Fannye T. Tarlow, 96, co-founder of furrier

May 23, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Staff

Fannye T. Tarlow, a co-founder of Tarlow Furs Ltd. who was known as the "Lady of Charles Street," died in her sleep Monday at the Pikesville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The longtime Northwest Baltimore resident was 96.

Mrs. Tarlow, who braided her hair and always wore either an orchid or gardenia corsage, gave a touch of elegance to the salon in the 300 block of N. Charles St., where Tarlow Furs has been located since 1939.

"When buyers came in, they were greeted by this meticulously dressed woman in tailored suits or dresses from Mildred Davis who never had a hair out of place," said a son, David G. Tarlow of Baltimore. "She was a lady and that was the impression she made."

Mrs. Tarlow, whose taste in furs ran to broadtail capes rather than full-length coats, was the store's buyer and business manager. Her husband, Benjamin Tarlow, whom she married in the early 1920s, was the designer.

"Her favorite color was blue and she liked dyed blue beaver capes," said the son, who now owns and operates the business.

She was as meticulous with her customers as she was in her own personal appearance, family members said.

Customers included wives of Maryland governors and clients from Baltimore's more affluent neighborhoods.

"It was a very personalized business, and she had elegant taste," said Mr. Tarlow, who began working with his parents as a teen-ager. "She was soft-spoken. However, she could be tough and assertive when she had to be."

While other downtown furriers relocated to Towson and other communities, Mrs. Tarlow refused to abandon Charles Street.

"She loved Charles Street and was always a perfect lady," said Kemp Byrnes, a real estate broker and former president of the Charles Street Association.

"She was a highly respected woman who always kept pots of beautiful flowers in front of her store," he added.

Sheila Fox, a buyer for Michael Miller Furs, described her as a "very fine and regal woman."

The former Fannye Topor was born to a family of 12 children in the Bronx, N.Y., where she was educated in city schools. She worked as a bookkeeper for a New York linen importer before marrying her husband, who was a boarder in her family's home.

The couple moved to Baltimore in the early 1920s and established their business in the 3500 block of Park Heights Ave., near Carlin's Park, which was then a bustling neighborhood. They lived in an apartment above the store.

"It was a Jewish neighborhood and all the stores, including theirs, closed on Fridays because of the Sabbath and then re-opened on Sundays," said Mr. Tarlow.

In the early 1930s, the couple opened a store in the Roland Park Shopping Center on Roland Avenue. They closed it after establishing the store downtown.

It was a point of pride with Mrs. Tarlow that the store's employees were never laid off, even during the Depression.

Mrs. Tarlow was an avid gardener and an exceptional collector of antiques.

"Everything she bought was the best, whether it was ivory, porcelain or furniture," said James E. Judd, owner of Amos Judd & Sons Inc., a Howard Street antiques dealer and longtime friend. "She was one of the classiest women I've ever known."

Benjamin Tarlow died in 1987, and she retired in the late 1980s.

She was a member of Sharreth Zion, Beth Jacob and Sharreth Israel synagogues, Associated Jewish Charities, Miriam Lodge and Hadassah.

Services were held Wednesday.

Mrs. Tarlow is also survived by another son, Irvin G. Tarlow of Baltimore; a daughter, Sylvia Marcus of Baltimore; a sister, Esther Pelzer of Baltimore; six grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

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