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Irving J. Shulman, Daffy’s founder
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Irving J. Shulman, Daffy’s founder

Irving J. Shulman, 96, the retailer who founded the chain of Daffy’s stores, died March 25, 2011. He came to the United States from Krolevets, Russia, at the age of six, grew up in Rahway, and lived in Manhattan at the time of his death.

Mr. Shulman began his retail chain with a single store and built a business that today has 17 stores in three states, a warehouse in Secaucus, and a buying office in Florence, Italy. Now in its 50th year in business, Daffy’s will open stores in Times Square and the Bronx later this year.

When he was a young boy, he sold clothes door to door after school in Rahway. During World War II, he went off to Europe to serve in the U.S. Army, but returned home to New Jersey and began a weekend auction business, selling everything from clothing to hardware.

In 1946 he and his brother opened a store in Hoboken, Mickey Finn’s, named for the “knock-out” bargains the brothers offered. When Daffy Dan’s Bargain Town first opened in Elizabeth in April 1961, he would spend the first half of the week scouring the lofts of New York’s garment district for close-outs, irregular clothing, and goods from bankrupt manufacturers; haul the merchandise back to Elizabeth; price and ticket it; and sell it on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

“He was basically a one-man show,” said Marcia Wilson, his daughter. “On weekends and during school vacations he would bring my brothers and me to work, sharing his love of the business.”

He was famed for his wacky promotional stunts that brought shoppers into his stores in droves. He sold silver dollars for 88 cents, once posed a moving mannequin on the roof of the store that appeared posed to jump, and parked a leased Rolls Royce outside the store to advertise his logo: “Shopping Bargains for Millionaires.”

As the company shortened its name to Daffy’s and began to expand in the 1980s, he took an active role as chairman and CEO. Under his direction, Daffy’s was one of the first retailers to open in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. He continued to work until December 2010, when he became ill.

He was active in retailing groups and Jewish philanthropy. In 2000, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations to honor the contributions made by immigrants.

Predeceased by his wife of 58 years, Shirley Weinstock, in 2000, he is survived by his daughter, Marcia Wilson of New York; two sons, Robert J. of Houston and Michael C. of Austin, Texas; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Services were held March 27 with arrangements by Riverside Memorial Chapel, New York City.

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