In 1928 two brothers in Detroit, Michigan opened the first Winkelman's department store. Over the next seventy years more than 100 stores were added in locations across the Mid-West and for much of the twentieth century, Winkelman s has been synonymous with fashion and style.
Isadore Winkelman and his brother, Leon, who co-founded Winkelman Stores, Inc., dreamed of giving customers what they called in 1928 elegance and personalized service at minimum cost.From the beginning, their concept was to develop a chain of stores in suburbia, predating the concept of suburban shopping centers by a good 20 years.
The brothers inherited the merchant tradition from their father, Moses, who used to travel from Detroit to Port Huron to sell his goods. His journeys once took him to Manistique, where the beauty of the North Country captured his heart. He settled there and opened a department store.
Isadore Winkelman was born in 1901 in Manistique in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the fourth and youngest son of Moses and Hattie. He planned to work as an engineer. But when as a teenager he found work in Detroit selling mens clothes, he fell in love with the city and convinced his family to follow him there.
Within two years, Isadore helped his father liquidate the Manistique business and sell the family home for $5,000. Then, with the help of a $2,000 loan co-signed by his father, and $2,000 of his own savings, he opened Winkelman s Toggery, the first in what was to have been a chain of men's stores. But he soon sensed the bigger market was in women's wear, and so, with his brother, Leon, he opened "Winkelman Brothers Apparel, Inc."
Leon Winkelman was born in 1895 in Manistique. He had that rare feeling for merchandise which is the mark of a true merchant. When the brothers opened their first store for women in 1928, the opening was almost coincident with the big depression that hit Detroit. Had their goal been mere dollars and cents they would have quit then and there. Instead, the brothers boldly enlarged their operations, opening new shops regardless of the shifting economic climate.
The prototype for what was to become the chain of women's fashion stores opened at 5832 W. Fort Street in Detroit. The Fort Street store had Venetian mirrors, thick carpets, Spanish chairs, and free bath salts on opening day. Before Isadore died in 1979, the business had grown to 86 stores in three states.
Leon enjoyed diversified interests. He was a big game hunter, A devotee of art and music, a lover of his fellows and a true philanthropist. To quote from an editorial published in the Detroit News at the time of his death in 1958, "Humility was the personality trademark of a man who had the mercantile idea of bringing the service, the smartness, of the exclusive couturier to the neighborhood shop. Devotion to that approach, according to students of the business, led to the growth of the Winkelman chain."
As Leon used to say, Running a store today is not merely a matter of laying in a stock of goods sufficient to last the season, putting a price ticket on things, opening the door and waiting for the customer. The world has been educated up to a measure of value and service to which it is entitled for every dollar it spends. And, not the smallest part of that service lies in personal contact between the merchant and those whom he hopes to make his friends as well as merely purchasers.
Referring to his original desire to be an engineer, Isadore used to joke that his work had been predestined. "Winkelman means storekeeper," he would say, referring to its German translation. "How can you get to be a bridge builder with a name like that?"
A long time friend and colleague described Isadore as "One of a kind. He was the kindest individual I have ever known, always helping people in need without seeking any of the accolades." He was a self-made man who, through hard work and dedication, became the head of a major corporation.
We are ecstatic about this new startup. When we decided to launch Winkelman s on the Internet, we knew that excellent customer service would be a crucial factor in our success. explains Justin Winkelman, President, Winkelman s LLC. Winkelman s has long been celebrated and recognized as one of the nation s historic department stores. Our heritage is in Detroit, and I can't think of a better place to launch this new company. It s with my Grandfather, Isadore, and Great-grandfather s spirit that I, as the fourth-generation of retailers, bring Winkelman s back.