One night Isaac Farbiasz and hit lawyer were playing backgammon, trying to come up with a name for Farbiasz’s new company. The lawyer glared across the board and said, “I’m gonna cream you.” “That’s it,” cried Farbiasz, and Ottawa’s Cream Jean Co. was born. In the four years since, Cream has sold more than $11 million worth of its jeans, cords and skirts with their well-known pleats and recce-style back pockets. “Business is just like science,” says Farbiasz, 32, who has a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a master’s in biochemistry. “Science has taught me to be analytical, and you need that in business.” all started as a student in Israel.
Although familiar with the clothing business his father was a tailor and his mother a designer Farbiasz didn’t try to design anything himself until he was a student in Israel. He designed a sheepskin coat, found someone to manufacture it, and returned to Canada with a sample. Farbiasz dropped plans to market his creation when the shipment of coats arrived all with short sleeves. His second foray into the clothing business the design of a satin-backed vest for an Ottawa boutique was more successful.
Moving to Montreal, Farbiasz managed Overseas Marketing Co. Ltd.’s denim import division before deciding to go into business for himself. He and a partner approached S. C. Walker Manufacturing Company Ltd. of Ottawa in 1975 to produce Farbiasz’s jumpsuit design. In six months, 10,000 had sold. Cream Jeans was incorporated in the fall of 1976, starting with a line of pleated pants for men.
“My father always used to make me pleated pants when I was a little boy,” he said.
The first blow to the company came when a Toronto buyer went into bankruptcy, owing Cream Jeans $10,000. “We just didn’t have the money to absorb that kind of loss,” he said. “But we learned a good lesson about guaranteed receivables.”
Since then, there’s been no stopping the company, which has its head office and warehouse at 95 Beech St. Sales have grown to more than $6 million this year from $250,000 in 1977. “We haven’t peaked yet, but I realize this kind of growth can’t last forever. “We have three styles for women and a fourth coming, plus skirts, and we have three styles for men.”
Most of the design work is done in Ottawa, as well as some pattern cutting. But the bulk of production is carried out at a factory in St. Hubert, Que., near Montreal. Stitching is contracted out to various companies, also in Quebec. Strolling through the local warehouse, now almost empty before fall production gets into full swing, Farbiasz points with pride to his product. “We’re going to be producing 7,000 to 10,000 pairs of cords a week,” he said. The fall cords, of narrow-waled cloth, come in brilliant colors like magenta, blueberry and moss.
Besides the best-selling pleated pant, Cream also markets a western-style pant with leather label, and a dressier flannel pant line. Also new for fall is an advertising campaign based on the company’s cartoon creations, Captain Cream, the lovely Jeanne and the faithful dog, Zipper. “The boom in denim over the past 10 years has been amazing,” said Farbiasz.
“Cream isn’t high fashion,” he said. “There’s an 80-per-cent market out there wanting a good fit, quality and a good price, and a 20-per-cent market wanting fashion. We are after the 80 per cent market.” Farbiasz, who has direct control over every aspect of Cream,, from new designs to production and promotion, said his next challenge is to break into the tougher markets of Quebec and the Maritimes.
“I also want more quality control,” he said. “I don’t want us to be at the mercy of contract stitchers.” The Cream factory in Quebec is in the midst of a move to a larger building in St. Hubert. As president and sole owner his partner left the company a few years ago, Farbiasz says he doesn’t have much time left for anything but work. “I’d love to get back to scientific research some day,” he said. “I keep saying I’m only going to stay here another two years. Of course, I said that two years ago.”
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada23 Aug 1980, Sat
NINETY FIVE BEECH STREET — Cream Jeans
In 1995 shoppers crowded tables heaped high with Sour Cream jeans and shirts for a semi-annual sale. There was the occasional skirt and jacket, but the rather shabby factory, located around the corner from the Prescott Hotel on Preston Street, was the best place in town to find good cords and jeans at bargain prices. It didn’t matter that it was often a sweat box in July.
“There was usually only one full-length mirror in the hastily arranged dressing room, and women crowded around in various states of undress. I don’t know about the men’s dressing room, but you always saw familiar faces and the prices kept you coming back.
For the rest of the year, the 101-year-old brick building was a factory for Cream Jeans. Most recently, it has housed small businesses and a flea market.
Then 95 Beech St. was reborn as a sexy, urban address for men and women who want loft living and the option of buying affordable townhomes. It’s been an instant sales success, selling 18 of the 30 lofts since Oct 23, says a much relieved and very pleased Craig Callan Jones. This real estate lawyer is the spark plug behind the warehouse loft, which, when finished, will include one- and two-storey lofts in the factory and lofts located above two floors of commercial offices and stores in the second phase. “. This second phase, due to start in August of2000, will at the back of the original factory in an addition built in the 1960s and fronting on Aberdeen Street. There are plans to add two new floors for lofts on top of the existing building. Finally, phase three will include eight new-construction townhomes on the east side of the factory.
CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada06 Nov 1999, Sat • Page 95
Prices in 1999 were $199,000 — now they are $699,000.
I worked at Cream for about 6 years. Spent alternate days working with Hank filling orders in the warehouse and other days driving a 5 ton truck between Ottawa and Montreal, to pick up the clothing from the warehouse. It eventually became known as “Cream Clothing” when they started selling other clothing such as shirts, etc. I actually went with Isaac at least once to go to a Montreal Expos game. Hank and I used to spend many a day going to the Prescott across the road for pizza or meatball sandwiches and a beer or 5. Thanks for the memories!!
NINETY FIVE BEECH STREET
Where did Isaac Farbiasz go?
The Y in ByWard – Chapter 21: Isaac Farbiasz, Byward Fruit Market
For us, this is a post-retirement business. I didn’t do well doing nothing, so my wife and I decided to try the food business when the store came up for sale. We were in the clothing business for 20 years, and this seemed like an interesting possibility.
Originally, we wanted to do an organic store, but we ended up doing a specialty and exotic fruit and vegetable store, along with an Organic Food Club.
It’s important to establish a clientele, and you do that by listening to what people are asking for. The family who ran this store for a few decades always went for higher quality, and we went back to that approach.
Saturday mornings are great! We know everyone that comes in, it’s a real gathering…the customers get together in a sort of a community sense. I like early morning people that you get to know, and when it gets busy it’s a wholly different thing.
In supermarkets you don’t get much advice, you never get that personal hands-on experience. I’m off on Sundays, so I get a chance to cook. My staff now, all cook too. Many of us share recipes with our clients and vice versa…that also builds the sense of community.
It’s about food. Food and the beauty of eating good food; it’s not just eating, it’s also the cooking. The cultural aspect of food is in the making, and in the table…it’s everything. Good food is a passionate experience and life is all about eating.
~Isaac Farbiasz, Co-Owner
ByWard Fruit Market
36 ByWard Market Square
Ottawa ON K1N 7A2
Isaac Farbiasz, who owns ByWard Fruit Market with his wife, blames the “severe downturn” squarely on the city’s decision to allow bars and restaurants to expand patio space into parking spaces and to reroute streets to accommodate other street closures.