Photo of Herman Himelhoch (Cropped from The Detroit Free Press Photo on Previous Page, 05 February 2018)
Herman Himelhoch was the oldest son and died in 1943 at age 73. For years in Caro it was his dedication and family love that kept the bread on the table and sustained their family effort. Herman regularly worked from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. He performed janitorial duties, prepared his selling inventory, and then took care of all customers until the last one left. Finally, late at night he handled paper work. At 14, he made his first trip to the New York market. He made the store a fashion leader. He was one of the few long gone merchant geniuses who could run his hand over fabric with his eyes closed and evaluate it. After the Detroit store opened, he excelled at selecting his own piece goods and fur skins and helped his manufacturer buddies style their lines.
Henry Fredricks, once the nation’s largest coat manufacturers, told Chuck Himelhoch, Herman’s nephew, that when he was going broke in 1926, Herman saved his life when he created for him one of the great fashion highlights of the 1920s - the steamer coat. Herman designed the original 20ish tubular silhouette tweed coat with its large fox shawl collar, making Fredricks a very wealthy man.
Herman was responding to a need he observed when crossing the Atlantic for Paris showings. On one such trip, he had both his wife and mistress on the same ship. When Chuck Himelhoch first went into the market in the late 40s and early 50s, his buddies would regale him with similar stories, always starting with his fashion genius and pinochle skill, before getting around to the women. They also told of how they could infuriate him by kidding him about being born in Russia. No Courlander would accept Russia as his birthplace.
In later days, he deteriorated severely. Israel Himelhoch, his brother, said he had two faults - fast women and slow horses. He grew irresponsible buying “like a drunken sailor,” and losing the orders he had stuck in his pockets. He would take markdowns with a pencil which were never recorded. He appeared disheveled and harassed in contrast to the confident well-dressed executive he had once been.
In the early Detroit days, Herman and Charles, the namesake of Charles S. Himelhoch (Chuck), the third generation president of the store, left the business and opened a store in Bellingham, Washington. Herman returned in a few years after Charles died in a terrible death in a sanitorium with paresis. Herman married Edith, his millinery trimmer, in Bellingham. Israel’s reaction was that she had trimmed him.
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