I’m a COVER GIRL!! Well, not really but the Phoenix Business Journal put me on the cover of their paper this week and featured me in their Entrepreneur section! Can you believe it?!?! I’m over the moon and thrilled to share this with you. I am so grateful for all your support and business!! Many of you knew me in the beginning and have watched my business grow and evolve. Excited to share more of my accomplishments with you!!
By Greg Barr – Editor in Chief, Phoenix Business Journal
Aug 13, 2021, 7:01pm EDT
If clothes indeed make the man, then Mary Zarob is onto something.
The owner of a 4-year old Phoenix retail startup, Q Contrary, has seen her custom clothing business ramp up dramatically in 2021 as her mostly male clients want to look good as they return to in-person meetings, apply for new jobs or attend friends’ nuptials while venturing back out after working from home.
Zarob, who was raised in the Chicago area, moved to the Valley in 2014 and took a job selling custom men’s clothing for J.Hilburn. Her Phoenix-area brother-in-law, who is 6 feet and 4 inches tall, had urged her to move here because he couldn’t find anything comfortable in his size off the rack.
“I saw an opportunity here. There just weren’t many places for men to shop,” Zarob said. “I thought they could use my expertise, so I moved.”
She opened Q Contrary in 2017 out of her home, going to clients’ offices or homes to do custom fittings. As the business grew, she opened her brick-and-mortar location a year later at Indian School Road and 32nd Street, but jumped at a chance to get an even higher-profile location in February of this year when she moved the store to a 1,200-square-foot location in the Biltmore Plaza Shopping Center at the corner of 32nd Street and Camelback.
When the retail world came to a screeching halt in March 2020 due to Covid-19, Zarob was able to pivot her business into a mask-making enterprise, starting with a simple post on her business Facebook page. Her masks were made of fashion fabrics, and customers began ordering them by the dozen to give to friends.
Though most of Zarob’s business comes from custom suits, jackets, shirts and pants — using fabrics from Italy, Britain, Australia and France — she also specializes in golf attire by brands such as TravisMathew and Greyson Clothiers, which she sells off the rack. And when golf courses were deemed as essential businesses amid the Covid shutdown, that part of her business really got established.
She started sewing as a youngster, making her own Halloween costumes, and after community college she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. After graduating she got jobs designing men’s clothing at Macy’s and Calvin Klein.
While the majority of her customers are men — ranging in age from 35 to 60 — Zarob said she is starting to see a slow, but steady, increase in female clients interested in custom-tailored pantsuits for the office.
When asked what she thinks clients are looking for when they buy a custom suit or jacket, Zarob answers with one word: confidence.
Zarob expects 2021 revenue to be about $500,000, double what came in during the pandemic year in 2020. She employs a part-time store assistant and two tailors who work off-site.
She says having a mentor since she started the business has been important. Zarob’s mentor, who happens to be her brother-in-law, is former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson. She said one of the first pieces of advice he offered has stuck with her ever since.