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Sol Solk, Men’s Wear Retail Exec, Dies at 85

The longtime men's wear executive headed Grodins' merchandising.

Funeral services were held Monday for Sol Solk, the former executive vice president and general merchandise manager of the San Francisco-based Grodins men’s wear chain. Solk died after a brief illness on Nov. 16 at the age of 85.

This story first appeared in the November 22, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

A native of Chicago who led a howitzer Army unit in the European theater during World War II, Solk settled in the Bay Area after the war and established himself as one of the preeminent buyers of tailored clothing with retail operations including Hastings, then a division of Hart, Schaffner & Marx, and Pauson’s. He joined Grodins in 1972 and served as gmm during an expansion that saw the firm grow to 40 stores. Following Grodins’ closure in 1987, he spent a dozen years consulting with several men’s apparel firms before retiring in 1999.

Solk’s thick 6-foot, 3-inch frame — and the power of his considerable pencil during Grodins’ heyday — could be intimidating to the many wholesalers who dealt with him. “He had this gruff, tough exterior, but underneath he was an extremely sensitive man who was above all else a merchant,” said Jack Abelson, the retail real estate consultant who served under Solk as furnishings buyer. “He truly loved to buy and sell merchandise, especially tailored clothing.”

Both subordinates and suppliers knew they’d tried his patience when “he would pull his trademark granny glasses down to the end of his nose and just stare,” Abelson recalled. “He wouldn’t say anything, but you knew you were in trouble.”

The longtime resident of Palo Alto, Calif., valued a strong work ethic above almost all else. The highest compliment he could pay someone, his former associate noted, was “that guy really works for a living.”

Solk is survived by a son, Phillip; two daughters, Natalie Dahling and Marsha Beer; five grandchildren, and his brother Seymour. His wife, the former Sylvia Burrows, died several years ago.

A memorial service for Solk was held at Congregation Beth Am, in Los Altos Hills, and interment followed at Hills of Eternity Memorial Park in Colma, Calif. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Hadassah.