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Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Max and Morris Feldberg

 

TJX logoCountry of origin: Russia

Businesses: TJX Companies, Inc. (1919), BJ’s Wholesale Club (1984)

Headquarters: Framingham, MA (TJX), Westborough, MA (BJ’s)

2015 revenue: $30.9 billion (TJX)

Employment: 216,000 (TJX, worldwide) > 25,000 (BJ’s, U.S.)

TJX Ranked 89 in the 2016 Fortune 500

 

  • Two generations of Feldbergs created the business that became TJX and BJ’s Wholesale Club.
  • They were among the first to recognize the importance of the suburban market and open stores outside of downtown retail areas.

 

Photo of Morris and Max Feldberg, TJX co-founders

Morris (left) and Max (right) Feldberg

Max and Morris Feldberg came to the United States from Russia in the early 1900s to escape conscription in the czar’s army. They first found work in a local variety store. Eventually, they would create their own retail empire.

The Feldberg boys settled in Chelsea, Massachusetts with their mother. In 1919, after working in a variety store, the brothers struck out on their own to launch a wholesale hosiery company called The New England Trading Company.

Ten years later, they launched their first retail operation, Bell Hosiery Shops. Within a few years, their product line expanded and the name was shortened to Bell Shops. By the end of World War II, there were nearly 30 Bell Shops stretching from New England to Washington D.C.

After a second generation of the Feldberg family, Stanley H. Feldberg (son of Max) and Sumner A. Feldberg (son of Morris) took charge of the business, they recognized the growing importance of the suburbs. They were among the first to open self-service, discount stores outside of downtown retail areas. The stores opened in Massachusetts in 1956 under the name Zayre taken from a phonetic spelling of the Yiddish word meaning “very” as in ”very good.”

Photo of TJ Maxx storeContinuing to innovate with changing times, Zayre launched a new off-price chain selling family apparel and home fashions in 1976 called T.J. Maxx and introduced a new warehouse retail concept to the Northeast called BJ’s Wholesale Club in 1984. The company grew through adding stores and acquiring brands until 1989 when a major restructuring sold off Zayre’s stores. BJ’s Wholesale Club was spun off to shareholders under the name Waban, Inc., and the company changed its name to The TJX Companies, Inc.

Today, TJX is the leading off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions with 3,300 stores in seven countries. There are more than 200 BJ’s Wholesale Clubs in 15 states from Maine to Florida.

Updated July 2016

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