Sidney S. Epstein, 92, CEO of Epsteins discount...

June 30, 1996

Sidney S. Epstein, 92, CEO of Epsteins discount chain

Sidney S. Epstein, who retired as chief executive officer of L. Epstein and Sons Inc., a discount clothing and furniture chain he co-founded with his brother, died Wednesday of pneumonia at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. He was 92.

Epsteins, which was the last of the family-owned and -operated general department stores in Baltimore and Maryland's oldest, closed the doors of its remaining seven stores in 1991.

In its prime, the chain had 11 stores, at such locations as Park Avenue, Lexington Street, Eastern Avenue, Northwood, Westminster, Joppatowne, Glen Burnie and Dundalk.

The business was begun in 1926 when Mr. Epstein, with his brother Samuel, both Russian immigrants, started selling goods in East Baltimore from a pushcart and later opened their first store on North Gay Street. Samuel died in 1978.

While its customers were primarily blue-collar, Epsteins enjoyed their unswerving loyalty as they hunted its legendary inventory of muumuus, housecoats and boys' parochial school uniforms of blue pants, white shirts and dark ties.

At its finale, 90 percent of its sales were still cash with only 10 percent charged. The store also had a unique layaway system in which customers who missed payments or decided they no longer wanted or could afford an item, were given a store credit for the amount they had paid and could apply it to a future purchase.

Melinda Lewis, a granddaughter who lives in Baltimore, said of Mr. Epstein, "He was always making sure that kids who needed uniforms got them, and if their families couldn't afford to pay for them, he didn't worry about it."

The former Park Heights Avenue resident who remained vital and active until two years ago, still dressed in a suit and tie five days a week and went to an office he maintained in Pikesville.

A deeply religious man and long active in Jewish affairs, Mr. Epstein was a member of the congregation of Beth Tfiloh Synagogue. In honor of his philanthropy and generosity, the synagogue's chapel was named for him.

He was a board member of Associated Jewish Charities, the Union of Orthodox Congregations and Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. He was the recipient of the B'nai B'rith Menorah Award.

He immigrated with his family to Nova Scotia, then Philadelphia and finally to Baltimore in 1906. One of eight children, Mr. Epstein had little education because he dropped out of school to help support his family.

Services were held Friday at Beth Tfiloh.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, the former Reba Hamburger; two daughters, Rona Lewis and Sandra Epstein, both of Baltimore; three other grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Sister Kathleen Smith, 88, registered nurse

Sister Kathleen Smith, a registered nurse and member of the Sisters of Mercy, died of heart failure Tuesday at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. She was 88.

Born in Morgantown, W.Va., the former Catherine Elizabeth Smith came to Baltimore to join the order of nuns on March 1, 1928. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing education at the Catholic University of America in Washington and the University of Maryland, respectively. She was a nurse at Mercy Hospital (now Mercy Medical Center) and at hospitals in Georgia and Alabama.

After she retired in 1977, she spent 10 years in the pastoral ministry at Corpus Christi parish in Baltimore.

A Mass of Resurrection was offered Friday at the Villa on Bellona Avenue.

She is survived by four sisters, Virginia Knight of Hagerstown, Ruth Schwartz of Falls Church, Va., Marie Taylor of Hagerstown, and Evelyn Brendel of Havre de Grace; and two brothers, Stanley Smith and Dr. Patrick Smith, both of Hagerstown.

Pub Date: 6/30/96

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