Arnold Finkelstein, 82, owned clothing store

August 01, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Arnold Finkelstein, whose cherubic smile and easy demeanor were as much a part of the Towson scene for 60 years as his family's landmark York Road clothing store, died Wednesday of lymphoma at his Pikesville residence. He was 82.

Mr. Finkelstein, an owner and president of Finkelstein's of Towson until it closed in 1994, spent most of his life in the store, offering such garb as blue jeans, khakis, blended oxford shirts, shoes, western apparel and blazers.

The No. 8 streetcar swayed and clanged up a dusty York Road and cows still grazed where Hutzler's eventually built its Towson department store when Ellis and Fannie Finkelstein, Mr. Finkelstein's parents, gave up their Calhoun Street grocery and opened the Towson Bargain Store on Chesapeake Avenue. It was billed as Baltimore County's biggest department store.

In 1929, they moved the business to 408 York Road, where it remained until it closed.

Mr. Finkelstein grew up sweeping sawdust daily from the tongue-and-grove floor and taking out the trash, learning the retail business from the ground up. After graduating from Towson High School in 1932 and attending the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy for a year, he joined the business.

It was during the Depression, and the Finkelsteins struggled to hang on to the store.

"My father wouldn't take the easy way out and declare bankruptcy as so many did," Mr. Finkelstein said in a 1994 interview.

"He didn't want to damage his reputation. My mother and father just gathered up some boots and clothing and went down to Essex and sold them on the street to workers on a project down there. They did whatever it took to survive."

He took over management of the store in 1951 after his father died of a heart attack. He was later joined in the business by his younger brother, Jack Finkelstein of Pikesville.

Taking a lesson from his parents, Mr. Finkelstein became an innovative merchant who looked for the latest fashion trend and put it into his store.

"He brought western apparel into the store, and for years he'd set up a stall at the Eastern Livestock shows in Timonium and sell boots and clothes," Jack Finkelstein said. "He'd go to square dancing clubs. We also operated a souvenir general store during the early 1960s at Ocean City's Frontier Town.

"He wasn't flamboyant or loquacious and was never loud or rambunctious. He enjoyed people, had a big smile and a kidding way. He really enjoyed meeting our customers."

Dick Rudolph, who for years operated the nearby Towson Bootery, now in Kenilworth Mall, recalled Mr. Finkelstein as a friendly competitor who often swapped merchandise with him if one of the stores was out of a certain size shoe. "I'd say, 'Arnold, loan me a pair of shoes,' or I'd tell a customer, 'Go see Finkelstein; he'll take care of you.' Little guys like us do things like that."

Roy Finkelstein, his son, who lives in Mount Washington, joined the business in 1970 and explained his father's philosophy this way: "He never complained or looked at his work as a job."

Arnold Finkelstein founded the Towson Business Association and was a longtime member of the board of St. Joseph Medical Center. He was also a member of the Towson Rotary Club, the Save-A-Heart Foundation, B'nai B'rith, Beth Tfiloh Synagogue and the Cassia Masonic lodge.

Services were held yesterday.

In addition to his son and brother, he is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former June Cooper; a daughter, Marilyn Linchuck of Potomac; another brother, Joe Finkelstein of Pikesville; two sisters, Bonnie Lipsitz and Sara Mez, both of Pikesville; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Sister Mary Stephanie, 81, taught in parochial schools

Sister Mary Stephanie Searles, S.S.N.D., a retired parochial school educator and librarian, died Wednesday of liver disease at the Spa Creek Nursing Home in Annapolis. She was 81.

Throughout her 57-year career, Sister Stephanie taught intermediate grades at parochial schools in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Locally, she taught at St. Thomas Aquinas, Notre Dame and Our Lady of Good Counsel parochial schools and was elementary librarian at St. Mary Parochial School in Annapolis from 1975 until she retired in 1994.

Born Rita Teresa Searles in Washington, she entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1934 and was a 1937 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore. She professed her vows in 1937 and earned a bachelor's degree in education from Mount Mercy College in Pittsburgh in 1956.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Villa Assumpta, motherhouse of her order, at 6401 N. Charles St.

She is survived by several nieces and nephews.

Dr. William H. Kaufman, 85, dermatologist for 30 years

Dr. William H. Kaufman, an East Baltimore native who practiced dermatology in Virginia for 30 years, died Wednesday of multiple myeloma at Roland Park Place. He was 85.

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