“I Remember Pearl’s (and The Village Bazaar, Hill’s, Nate’s, Perelman’s, Shapiro’s, I. Miller’s, and others)
If you grew up in upstate New York (“the North Country”) or in northern Vermont anywhere from the 1910”s through the 1980’s you probably remember a “Pearl’s Department Store” or just “Pearl’s” in your hometown and/or a neighboring town. You went there with your Mom or your friends. You bought your Wrangler jeans and your school clothes or a Christmas gift. Pearl’s were there before the Kmart’s, Ames, and Walmart’s and the Northway.
If you grew up in Vermont, you could have memories of the small clothing chain called “Hill’s” or “Nate’s (Vermont’s Largest Men’s Clothier) ” or even a “Perelman’s” in Burlington.
If you lived around Saratoga Springs, NY, you or your family may have shopped at “Shaprio’s“.
If you grew up in New York City, you may have bought shoes at one of the I. MIller shoe stores where my wife’s father Morris Bernstein was a manager.
You may not have known that all these stores were part of a much larger network of stores all related by family or about their fascinating history. This website is the story of that family of stores!
My Place in this Story
Let me start by connecting me to the story. My father Wilfred S. (“Bill”) Cohen started his career working for Paul I. Pearl, my mother’s uncle who owned, at that time, several small retail department stores. My father worked in Pearl’s stores in Alburgh, Rouses Point, Malone, and St. Johnsbury (all before I was born),. He and my mother and older sister then moved to New London, CT to work in a children’s clothing store. I was born there. He then left the store in CT to work with his brother-in-law (my mother’s brother) Eli Cowen in the Pearl’s store in Potsdam, NY. Shortly after my middle sister was born, my family moved to Keeseville, NY in 1952 to open up his own Pearl’s store. He later started (with Eustis Paine) and managed the Village Bazaar ladies clothing store chain with stores in Keeseville, NY, Rouses Point, NY, and Port Henry, NY.
Being around retail stores was a very big part of my experience growing up. I visited families and their stores. I heard stories of the stores and their business at holidays and family gatherings. Almost all of my great uncles and aunt’s on my mother’s side worked for my Uncle Paul at one time in a Pear’s store.
Yes, my family, my mother (Frances Cohen)’s “extended family”* and the “in-law families”# was a true “family of stores”. Over the years I have gotten older, I would always tell anyone who would listen about our “family of stores”.
Let the story begin…
How This Story Is Being Documented
I am driven to create this website because I wanted to document a fascinating story about “a family of stores.” Using a website gives tremendous flexibility in gathering and posting data.
I have been talking about creating this website for a number of years. The time has come to “put pen to paper”, or more correctly “e-paper.”. My plan is to use this website to collect the history of the stores that are associated with my extended family. Once the information is documented and codified, I plan to self-publish a book.
This website will constantly evolve as I document the story and do more research. My first phase is to document the existence of all the stores by creating a page for each store. I will then add information about the history of the store (where it was located when it opened and when it closed, ), newspaper ads, pictures, people who worked in the store, what merchandise they sold, events affecting the store (fires, robberies, personal recollections, etc.).
A Family of Stores – Store Locations (A Google map) – A Bird’s Eye View
Some of the first questions asked are: How many stores are you talking about and where were they?
I have created a Google Map embedded below which shows all the locations of known stores with some preliminary data to show the sheer number of stores associated with my family. The map zooms in and out. Click on the icon to the left of the title below (A Family of Stores – Store Locations) JICNote: This map is a work in progress!
to see a list of stores. Click on the store name in the list to see preliminary date information. You can also click on the colored markers/thumbtacks to bring up store information.
In the Beginning
You can trace the beginning of this “family of stores” to Paul I. Pearl (my mother’s mother’s step-brother) and his uncle A. (Aaron) Perelman (my mother’s mother’s step-mother’s brother-in-law and my father’s mother’s uncle) of Burlington, Vermont. (Yes, my parents shared the same great uncle. More about this later.) Around 1908, Paul I. Pearl went to Burlington, Vermont to learn to be a peddler from his Uncle Aaron (“Archik”) Perelman who had a Dry Goods Store in Burlington, Vermont. And the rest is history!
Paul’s first store was in Alburg, VT in 1915. (Click here for Paul I. Pearl history) Starting with that store, he got his brothers and existing or future brothers-in-law involved in the business, and later his children
Not all stores had the “Pearl’s” name. Below is a listing of store names associated with the extended Pearl family.
