Country of origin: Russia
Headquarters: Framingham, MA (TJX), Westborough, MA (BJ’s)
2020 revenue: $32.1 billion (TJX)
Employment: 320,000 (TJX, worldwide), > 25,000 (BJ’s, U.S.)
TJX Ranked 97 in the 2021 Fortune 500
Two generations of Feldbergs created the business that became TJX and BJ’s Wholesale Club.
They led the expansion of self-service, discount stores beyond urban retail areas.
Max and Morris Feldberg came to the United States from Russia in the early 1900s to avoid being conscripted into 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.
A decade later, they expanded with their first retail operation, Bell Hosiery Shops. Within a few years, they diversified their products 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 led the expansion of self-service, discount stores beyond urban retail areas. The stores opened in Massachusetts in 1956 under the name Zayre, derived from a phonetic English spelling of the Yiddish term for “very,” as in “very good.”
Continuing 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. To discover other immigrant entrepreneurs who have founded companies in the Fortune 500, explore the research report New American Fortune 500 in 2021.
Updated July 2021