“The Rasta Ralph Lauren.”

I’m not sure he would appreciate me saying so, but that was my initial impression of Kenny Fabrikant owner of Hanover, New Hampshire’s Rosey Jekes.

Mr. Fabrikant talks with author Lisa Rogak, one time Hanover resident and longtime friend of the store.

As I’ve made my way around the country, sharing stories with many of my heroes in this business, when I mention Rosey Jekes, I get one of two responses:

“Rosie Cheeks?”

or

“Kenny!”

The latter understand all-too-well what I have come to learn in the year since I first heard of this mythical place, this Rosey Jekes, and of the mythical retail rock star who runs the joint. Six feet two, long white hair, Caribbean blue eyes, permanently tanned and always flashing a whitewashed rail of teeth, with a Bronx accent that has been cooled by the mountains of New Hampshire, Mr. Fabricant is exciting.

“Do you like it without the ‘O’?” Kenny asked. “It fell off a few years ago, and I never replaced it.”

I first learned of Rosey Jekes when Emil Corsillo of The Hill-Side asked, “Dude, do you know the store Rosey Jekes? I guess it’s like a sandwich shop with men’s clothing? It’s on Dartmouth’s campus.”

I sent a text to my friend who went to Dartmouth.

She wrote back, “The panini place? Their clothes were all really expensive… and really beautiful.”

I started my day in the cafe.

And then, in January at The Ace Hotel, I met Kenny Fabrikant.

And man, life was suddenly better. He lit up the room. I’ve heard people described as “so chill.” Kenny is sub-zero. He floats through the day like an ice cube melting on a slab of concrete. Slick, unfazed.

Kenny’s belt buckle. “Turtle shell,” he said. “Some of the turquoise has fallen out.” He bought it in the desert. It’s the belt he wears every day.

“Those were vintage in the ’60s.”

“I patched my jeans like that, because I had to. That was the only fabric I could find.”

In the sixties, Kenny wore patched jeans. Today, 501s, a chambray shirt from Engineered Garments, and a pair of New Balance 993s. It’s his uniform.

I’ve always admired men who can captivate with their storytelling. Kenny can yarn on better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s the kind of guy I’d like to have give me a wake-up call every morning. “Hey Max, man. Wake up, man.”

I ran into him last week in New York. “Hey, Max, man, how are you?” He said with a glint in his eye. “Are you good, man? You look good…. Feel good?”

The man smiles, and he’s Burt Lancaster. Charming as hell, yet I know he could kick my ass in one swift motion. He’s a force. I watched him work a room of young buyers, fielding their questions like the White House Press Secretary. Everyone’s eyes were ablaze. The man’s a walking sound bite. It’s as though he knows the answer before you ask the questions.

Many of the store’s fixtures come from an old jewelry store.

“I’m a philosophical haberdasher.”

The first chance I could, while on vacation in Boston, I made the short drive to Hanover. After a quick breakfast at his basement cafe, I spent six hours picking Kenny’s brain, watching and learning as he worked the store, taking each customer in, asking about their families, listening to their stories about their garden or their grandkids like they were his own.

“Fashion is not a priority in New Hampshire.”

Kenny walked me through the store, pointing to items he purchased at market for specific customers. “We try to tailor our clothing to the people who shop our store.”

Kenny built the one-time grange building to be an experience. The wrought iron staircase came from an all-girls school in Indiana, the second floor storefront, with its handsome tempered stained glass, has a story all it’s own.

“Yeah, that was sitting on Main Street in Jeannie’s hometown. I went in, asked the guy how much he wanted for it, ripped it out of the wall and rebuilt his storefront right then and there.” People in these small towns don’t know what kind of gold they’re sititng on.

A corner of Kenny’s office is devoted to Ja.

