NEW YORK — As dapper as ever, the 82-year-old Ira Neimark enters the “teppan” grill room at the Japanese restaurant Otabe on East 56th Street in a Turnbull & Asser suit, Charvet shirt and Hermès tie. It’s hard to imagine the former chairman and chief executive of Bergdorf Goodman was once a uniformed doorboy with a mischievous side.

“I wasn’t even the doorman. I assisted the doorman,” recalls Neimark over lunch, talking about his early days at Bonwit Teller on 56th Street. But he became ambitious at an early age. “When I saw Bill Holmes [Bonwit’s president] pull up in a chauffeured limo, and very well dressed, I said to myself, ‘I want to be like that.’ I was a 17-year-old doorboy at the time.”

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