The now 100-year-old family-run establishment was founded by Jacob Hirshleifer as a furrier in 1903 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It was expanded by his son Herman and legendary daughter-in-law Rose, aka RH, and is still in the family today with daughter-in-law Lillian, her daughters Lori, Caryn and Shelley, and granddaughter Marci, all running the show. We are fascinated by this family's business and asked them a few questions about how they run their wonderful store, now located at The Americana in Manhasset, Long Island.
The store on 51 Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint , Brooklyn in the 1940's
Q:Working together in a family business must have its own subtle complexities. Do you find that you sometimes want to pull each other’s hair out? How do you resolve problems and differences of opinion as a family-run business?
A:We work amazingly well together because we come to every issue as equals and make decisions by consensus. We bring our individual and unique perspective and life experience to the business, and we collaborate to find the best result. We respect and trust each other completely and understand that although we might not always agree, our differences are honest and not driven by individual ego or agenda.
Left: A snapshot of the always impeccable and perfectly coiffed Lillian and her late husband
Paul Hirshleifer with whom she ran the store for many years.
Right: Lillian and Shelley with architect Peter Marino at the Hirshleifers 100th Anniversary Party.
Q:How do you separate work from family time?
A:We do spend many holidays together and try not to talk about business during those times. We do have fun together. Humor is our greatest coping mechanism and one of our strongest family traits.
Q:Have you ever been tempted to open up more shops?
A:What makes our store so unique is the experience that our client has in interacting with staff and with us. We know generations of our clients and they know generations of Hirshleifers. We try to bring that personal touch to the shopping experience. We try to treat our clients as we would treat guests in our own homes. With that philosophy, we have not been tempted to open more shops. There is so much that we find to do in our current location to make it better and better.
Clockwise from left: Marci (Buying), Lori (Buying/Development), Caryn (Counsel/PR and Marketing)
and Shelley (Operations), the most stylish women on Long Island.
Q:How have you gotten the store through tough economic times over the years?
A:We are, by nature, proactive, and always aware of where we are, where we need to be, and where we aim to be from the perspective of our numbers. We saw the recent economic downturn as an opportunity to take a close look at our operations and staff. We were able to focus on enhancing product knowledge and customer service. We also realized that many clients were looking for value, so we devised some specific recognition programs to provide that reason to shop. We learned many important lessons through the experience.
Hirshleifers in the 1980’s. Can you spot the power suits?
Q:What are your favorite clothing boutiques and shops around the world?
A:Our favorites include L'Eclaireur, Alchemist, Colette, BKLYN Larder, Dover Street Market, Corso Como, Brown's Fashion of London and Maxfield.
Q:You have the best taste on the planet and always have your nose on the trends. Where do you get your fashion inspiration?
A:Inspiration comes from all sorts of magazines, Women's Wear Daily, blogs, street fashion and life.
Q:What pieces and trends are you excited about this season?
A:Laurence Dacade's 'Pete' booties, Celine's leather jacket, Tom Ford's 'Jennifer' bag, Faliero Sarti scarves, Frank & Eileen cotton shirts, R13, and Tabitha Simmons' wedge boot.
The Hirshleifers store at The Americana in Manhasset.
Q:Did any of you ever consider leaving the shop to pursue a different career? What kept you in the store?
A:There is an art to business. It requires vision, tremendous creativity, tenacity, the taking of reasonable risk and great flexibility. With a staff of 80 that depend on you, the business is also an extended family of sorts with its own set of demands and rewards. There is nothing we could find to challenge us and reward us more than the business, particularly with us all working together as a family and drawing a mutual sense of satisfaction from our effort.
Q:You started the online shop in April of this year. Did you have any hesitations about going on the web? What were they?
A:We were really excited to launch the online shop but the challenge for us was in trying to recreate the level of personal service, attention to detail and the visual experience of discovery that comes from shopping in our store.