Services have been held for Sheldon “Shelly” Gitman, co-chief executive officer of Gitman Brothers. Gitman, 84, died Aug. 2 in Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa. The cause of death was not immediately known.
This story first appeared in the August 6, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Born in Brooklyn, he was a son of the late Max Gitman, founder of the Ashland Shirt Co., a business that eventually became known as Gitman Brothers. The company was originally based in Brooklyn but moved to Ashland, Pa., in the Thirties, where it continues to be headquartered.
Gitman and his twin brother Alfred, known as “Alfie,” entered the family business in 1950 when the company had 125 employees. When they retired in 1995, Gitman Brothers had grown to employ 300 people and had seven salesmen. Today, the company is a division of Individualized Apparel Group, which purchased the brand in 1996, shortly after the retirement of the Gitmans.
John Minahan, Gitman’s president, said Sheldon and Alfred Gitman ran the factory in tandem during their 45-year tenure. “They were quintessential factory men,” he said. “What they did was make shirts. It’s a bygone era, but because of that, they created a culture that still exists today.”
Minahan said Sheldon ran the cutting room and the front of the factory, while Alfred oversaw finishing and the back of the factory. “They were always highly competitive with each other regarding daily production and quality numbers. They were on the floor all day complimenting and cajoling their people while studying the quality of every shirt produced. They were in total control of their manufacturing facility. Most of the daily procedures, terms and ways in the Gitman factory today were [started] by them. In 1978, with the help of seven young upstart sellers including Mickey Phillips (who just recently celebrated his 35th year of selling Gitman in the mid-Atlantic), they took a product that the new updated traditional stores loved, and branded it, naming it after the Gitman brothers.”
At its peak in the Eighties, Minahan said, Gitman Brothers was making 600,000 shirts a year for retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue and Paul Stuart.
Sheldon Gitman was a graduate of New York University Arts College and served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He was a member of Oheb Zedeck Synagogue in Pottsville, Pa., where he was a member of the building committee. He was also an avid clay target shooter and the captain of the Maccabi Shooting Team and had competed in the Maccabiah Games, which is known as the Israeli Olympics.
Gitman is survived by his wife of 50 years, Doris M. Reider; four children, David, Mitchell, Claudia and Gabriel; five grandchildren and his brother Alfred.