ATLANTA — Arnold Helman, a pioneer of the big multiline apparel sales firm who ran one of the largest showrooms in the Southeast, died Saturday, April 29, at his home here, apparently of a heart attack, after a bout with kidney cancer. He was 75.

Helman opened in 1980 and was one of the Atlanta mart’s original and most successful tenants. He also had showrooms in Miami and Charlotte, N.C., before concentrating the business in Atlanta in the mid-Eighties.

At its peak in 1989, Helman’s Atlanta showroom occupied 18,000 square feet and represented 30 lines, including Maggie London’s divisions and Adrienne Vittadini.

In recent years, the showroom shrunk to 4,600 square feet and had about 15 lines. His wife of 50 years and business partner, Marian Helman, said she and daughter Lisa, also a partner, had decided to close the showroom last week because of her husband’s illness and the challenges of business.

Helman’s career in women’s apparel sales spanned 45 years. Born in New York, he grew up in Philadelphia, was graduated from Penn State University, and worked for several men’s apparel firms before joining women’s apparel lines, including Cobb’s Corner and Miss Adventure in the mid-Sixties.

Helman saw the potential of regional markets as an attractive alternative to the life on the road of a traveling salesman, his friends said.

“He was the first and most successful rep to incorporate show biz,” said Milton Crane, former sales rep and director of buyer relations for AmericasMart. “He was the first to use telemarketing, mailings and the first to introduce gracious entertaining during markets. All the things people take for granted now were Arnold’s ideas. He created an experience that helped get the Atlanta mart established.”

Buyers flocked to Helman’s showroom, with its full kitchen and wait staff serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and cocktails during markets.

“He created the right environment and created a link between customers and manufacturers,” said Larry Lefkowitz, president, Maggie London International Ltd., the New York dress firm that Helman repped for 26 years.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.