Rubber Match stretches its run to 30 years
, Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — George Zito knows what it takes to make a college
dormitory room home:
George Zito sits on his store's first
delivery van back in the 1970s. courtesy John Zito
• 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. I’d say, ‘If you come
down to my store I’ll give you a free necklace," he laughed.
Within three years, he relocated to a more prominent spot on
Whalley Avenue. It’s easily spotted by the second-floor
sunroom that gives drivers a glimpse of his futons and
Zito said he doesn’t 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
Most of Zito’s attempts to bring cool items to New Haven
have been very successful, such as his waterbed and futon
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
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
Zito has two part-time employees, including his brother Joe,
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 can’t 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.
"He’s 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