The launching of a dream.
Gary Comer always wanted to create a company of his own, and for Comer, Lands’ End was a dream that came true. Inspired by his hobby of sailboat racing, in 1962 Comer went to work for Murphy & Nye Sailmakers in Chicago. The agreement was that Comer and the owner, Dick Stearns, would start a second business as partners. The only question was what kind of business that would be. And it was up to Comer to figure it out as he worked for Murphy & Nye.
Once Comer realized that the customers buying sails from Murphy & Nye were a market for sailboat fittings, it became clear what the new business should be. In the spring of 1963, Comer, Stearns, and three other partners launched Lands’ End Yacht Stores, Inc., complete with a basement mail-order operation in Chicago’s old tannery district.
“We were all sailors at that time, and our business was selling (and sometimes making) racing sailboat equipment, and duffle bags, and rainsuits and some sweaters and other clothing,” Comer recalled. “A lot of people ask why the apostrophe in Lands’ End is in the wrong place. There have been some silly explanations along the way, but the truth is, it was a mistake. It was a typo in our first printed piece, and we couldn’t afford to reprint and correct it.”
In the years since, the misplaced apostrophe has continued to grace our name and our label. And while it has prompted some raised eyebrows among English teachers, it also sets us apart as a company whose continuing concern for what’s best for the customer is unmistakably human.
In a piece published in 1988 for our company’s 25th anniversary, Comer wrote, “Our basic premise for winning customers is little different today than when we started. Sell only things we believe in, ship every order the day it arrives, unconditionally guarantee everything. That was, and still is, the platform.”
A young advertising copywriter named Gary Comer, who had long pursued a love of sailing in his spare time, decided to pursue his long-standing dream of opening his own business. Comer quit his job of ten years, and started a company that sold marine hardware, as well as sails, and in due course, Comer took over the job of selling such equipment through a mail order catalog, serviced from the basement of a building along the Chicago River in the city’s old tannery district.
Comer produced Lands’ End’s first catalog, called The Lands’ End Yachtsman’s Equipment Guide. This catalog became the most important single reference catalog available in its time to naval architects, boat builders and sailboat owners.