He's just a small-town man from the Midwest, Minnesota that is. He was raised in farm country and his dad worked hard to make a way for his family. Like his dad, he provides for family and is a husband to his wife and a father to his children. He's a cobbler by trade, working with his hands every day to mend the timeworn boots and shoes of his customers. He tries to teach his children the importance of shopping smarter, buying American-made products that support local and national jobs. He dresses each day like a man should, oxfords laced, collared shirt tucked into his chinos, and he makes sure his hair is coiffed neatly in place before leaving the house. This man isn't living in the 1950s, he's very much a modern man. His name isn't Ward Cleaver, it's Tomas "Zen" Pomazi and he is helping America redefine what it means to be a postmodern man.
Zen is the owner of Greenwich Vintage Co., a company devoted to rehabilitating old worn out shoes to create a shoe that is as comfortable and colorful as it is classy. Zen grew up an artistic kid, after high school he went to an art institute and worked as a professional graffiti artist for many years while working in retail. "I've always loved art," says Zen, "I have always been someone who has to create art. I worked in professional graffiti for years, painting murals for companies and stores. It was the creative outlet to my job in retail for skate shops and sneaker companies."
It was when he started to feel unfulfilled in that career that he started a pursuing a new passion. Bringing his knowledge of footwear through retail to the table he started to make customized shoes for himself and then other clients. "I grew up in the skate community where it was natural to graffiti your clothes, boards, and shoes. I thought it would be a lot of fun to see my own art on shoes. I'm a shoe freak - you can ask my wife, it kills her - and I couldn't think of a better piece of wearable art than a pair of customized sneakers," Zen laughs.
Zen says he reached the pinnacle of his customized sneaker venture in 2008 when he and a few friends attended the release of the Nike Bordeaux 7 Jordan in shoes the he had designed for himself and his friends. "I had studied the shoes before their release and I thought it would be neat to take the color scheme they used on the unreleased Jordans and adapt it to several pairs of Nike Air Max sneakers." People went crazy over the concept and Zen made a name for himself in the customized sneaker industry, getting several requests from professional athletes after that for their own customized sneakers.
After that, Zen says he felt like doing someone different, "Until then, I was still goofing around. I was very much a late bloomer and I realized at about 42 or 43 that it was time I traded in the sneakers for a pair of grown-up shoes." With that in mind, Zen started a men's shop with a couple of his friends, including his Greenwich Vintage partner Max, to create a men's brand that still allowed grown men to add a little excitement to their closets.
However, he didn't discover his calling until one very uncomfortable pair of Florsheim lace-up oxfords led him to the shop of a cobblesmith nearby. "I went to work one day in a new pair of Florsheim oxfords and by lunch time I was miserable. They were the most painful shoes I had ever owned, but I didn't know how to fix them." Zen had worked with shoes for years, customizing the upper, but he had never experimented with the soles until that day. Shoes in tow, Zen asked the cobbler if he had any secrets for fixing shoes with uncomfortably hard soles. The cobbler took him to the back room and showed him a black Vibram crepe sole and asked if he wanted to replace the stiff wooden sole with it. Zen studied under the cobbler, learning the proper way to replace and repair soles. With his newfound knowledge, Zen started making shoes for himself and his coworker Max, honing his new skills as a cobbler. Both he and Max saw the potential of the shoes on the market, catering to a man who wanted a mix of unique street style and classic menswear. Putting together a small investment of his own savings and Max's, Zen contacted Vibram about the option of buying their crepe soles in colors other than the standard white or black, but after learning that he couldn't buy the colors he desired, he bought the right to mold the existing soles and make his own.
Now Greenwich Vintage Co. is known for those self-poured and designed soles, ranging in color from blaze orange, turquoise, and camouflage. Taking custom orders from customers, Zen is able to transform any old, tired shoe into a one-of-a-kind piece of art for his clients. Zen has also worked with General Knot & Co. To start redesigning the uppers of his clients shoe. Using vintage and vintage inspired fabrics from Andrew Payne, Zen can cover the leather to give his customers footwear that they can personalize with vintage floral, plaid, and other textiles.
His latest ventures have allowed him to add a few new accessories to the postmodern American man's wardrobe. Partnering with Kent and Lee Begnaud and Nathan O' Malley of Leatherworks Minnesota, Zen created a signature pair of reversible leather braces for the Fall/Winter season featuring a camouflage design on one side. This is just the beginning of several collaborative efforts that Zen is working on to outfit his customers from head to toe. Zen says that, "Being able to partner with talented designers and artisans is allowing Greenwich Vintage Co. to let men dress like men." When men were men, that is the ideal that Zen pursues through Greenwich Vintage Co. each and every day. Like Ward Cleaver, Zen is teaching us the principles and life lessons concerning menswear that the American public has forgotten in the last 30 years. This isn't to say that he envisions a world without tshirts and jeans, in fact he wears them also, instead he sees a world where men can recapture that age old style of our forefathers of the early 20th century with a little added flair.