My father’s mother’s father I. (Issac or Itzak) Perelman had a new and used clothing and furniture store on N. Winooski Avenue in Burlington and his brother, A. (Aaron or Archik )Perelman had a Dry Goods Store just down the street. Later, Meyer “Mike” Perelman, Aaron’s only son, had several clothing stores in Burlington. M. D. (Moses) Perelman, Isaac’s oldest son had gas stations and a fuel transport business.
Pearl’s Department Stores, Inc.
Pearl’s Department Stores, Inc. was the chain founded by Paul I. (“PI”) Pearl in Alburg, VT. It grew over the years, hiring family relatives. Some stores originally in this chain or associated with the chain became parts of other chains, i.e. the Pearl’s in Chateaugay, NY, and Hill’s Department Store in Colebrook, NH. See store details for more details.
Paul Pearl’s youngest brother, Morris Pearl, started the store in Chateaugay, NY. When Paul and Morris decided to go separate ways, the store in Chateaugay, NY became the home base for Morris Pearl and his wife Doris (Harris) Pearl own Pearl’s (Chateaugay) chain.
Paul Pearl’s brother-in-law Reuben (“Ruby”) Helfand (husband of his sister Rose) worked and managed the Pearl’s store in Winthrop and later Brushton, NY, and retired from there. His son, Elliott Helfand, started with Paul I. Pearl, but then opened Ruby’s stores in Richfield Springs, NY ( separate stores for men’s and women’s clothing and a store in Clinton, NY for a short while. Elliott Helfand helped his brother David Sol Helfand open stores in Unadilla, NY, and Sydney, NY.
Another brother-in-law of Paul Pearl, Sam Waldman, husband of his sister Lilian, ran the store in St. Regis Falls, NY for a while. Sam moved to Syracuse, NY, and had a store in Manlius. His sons opened stores under the Waldman’s name near Syracuse in Chittenango.
Hill’s Department Stores
Isador Kropsky, who later married Paul’s youngest sister (Ruth), managed various Pearl’s stores before going in business with his brother-in-law Charlie Hill to expand the Hill’s chain in Vermont. Charles had a Hill’s Store in Colebrook, NH which was started in 1932 and was initially treated as part of the Pearl’s chain. The stores were in Colebrook, NH, and Randolph, Morrisville, Lyndonville, Burlington, and Bradford, all in Vermont. Charlie Hill also owned a hardware store in Burlington, VT next to Isador’s clothing store and with another person, Ed Wendell, owned 5 & 10 stores in Bradford, VT, and Lisbon, NH.
This Hill’s chain had no relationship to the much larger Hills Store Company chain which was based in, ironically, Canton, Massachusetts, and existed from 1957 to 1999 until it was acquired by Ames.
Albert’s Department Store
Bea and Sol Silverstein’s daughter’s (Rhoda) husband, Albert Kaplan, had two stores in Pennsylvania (Canton and Sayre) in the fifties (1951 – 1959) which I believe were supplied by Pearl’s warehouse. Prior to starting these two stores in PA, Albert had stores in Long Island. Albert managed the Pearl’s Department Store in Ticonderoga for a short while prior to opening the Canton (PA) store in 1951.
The Village Bazaar
The Village Bazaar was a small chain of ladies’ clothing stores that started in October 1966. It was originally the Villager. The chain was owned by Champlain Trading Co. of which Eustis Paine of Willsboro was the president and Wilfred S. Cohen (my father) was an officer and the general manager. The chain started in Keeseville and added locations in Rouses Point (1967-1976) and Port Henry (1968-1977). The store in Keeseville closed in October 1982 when my mother retired at age 65. There was also a store called “The Book End” on Willsboro Point, NY, run by Eustis’s wife Paula Paine which had some Village Bazaar clothing as well as gifts.
Regarding The Two Pearl’s “Chains”
There were actually two Pearl’s chains. One was owned by Paul I. Pearl and his family (Incorporated in Enosburg Falls, VT, and owned by Paul I. Paul and his family). called Pearl’s Department Stores, Inc., or just Pearl’s. The other was owned by Morris Pearl (Paul I. Pearl’s youngest brother) and later his wife Doris (Harris) Pearl. I refer to this chain as Pearl’s (Chateaugay). Doris’ father and brothers had Nate’s Men’s Clothiers in Vermont
Where were the Pearl’s stores?
