MR magazine and the entire menswear industry is saddened to learn of the passing of Menachem (Milton) Katz, co-founder of Miltons – The Store for Men, on October 17 in Jerusalem, Israel.
Ron Wurtzburger of Peerless expresses the sentiment of so many in the industry: “Menachem Katz was one of the top retailers of his time. He always carried himself with class. He was a great dad who took tremendous pride in watching his son take Miltons’ menswear business to the next level. Even living in Israel, he and Dana kept in constant touch and showed great respect and love for each other. It’s the father-son relationship everyone dreams of, but only a few ever achieve it. Those who had the pleasure of knowing Milton Katz will truly miss him.”
Milton’s grandson Alex Katz offers the following thoughts.
For my grandfather, life revolved around three central passions: his family, his business, and his heritage. He was a devoted husband, proud father of three, and adored grandfather to five. As a 19-year-old senior at Northeastern University, alongside his father and younger brother, he co-founded a successful men’s specialty store in Quincy, Massachusetts, that’s still operating and bears his name 69 years later. And when he retired in the mid-1980s — handing over the reins of his family-run business to his son Dana — my grandfather moved with my grandmother to Jerusalem, fulfilling a lifelong dream of living in the Jewish State he always loved and worked so vigorously to support.
It was upon these three pillars — family, business, and heritage — that Milton “Menachem” Katz built his life. But perhaps most notably, it was his characteristic zeal and charm that made him a beloved figure in the menswear industry and beyond.
My grandfather hailed from a modest background not uncommon among many first-generation American Jews in the years preceding the Great Depression. His father, Isadore, was a Russian immigrant who came to this country with very little money in his pockets and even less English in his repertoire. Isadore became a peddler in the Greater Boston-area, going door-to-door selling “schmattes” — linens, sheets, towels, and other household items.
Isadore got the scare of his life one day while driving on his route, when he came just inches away from hitting a young neighborhood child who had blindly run into the street. He came home white as a ghost and declared that he had to get off the road. So he asked my grandfather what he wanted to do after college. My grandfather had always enjoyed taking trips to Hingham with his cousin to buy knitted ties and widespread collar shirts, and he took a keen interest in the new styles of the day — like when the actor Walter Pidgeon made the Windsor knot an accepted look.
So together they decided to open a men’s store, and just like that in 1947 they built a company on a very basic premise: pursue what you love, and you’ll always love what you do.
Isadore put his entire life savings into the store, and my grandfather pushed the envelope by bringing a more cosmopolitan mix of fashion merchandise to the more Ivy League-styled suburb of Quincy. Their first couple of years were difficult, with post-World War II shortages and the typical struggles that came with owning and operating an independent business. But what soon followed were years of double-digit increases, and then the doubling of the business with the opening of their second store.
My grandfather loved the industry and everything it had to offer — a bond with his fellow store owners across the country, relationships with the vendors he dealt with in New York, and above all the opportunity to build a local institution in the Greater Boston area that served the community and offered him the professional experience of a lifetime.
But in business, nothing made him prouder and more fulfilled than seeing his son, my father Dana, succeed him in running the store he fashioned with his own blood, sweat, and tears years earlier. From thousands of miles away in Israel, he watched my father build upon his successes by cultivating an incredible team of sales associates and growing the business. He maintained a healthy distance from the store, meticulously pouring over the official sales numbers almost daily, while also being careful to allow my father to make his own mistakes and learn from them.
My grandfather was fond of saying “my cup runneth over.” In his mind, he was the luckiest man on earth and no one could tell him otherwise. Our entire family finds it difficult to imagine life without him. But we know that his greatest legacy isn’t the menswear store that bears his name, or the passion for his adopted homeland that he not only preached but actually lived. His greatest legacy is his zest for life and the values he instilled in all of us — from his family, to his friends, to those who had the honor of working with him over the years.
He will be greatly missed, but we’ll honor his memory every day by pursuing our passions and loving what we do. Nothing would have made him prouder.