Answer Man: History of Peskind's local store

News-DemocratApril 27, 2013 

Q. I recently acquired what I think may be a mink coat, and the tag inside says J. Peskind & Sons, Belleville, IL. I am wondering how old it might be, so can you tell me about the history of the store? Also, do you think a taxidermist would be the one to determine the fur type?

-- C.S., of Belleville

A. When Isaac Peskind left Russia as a 20-year-old in 1892, little did he know that he and his family would wind up as one of Belleville's major clothiers for nearly three-quarters of a century.

Starting as a small dry goods shop, the Peskind store eventually would become a landmark as his four sons kept the business going strong after Dad died in 1940. For years, the family name -- I. (not J.) Peskind & Sons -- was displayed prominently on the building at 116 East Main.

"The career of Peskind as a merchant is regarded as having had few equals in local business history," the Belleville Daily Advocate reported in his obituary on Oct. 7, 1940. "Within 20 years, Peskind had from a humble start built one of the largest department stores in this area."

So if you're trying to date your coat without a sales slip, good luck: It might have been anytime from when the final store incorporated in 1933 to the day the doors were closed and locked for the last time in 1975. Perhaps some veteran Belleville area shopper may be able to narrow the time frame as to when the store dealt in fur coats, so stay tuned.

The Peskind story, however, dates to Oct. 8, 1907, when the young Russian immigrant opened a small store at 1003 W. Main St. After just three years, he doubled the space and added a shoe department to please his growing clientele. Soon he realized he needed to be in the heart of downtown, so in 1919 he leased his first big store at 113 E. Main St.

But in six years, he outgrew that, too, so in 1926, he bought half of the Rentchler Block Building directly across the street, razed it and had a modern three-story building erected.

"No expense was spared in making this one of the most modern and up-to-date stores and office buildings in the city," according to an Oct. 7, 1932, News-Democrat story.

At just 55 years old, Peskind retired from the business the next year, handing it off to sons Hyman, Joseph, Paul and Nathan. In 1933, they incorporated as I. Peskind & Sons, keeping their father's name central.

For the next 40 years, the store remained one of the downtown's clothes shopping magnets along with such fixtures as Deutch's, Imber's, Small's and The Toggery. John Peskind would head Belleville's Temple Beth Israel for years.

But as the brothers grew older, they eventually leased the store to Sidney Katz, who ran apparel and formalwear shops nearby. In late June 1975, Katz closed the store and sold it to long-time shoe seller Ed Dollus. An era ended when Joseph, the last surviving brother, died in 1983.

As for determining the type of fur, I suppose you could try a taxidermist, although if you're talking mink, I would think you might try showing it to an upscale fur store such as the Fur and Leather Center at 7901 Clayton Road in St. Louis. Otherwise, the tips at www.ehow.com/how_4843642_identify-types-fur-coats.html might provide some help.

Q. With everyone buzzing about the big English soccer game coming to Busch Stadium May 23, I'm wondering why we call it "soccer" while the English call it "football."

-- Don Grant, of O'Fallon

A. They've been kicking that question around for years, so here is the best theory:

In the mid-1800s, schools across Britain were playing football-like games, but each with its own rules variations. Finally, in 1863, the English Football Association was formed with a standardized set of rules. So, early on, the sport became known as "association football" to distinguish it from other sports like "rugby football."

But that's such a mouthful to say, so players started to shorten the terms and, as was the custom of the time, added "er." As a result, you had "asoccers" (short for association) and "ruggers." Legend has it that shortly after association football started, Charles Wredford-Brown, a student at Oxford, was asked if he'd like to play some "rugger." No, he said, he preferred "soccer," coining the word that Americans generally use today.

The English, however, backtracked. As the game spread to the lower classes, the term "football" came into vogue by 1881 and would become the name of choice. Americans, of course, generally call it soccer to differentiate it from own brand of football.

Today's trivia

What nickname do teams at Jack Benny Middle School in Waukegan use?

Answer to Saturday's trivia: The good news is that you had a fabulous day on "Jeopardy" and amassed $12,000 in winnings. The bad news is you were playing against Ken Jennings and came in second. So, do you get to keep your $12,000? Nope, sorry, more bad news: All second-place finishers in standard Jeopardy receive $2,000 while third-place gets $1,000, according to www.jeopardy.com.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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