Business News

Rubber Match stretches its run to 30 years
Maria Garriga , Register Staff 11/15/2003
George Zito sits on his store's first delivery van back in the 1970s. courtesy John Zito
NEW HAVEN George Zito knows what it takes to make a college dormitory room home:

A bean bag chair.

An Indian tapestry hung over a bare wall.


A futon.

Voila! Instant character.

Zito, 54, has been helping local college students create comfortable cribs for 30 years as the owner of Rubber Match Waterbed & Futon Shop Inc. at 101 Whalley Ave.
In 1973, Zito bought a storefront on Edgewood Avenue for $1,500 and named it Rubber Match.

At the time he was an unemployed salesman. But Zito had two things going for him: his ability to sell, and his taste for 1970s style furnishings.

Zito will do whatever it takes to move merchandise, especially when he started out.

"I would scare people on Broadway. I would hand out fliers in a long army coat and a big Afro. Id say, If you come down to my store Ill give you a free necklace," he laughed.

Within three years, he relocated to a more prominent spot on Whalley Avenue. Its easily spotted by the second-floor sunroom that gives drivers a glimpse of his futons and lamps.

Zito said he doesnt plan to do anything special to mark his 30th anniversary in business.

You can walk into his shop and find furry lamps, Chinese paper lanterns, lava lamps and exotic masks.

Walk into the back to see a full array of water pipes and gag gifts.

Most of Zitos attempts to bring cool items to New Haven have been very successful, such as his waterbed and futon business.

Zito has always been adventurous, offering new and different products to the New Haven market.

The futons, waterbeds and water pipes have become mainstays of his businesses. Tropical plants, occult jewelry, New Kids on the Block clothes, hot tubs, and recycled jeans were fad hits.

Zito started with waterbeds and quickly moved into futons. "I had to create the market," he said.

To help explain the difference, he ran a commercial on cable TV explaining the difference between a "crouton," something you use in a salad, and a "futon," something you sleep on. He quickly became known for starring in a series of wacky commercials.

Zito has two part-time employees, including his brother Joe, a landscaper.

In recent years, Zito has also become known for his charity work with Easter Seals Connecticut Inc. and Sail Connecticut Access Program of Westbrook, using his marketing skills to help fund-raise for groups that benefit the disabled.

"I cant even begin to tell you all the charity work he does," said Ronald H. Antonio, of Branford, a close friend and marketer for Family Care.

"Hes a big kid at heart," Antonio added fondly.

Zito lives in Morris Cove with his wife Janice. He has four children Danielle, 25, Jennifer, 23, Jessica, 12, and Gennaro, 6.

New Haven Register 2004



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