The Fabrikants have built a beautiful beach-side residence in Anguilla, which Kenny uses as his escape. From his many stories of the Caribbean, I gleaned it’s become a second home. He makes it a point to visit at least twice a year. Kenny was kind enough to give me a CD with the latest offerings from Bankie Banx, the Bob Dylan of Anguilla and a close personal friend of the Fabrikants.

“I’m not a 2:30 in the morning [kind of guy]. I’m a 5:30 in the morning when the sun’s coming up [kind of guy], you know what I mean, man?” Taking pause, he looks out the window. “I like my mornings.”

Kenny’s story is an elaborate one. In the midst of finishing a masters in English Lit, he was on the fast track in the garment industry in New York City, developing a product called “Simple Systems,” which he describes as a pre-cursor to Garanimals, the interchangeable, color-coded clothing matching system for children. He gave up to move to New Hampshire, raise two his two boys, and start a store with his wife, Jeannine.

JeKes. Jeannie and Kenny, and we were young and our cheeks were rosie”: his origin story for the name.

Rosey Jekes was the first place in North America to carry Nigel Cabourn.

This limited edition down parka from Nigel Cabourn’s first collection is simply ridiculous. Done up in the colors of Sir Edmund Hillary’s first ascent of Everest, using period-specific materials like Ventile, and made entirely in England, it was hard for me to put it down. According to Kenny, it is still for sale. In fact, he has several pieces from that first collection which are still for sale.

The sandalwood toggles had my jaw on the floor.

Rosey Jekes has since become the place to pick up classic pieces to complete any wardrobe. Stocking brands like C.P. Company, Engineered Garments, Gitman Vintage, Nigel Cabourn, and Stone Island, alongside select vintage pieces from his personal collection, Kenny’s been able to hit across a wide spectrum of price points, while still offering a unique assortment of the hearty goods one might have found in a New England general store a century ago.

While living in New York, Kenny designed this leather jacket. “There was this guy down in the West Village who made leather jackets. I sat down with him, drew up this thing, these pockets, and about a week later, I had this jacket. It was $60.” Kenny’s now selling it for much more than that. “You’ll never be able to afford it. This thing is priceless.” If someone were smart, they’d hire Kenny to come and beef up their leather jackets. He showed me some of his other designs. “Classics with a twist?” I asked. “Yeah, man. You know, it’s the stuff you know you’ve seen before, but you can’t find it anywhere.” This man talks like I think.

“Back when it was still an outfitter,” Kenny audaciously informed me.

His philosophy for leaving New York plays into his philosophy for a life well-spent. “You need your own planet. It could be a small as Anguilla, as small as Rosey Jekes. It doesn’t need a lot of miles.”

From the looks of things, Kenny’s taken good care of his planet. Before we parted, Kenny left me with this gem: “Max, it’s like I tell my boys, ‘There are three things in life that are important: be kind, be kind, be kind.”

I’m so thankful to have been provided the opportunity to visit his store, to spend a day with Mr. Kenny Fabrikant. Sometimes, when it’s all I can do to get out of bed at six in the morning, to trudge out the door, another day on the clock, I think of Kenny and how he gets up every morning and makes it happen for himself, and I can hear him, Mr. Kenny Fabrikant, The Cool Ruler, softly goading me, “Hey Max, man. Wake up, man.” And life is suddenly better.

20 Comments

  1. Cory
    July 30, 2010

    The world needs more shops like Rosey Jekes, owners like Mr. Fabrikant and writers like Max Wastler.

  2. Mary
    July 30, 2010

    Met Kenny briefly last week in New York when we had some appointment overlap – he lit up the room like he was the one hosting. What a guy. Great to get some intel on the store, that Nigel Cabourn set-up is stellar!

  3. Andrew
    July 30, 2010

    Browsed the shop frequently, never met Kenny. For shame. Amazing post though.

  4. Mr Ryan
    July 31, 2010

    Wow! Great post! Thanks.

  5. juan
    July 31, 2010

    I’ve known Kenny for many years and consider him to be one of my best friends. The article captures Kenny. He is that and much more.