Over the years (not all stores co-existed, stores were opened and closed over time), there were Pearl’s Department Stores, Inc. stores in upstate New York stretching from Clayton and Alexandria Bay on the St. Lawrence River near the eastern end of Lake Ontario, along US Route 11 in northern New York State (Theresa, Carthage, Edwards, Canton, Madrid, Potsdam, Malone, Winthrop, Brushton, Chateaugay*, Rouses Point, then into northern Vermont (Alburg, Swanton, Enosburg Falls, Richford, Waterbury, St. Johnsbury), then back in New York State in the Adirondacks (Dannemora, Keeseville, Tupper Lake, AuSable Forks, Willsboro, Ticonderoga, Whitehall) and west of Lake George (Warrensburg, Lake Luzerne), then stores in and near Glens Falls (Glens Falls (under the name WO (Warehouse Outlet) and Skyline Discount, Corinth, Hoosick Falls, Ballston Spa, Johnstown) and a store in Poultney, VT.
In Glens Falls, Pearl’s Department Stores, Inc. had in its later years, a warehouse in Glens Falls, a store called WO (Warehouse Outlet), and a store called Skyline Discount.
The Pearl’s (Chateaugay) were in Chateaugay, Hermon, Ellenburg Depot, and Champlain, all in northern New York State. Morris Pearl also owned an IGA store at one time in Chateaugay. There were also two stores under the name National Fashion owned by Doris Pearl in Malone and Champlain.
To make it even more interesting, there were stores owned by “in-law families”# which included the names Davis’ (Port Henry, NY), Nate’s (St. Albans, Montpelier, St. Johnsbury, Burlington, all in Vermont) , Shapiro’s (Schuylerville, Fort Edwards, Greenwich, Cambridge, Hoosick Falls, Stillwater, Salem, all in eastern New York east of Saratoga) and Witt’s (Columbus, GA). I will include information about these stores on this website.
Sources of Information and Dates
I did not start with a definitive list of stores because one did not exist. I built the list from my recollections, family accounts (both oral and written), and newspaper. Hence, I am still researching the exact dates and locations for certain stores. However, it is known that Pearl’s Department Stores, Inc. ceased operation in 1988 (There were 20 stores at that time.), Pearl’s (Chateaugay) closed its last store, Chateaugay, around the same time. Village Bazaar closed its last store (Keeseville) in the early 1980s. Hill’s closed its last store in xxxx.
All the stores closed or were sold off when my mother’s generation (i.e her first cousins) retired or were about to. Only one second cousin, Jeffrey Pearl, was active in the business in the Pearl’s Department Stores, Inc. chain. One first cousin, Danny Cowen, managed the renamed Pearl’s Department store in Potsdam called Cowen’s Country Store
My sources are family oral history, family published stories and biographies, newspapers (articles, ads, wedding announcements, and obituaries), local libraries and local historical societies, and Facebook groups with names like “You Know You Are From (place) in locations where the stores existed. Because “pearl” is a common word in newspapers and there are so many locations, it is a tedious project to search newspaper archives.
Breadth and Wealth of Information
As you will find out as you experience this website, the story of “a family of stores” is a very interrelated story between family members and stores. It is hard for me to think about my family and my mother’s family without thinking about the stores they owned or managed.
You will also note that there is a lot of information. The sheer size of my mother’s mother’s family, the large number of stores involved, and the various aspects of the “story” (Where were the stores located? What were the towns like that the stores were in? Who owned and/or managed them? What items did they sell? Who was related to who and how?) Hence this site is a story of a family, a history of stores, and a labor of love.
Do any stores exist today?
There are no existing stores owned and/or managed by my extended family. There is one Hill’s Store in Colebrook, NH which is run by a family who bought the store in 1965.
How Individual Store Ownership Evolved for Family Members
When Pearl’s was started by Paul I. Pearl, Paul owned the stores. Family members worked for him and became managers. In a number of cases, the family member purchased the store from Paul Pearl and it became their store. Pearl’s in Chateaugay was purchased by Morris Pearl. For another example, the Pearl’s location in Keeseville that was opened in 1952 was initially managed by my father, Wilfred “Bill Cohen”, but was, after a number of years, purchased by him. For some stores, e.g. Swanton, I am not sure who “owned” the store, Paul Pearl or his brother, Joseph. The same is true for Pearl’s in Brushton with my Uncle Ruby Helfand.
Individual Store Information
It is planned to have a page for each store giving such information as opening and closing dates, previous and/or subsequent owner/store location usage, store’s physical street address, manager and employee names, interesting tidbits about the store e.g. fires, burglaries, advertisements and clippings from newspapers, and merchandise sold.
There are also pages about individuals associated with the stores, especially family members. This is being done to preserve in one place a family history.
* By extended family, I mean my mother’s husband (my father, Wilfred S. Cohen), my mother’s aunts and uncles, and her first cousins (all on my mother’s mother’s side and their descendants.
# By “in-law families”, I mean people related through marriage such as my sister’s husband’s family (Shapiro’s) and my son’s father-in-law’s family (Witt’s).