He might be "Tahiti Ted" to his customers, but at Rive Gauche he's "Mr. Teele."
Yesterday Mr. Teele ran a full-page ad in The Washington Post and it cost him $5,500. "Hi!" it enthused. "My name is Ted Teele, and I'm a student of the class of 1980 at Harvard. I spend my summers importing jewelry from all around the world."
And selling it on the Mall. In a Brooks Brothers suit. And making money at four locations, with the help of friends.
John Chimples, University of Pennsylvania senior, runs the "Tahiti Ted" concession at 19th and M NW. David Carris, freshman in design and architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, gives the pitch in front of Kramerbooks near Dupont Circle. And Donald Berk completes the frontline assault on Washington pedestrians with a stand at Connecticut and L NW.
An Ivy League mafia all in Brooks Brothers and all living together in a house they've rented on 13th Street for the duration -- or until they can find something in McLean.
Then there is the troop support, Anne Richard, a Harvard senior in Latin American affairs, whom Teele has decided will be his secretary.
"I think Ted wants a secretary," reflects Carris.
Richard says she prefers being treasurer.
The 21-year-old Teele wants to be Neiman Marcus and he wants to be in shopping malls and he's incorporating, and he says he's going to commute back and forth from Harvard to do it. This is Teele's third summer on the streets here but his first with branch offices, and this time he says he'll be open until December.
"Somebody will be going to my lectures for me and taking notes for me," he explains. "It's not just me, you know. It's a company of about 30 people and if I'm not here, it dies."
'The company sells jewels Teele says come from everywhere. Curious passersby stop in front of the Dart Drug store to admire shell bangles from the Philippines and belt buckles of mother of pearl.
"That's abalone," Carris tells a customer admiring an adjustable bracelet. "It's all hand-crafted and we import it all ourselves."
Three years ago Teele took a year off at Harvard to see the South Pacific. He came back with jewelry from Fiji and Samoa (and a tattoo applied to his left wrist with pointed boar's tusks) and went into business.
"Everybody thinks I'm crazy."
One who doesn't is David Swetzoff, To be big you have to be international and that is where Swetzoff comes in. Teele and Swetzoff, U. of Pennsylvania, go back to the South Pacific together. They raced each other hitchhiking from Washington State to San Francisco. (Teele won by an hour. Remember, he's the boss.)
Teele says Swetzoff is somewhere, maybe in Washington, maybe not, after another world tour -- Greece, Bulgaria, China -- and is bringing back diamonds to be turned into "Tahiti Ted" jewelry.
That's the next big item -- diamonds for "Tahiti Ted."
"The reason I'm wearing Brooks Brothers suits," he says, "is because when you're selling jewelry you've got to be respectable."
Wilson High graduate Ted Teele -- bushy eyebrows, mop of brown curls, sad eyes -- is the son of former D.C. Election Board chairman Shari B. Kharasch and Thurston F. Teele, an economist. He says he hasn't lived with his parents in three years but the family still helps out. He says he borrowed money for the full-page ad from his father.
When he picked up the business again this June, there was only $150 among himself and his partners, and the up-front capital for his $15,000 purchases, usually once a week, had to come from somewhere.
"I got a substantial loan from my aunt. I'm very good at borrowing money because I always pay it back."
And his friends pay him an unswerving allegiance.
Chimples, Teele's Frisbee-playing partner with wavy black hair, sideburns cut high and a good ring in his left ear, says: "He has limitless energy. Actually, he does most of the work himself. When we started this summer, there were things he wanted to do and you had to say, 'You gotta be kidding.' But he makes them happen.
"Trust Ted. That's the word. And it works."