  6. mordechai
    August 1, 2010

    good stuff max

  7. Taksa
    August 2, 2010

    Nice post! I’ve been stopping by Rosey Jekes for over 30 years now and it remains to be one of my favorite clothing shops in this country. The combination of perfectly curated selection and Kenny’s contagious charm makes for a perfect shopping experience. Here’s to another 30!

  8. S. N. Carpeaux
    August 2, 2010

    I second Cory’s sentiments.
    Great piece.

  9. Cary Fabrikant
    August 2, 2010

    Great story. Hit it right on the head. You have him pegged. What a great guy. What a great Husband. What a great Father. What a great Son. What a great Brother.
    Hollywood is waiting for him to come.

  10. keller
    August 3, 2010

    max my boy, you hit the nail on the head. kenny is my sons godfather and needless to say one of my dearest friends. as one of the early merchants in the seventies kenny and i have shared a lifetime of adventures. his store is what specialty retailing is, or at least should be; tasteful without pretense.

  11. Press
    September 24, 2010

    Max,
    As stated you truly captured and explained a man I have spoken about to so many for the last 25 years.

    I have been fortune enough to be on the receiving end of that wake up call, that life is good, preaching from Kenny at least a dozen times a year for some time…

    And yes the day always seems brighter, the future always seems cooler after he’s shared some of his time…

    I have often said somehow hot humid days suddenly have cool breezes when he’s walked past you……..

    And yes the smart ones all know…
    \Ya gotta have Ja Ja now\

  12. sck
    October 9, 2010

    Surprised to see a write-up on Rosey Jekes (although it is deserved) since he has no web presence in addition to it’s location in NH. Kenny is a real nice guy and I love the interior design of his shop. Unfortunately for me, he doesn’t carry smalls. I still stop by when I get the chance. Anyone who owns their own boutique could learn a lot from him.

    Kind of surprised you didn’t mention the fact that he actually helped design the Everest collection for Nigel Cabourn. That’s the reason he has all the original Everest pieces.

  13. Shelby
    December 2, 2010

    This is such a beautiful shop! Great place to just go in and look around, and Kenny is so friendly whether you buy anything or you just walk about! Love.

  14. Roy Shuman
    December 21, 2010

    Certainly a great guy and an innovative merchant. Beautiful wife and family. If he could only go left, he would have it all.

  15. Neal Gaydos
    February 10, 2011

    I finally got to see your store. Isn’t life grand. Good job.
    another fan,
    Neal

  16. Dawn Zeitlin Aura
    August 4, 2011

    Hi Kenny, great article about you! It was so good to see your photos and your creativity. I would love to be in touch with you and Jeannie. I’m on fb, don’t know how to use it well, but are either of you? I’d love to stay connected. I’m well too, and blessed by life. How is Stevie Levy, and Bruno? I miss you all so much, always. I am in touch with Denise Habib regularly. So here’s my email and fb, Dawn Aura – don’t use Zeitlin anymore. Glad to see your smiling face, love, Dawn

  17. alan zaitz
    September 20, 2011

    Kenny,
    Compelling. uplifting……..positive spin on life in general……..great seeing you at the COTERIE………Love the store……..want to make a weekend trek for a visit.
    Warmest regards,
    Alan

  18. Jane Hunter
    January 22, 2012

    Rosie Jekes serves great coffee and houses a selection of interesting clothing and vintage bits n’pieces. I have visited Hanover three times in the last three years … a long way from my home in Australia, however it’s my favourite destination in NH. Lovely staff make the shopping experience very enjoyable – thank you! Enjoyed reading about the store in the blog entry. See you next time!
    Jane from Sydney.

  19. Jodee Krantz
    June 27, 2012

    Wow, what a great story, reminds me of someone we both know, the similarities are uncanny… Love your baby sister, xoxo

  20. Bruce Barnet
    December 23, 2012

    Did Kenny go to Horace Mann

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