NEW YORK — Veteran footwear retailer Jack Bienenfeld, founder of Oceanside, N.Y.-based Jildor Shoes, died on Aug. 25. He was 84.
“The fashion shoe world has lost an irreplaceable champion,” said Barbara Wexner Levy, who publishes an industry newsletter called “Barbara’s View.”
“Everything I know, I learned from Jack,” added Jan Friedman, who has been a Jildor buyer for 39 years.
Bienenfeld opened the first Jildor location in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island, in 1949. He funded the project himself, and according to his son, made it work through diligence and persistence. “My father never went to college, but he was a brilliant guy. Coming from the [Great] Depression and a poor family, he learned how to survive,” said current Jildor President Larry Bienenfeld.
Bienenfeld steadily grew the Jildor business over the years, adding three locations across Long Island and stocking top brands including Theory, Tory Burch, Jeffrey Campbell and Donald J Pliner. He remained active even after his retirement in the early 1990s, overseeing new initiatives such as the addition of the e-commerce Website in 2003.
“I don’t know that I could count on one hand the number of independent retailers who have not just survived but thrived as this business has shifted to giant chains and department stores,” said designer Stuart Weitzman. “Jack sure figured that out.”
Bienenfeld also gave Weitzman a big boost during the early days of his career.
“His first order with me was twice as big as any order he had ever given my father, who he’d bought from for many years,” recalled Weitzman, who took over his father’s business after his sudden death. “I was young and naive at the time, but it became obvious to me as I matured what he had done for me.”
Bienenfeld is survived by his wife, Doris; son Larry; daughter Jill; daughter-in-law Carrie; and grandchildren Brian and Erica.