Menu JTA Search

The Eulogizer: Retail entrepreneur, salesman, Iranian dissident

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Irving J. Shulman, 96, ‘Daffy’ entrepreneur

Irving J. Shulman, the retail entrepreneur whose discount clothing store chain moved onto Manhattan’s tony Fifth Avenue promising “bargains for millionaires,” died March 25 at 96.

Shulman died just short of the 50th anniversary of the opening of his original store, Daffy Dan’s Bargain Town in Elizabeth, N.J.

The family-owned chain, now with 17 stores in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and with plans to open in Times Square, had $150 million in sales in 2009, said company chairman Marcia Wilson, Shulman’s daughter.

Shulman’s outlandish marketing stunts caught the public’s attention. Among other gimmicks, he once posted a mannequin on the roof prompting concerns of a suicide jumper; parked a Rolls-Royce outside a store to underscore the “bargains for millionaires” slogan; and offered a $700 monthly lease for a year on a furnished Greenwich Village apartment that normally rented for $7,000, The New York Times reported.

To emphasize his bargains, he once sold silver dollars for 88 cents apiece. When Shulman opened his first store in 1961, he attached a giant U.S. Navy balloon to the roof, which brought complaints from Newark Airport. 

"I had a lot of fun at that store," Shulman told The Record of Hackensack, N.J., in 2005, and used to "lie awake at night trying to think of ways to get free publicity."

The move to Manhattan in 1986 was described as a “coming of age of the off-price apparel industry.”

“He was basically a one-man show,” Wilson said. “On weekends and during school vacations he would bring my brothers and me to work, sharing his love of the business.”

Shulman retired from Daffy’s last December.

Jack Gelfond, 80, salesman, ‘Santa’

Jack Gelfond, an ebullient salesman who played Santa Claus for children in tough Chicago housing projects, died March 27 on his 80th birthday.

Over the years he sold clothing, insurance and corporate awards.

"He wasn’t afraid of being in the company of anybody, whether they were big executives . . . or the simplest of people," said his wife, Marlene.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, that same attitude prompted him to don a Santa costume and go “anywhere social workers said St. Nick was needed. Kids would line up around the block,” including at Chicago’s tough Cabrini-Green projects.

Gelfond got his first experiences with customers by working at his parents’ fruit store on Chicago’s West Side after they emigrated from Russia.

His first date with his wife was “a whiff of the forbidden,” at Russell’s Barbecue, but in recent years he frequented more traditionally Jewish Chicago haunts, including Ashkenaz Deli, Manny’s and The Bagel.

Adiva Mirza Soleiman Kalimi, Iranian dissident

Adiva Mirza Soleiman Kalimi, a Jewish Iranian married to an Armenian Iranian Christian, was executed along with her husband in an Iranian prison on March 14, according to a news website focusing on news of Iranian Christians.

The website, Mohabat News, said Kalimi was executed at Evin prison, which is located in a suburb of Tehran. The website said charges against her were not released, and it did not provide her age. The story of Kalimi’s death has been reposted on numerous Christian and dissident Iranian websites, but it has not been confirmed by additional independent sources.

Mohabat was described by Christian activist Charles Colson as “the only active news agency inside Iran reporting on the recent mass arrests of Christians in the country,” and said it had recently been suspended after it “reported the seizure and burning of 600 New Testaments by authorities in western Iran.”

NEXT STORY