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October 22, 1993 - Image 38

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-10-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Mark Thatcher,
president of Teva
Sports Sandals.







IMI ark Thatcher is
sylvania Dutch
the first to admit
country. My
that Providence
mother's family
probably had a
was Russian from
hand in his phe-
the Litvak-Kiev
nomenal success.
area. Her maiden
In 10 years, a rare conver-
name was Zion."
gence of factors propelled the
Mr. Thatcher
Arizona geophysicist out of a
says he had a
sputtering career in the oil busi-
growing curiosity
ness and into a cottage indus-
about "where my
try designing and licensing the
family was from"
popular outdoor footwear Teva,
and welcomed the
Hebrew for nature.
opportunity to visit
Mr. Thatcher's Flagstaff-
the Jewish state. He
based Teva Sports Sandals did
spent 1971 studying
$40 million in wholesale last
with a group of other
year. This year, he expects sales
American students at a kib-
to jump another 50 percent.
butz-run school.
In the early 1980s, armed
It was the beginning of a life-
with little more than an intu-
long fascination with the land
itive business sense, Mr.
of Israel and a burgeoning sense
Thatcher began peddling his
of identity as a Jew. He came
idea around the Southwest.
home for a year, but was drawn
When rafters, then hikers, em-
back in 1973 when a call for vol-
braced the new foot gear, Mr.
unteers was issued during the
Thatcher, 38, had found his
Yom Kippur War.
market niche.
"The Jewish Agency sent us
Mr. Thatcher's story has as
over to harvest the crops," he
much to do with soul as soles;
with mechanical tetherings as
Mr. Thatcher stayed for an-
with spiritual connections; with
other year, working on various
living the life one wants to live
kibbutzim. It was during that
rather than the one to which he
stay that he went to the Sinai.
is consigned.
"I embraced the desert," he
That's where Providence
says. "I just found it awe-
comes in. Mr. Thatcher was a
troubled adolescent growing up
in the Philadelphia
area when
his mother,
whose mar-
riage to Mr.
Thatcher's fa-
ther ended in
divorce a few
years earlier,
sending him to
Israel to finish
Mr. Thatcher's
mother is Jewish;
his father is not.
Mr. Thatcher had
You can feel the
been raised with
spiritual beauty in a
no religious back-
place where you can see
TEVA® Topo
as far as you can see."
Terrain Sandal
"I wasn't raised
He returned to the
anything," says Mr.
United States to contin-
Thatcher. "My father was your
ue his education, drawn to the
basic Protestant from the Perm-
Southwest because of the

desert's appeal. Mr.
Thatcher reveled in the
Arizona outdoors
lifestyle — rafting, hik-
ing, canoeing. His first
trip down the Colorado
River provided another
spiritual high.
"The Grand Canyon
touched a nerve," he
says. "And I just fell in
love with the South-
The idea for Teva
dates back to the early
1980s, when Mr.
was among
1,000 geo-
physicists laid off
from Houston's
Cities Service Co.
at the end of the
oil boom.
With a tidy
lump sum in
severance pay
and six months'
access to the
and tele-
phones to job
hunt, Mr. Thatch-
er decided to launch his idea for
a new kind of sport shoe. Inspi-
ration for the design had come
to him during the late 1970s
while working as a guide on riv-
er raft tours down the Colorado
River during his college years
at Northern Arizona Universi-


with available
footwear —
sport shoes
quickly be-
came sodden
and squishy,
rubber thongs
were impervi-
ous to the wa-
ter but offered little of the
stability the intrepid rafter
needs — Mr. Thatcher com-
bined the tough rubber sole of
a running shoe with a system
of sandal-like beltings and
straps to snugly grip the toes
and ankle.
Mr. Thatcher says that while
he enjoyed his work as a geo-
physicist prospecting for oil, he
felt constrained by the 9-to-5,
jacket and tie, office politics cor-

Mark Thatcher takes
to the limit.

porate lifestyle.
"I was desperate for a
change," he says."I had a clear
vision of the product."
His science background
helped him develop a product,
he says. But the business end,
Mr. Thatcher says, was baptism
by fire.
"No one teaches you how to
take an idea and capitalize on
it," he says.
He learned the hard way,

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