Monday, November 16, 2015

Before there were doorbusters...

...there were blockbusters!

There are a couple of reasons why I would include this ad, which comes to us from December 1976:

1) Ha ha lookat funny oldtime pepel with theyre ankshient tecnology and they say Christmis insted of holiday

2) To take this opportunity to discuss Korvettes. Korvettes (or E. J. Korvette) was a department store that I spent a lot of time in when I was a wee lad. Since it went out of business in 1980, I ought to tell you kiddies about it: It was nicer than Walmart but not as nice as Sears. They moved a lot of consumer electronics. I seem to recall you could always get a new needle for a record player at Korvettes.

But I also wanted to tell you old-timers one thing about Korvettes.

When I was a kid, I heard that the name of the store came from the founders, Eight Jewish Korean War Veterans. It was a source of pride to some of the Jewish families I knew; in fact, the father of one of my Jewish friends was the one who told it to me. It's still widely believed by those of us old enough to remember the store. The problem is that it's a load of horsefeathers.

It's true that the founder (singular) was Jewish, and that his name was not really E. J. Korvette, and that the store's name was inspired by the founder's war service. His name was Eugene Ferkauf, a World War II vet, and he founded the store in 1948, two years before America's involvement in Korea. He said:
I had a name picked out for the store, E.J. Korvette. "E" is for Eugene, my first name, and "J" stands for Joe Swillenberg, my associate and my pal. As for "Korvette," it was originally meant to be spelled with a "C" after the Canadian marine sub-destroyer, simply because I thought the name had a euphonious ring. When it came time to register the name, we found it was illegal to use a naval class identity, so we had to change the spelling to "K."
I bring this up because people have insisted to me that the name comes from "Eight Jewish Korean Veterans" even after presented with the facts. For some reason people would rather stick with the familiar story than the truth, I guess because it is familiar, or because they trusted the person who spread the falsehood, or because they like the neat idea of the abbreviation.

But it does a disservice to Mr. Ferkauf, who worked hard to establish a store that would discount deeply for an America determined to get back to normalcy after the war, who made a fortune and after 18 years sold his business for $20 million. Fourteen years later the boneheads who bought the chain ran it out of business, and Ferkauf lived another thirty-two years beyond that. I wonder what he thought of that.

Anyway, Singular Jewish War Veteran Mr. Ferkauf, as we schelp into Christmas shopping insanity, we salute you, and your blockbuster sales.


Stiiv said...

I'd always heard the "Eight" story growing up, too. I think there was a Korvettes in Green Acres (Valley Stream, LI), in the 50's & 60's. Hey, I got one for you: remember Times Square Stores? (TSS, as we called it.)

Fred Key said...

Hi, Stiiv! Sure do remember TSS, although I don't remember if I ever went in one. We've seen so many consumer chains collapse, haven't we? Trader Horn, Circuit City, Builders Square, A&P -- and the saddest words of tongue or pen, I remember Woolworth's when.

Stiiv said...

the saddest words of tongue or pen, I remember Woolworth's when.

Even when you're not trying, the poetry just oozes forth. Well, something's oozing. ;>