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Mike Blumenfeld, Builder of Bloomingdale’s Beauty, Dies at 90

Services are scheduled for July 3.

Beauty veteran Myron Blumenfeld has died at age 90.

Blumenfeld, who went by Mike, is credited with building the beauty department at Bloomingdale’s into a substantial business. He was with the retailer for 36 years, moving up from his first job as an assistant buyer in the home furnishings and bedding department to vice president of cosmetics.

Blumenfeld helped establish the beauty and fragrance offerings of brands such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg and Estée Lauder. That work got him plenty of face time with the leading figures in the industry — in one anecdote, his daughter, Riva Blumenfeld, recalled the day that Leonard Lauder (now chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.) was unhappy with the Lauder brand’s position in the store, and brought his mother, Estée, to have a conversation with Bloomingdale’s then-chief executive officer Marvin Traub. Blumenfeld’s response was, “Next time, I’m going to bring my mother.” 

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“Mike Blumenfeld was one of the true heroes of the cosmetic renaissance in New York and the USA,” Lauder said. “He was a longtime cosmetic buyer of Bloomingdale’s and opened his arms and brains to anyone who wanted to be part of the Bloomingdale’s revolution he had started a few years earlier. He was charming, funny, loving…and brilliant. He will be missed.”

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Riva, one of Blumenfeld’s three children, recalled how she used to visit him at work, and that in the elevator, he couldn’t help but strike up a conversation with the elevator operator, or almost anyone, for that matter. 

“In a field like that, where you need to be a bit of a showman, he was super successful,” she said.

Work — particularly the mentoring side of it — came home with Blumenfeld, Riva recalled, and his mentees, who included Robin Burns and Muriel Gonzalez, stayed in touch long after Blumenfeld left the retail world.

“I remember my mom hosted a dinner party for them — my dad adored these people, and they adored him…he wasn’t a big shot anymore…but he had trained them and they still respected what he did for their careers,” Riva said.

For his second career, Blumenfeld focused on the environment. He retired in his 50s when his first wife, Gloria, became ill, and moved the family to Long Island, N.Y. There he started a program called Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, now called Residents Forward, that focused on things like putting telephone wires under ground and planting trees in the Port Washington, N.Y., area, Riva said.

“He had a whole career as an environmentalist,” she said.

After his wife died in 1987, Blumenfeld married Ruth Yanowitz, a Port Washington native, in 1988. Yanowitz died in 2010. He was pre-deceased by his son Joshua and is survived by two children, Riva and Eve, their husbands Jeff and John, and four grandchildren: Ariel, Moriah, Jake and Cole. He is also survived by his sister, Gail Guttman, and many other relatives.

A passionate and hard worker, Blumenfeld also had his quirks, his children pointed out. One was mixing milk into other beverages — like orange soda or orange juice. Another was thinking he spoke languages that he was far from fluent in — like French — and assuming others would understand.

“He didn’t know a word of French,” Riva said. “He’d use his two words [that he knew]…then he would just talk and assume they would understand him.”

A service will be held at the Star of David Memorial Chapel at 1236 Wellwood Avenue in West Babylon, N.Y., on Tuesday at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Residents Forward, the Port Washington Library or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

In addition to his Port Washington-based initiatives, Blumenfeld was on the boards of the Environmental Planning Lobby and the American Friends of Neot Kedumim, in Israel. He also served as chairman of the Long Island State Park Commission and served two five-year terms as a library board trustee.

For his 90th birthday, the children’s librarian in town wrote Blumenfeld a book, called “The Hats of Mike,” Riva said.

“When he was at Bloomingdale’s he would wear a hat for all the big openings,” she said. “He had a bigger-than-life attitude.”