Ruth Nachman, who as owner of a Roland Park gift shop made sure her customers never gave the same Christmas present two years in a row, died Thursday of Alzheimer's disease at Arden Court in Pikesville. The former Village of Cross Keys resident was 82.
For more than 40 years, she owned Gundy's, a gift shop whose shelves she stocked with wares she collected on her extensive buying trips. She once described her gifts' range as "from weddings through babies."
Born Ruth Kleeman in Nuremburg, Germany, where she was educated, she fled Germany as Adolf Hitler began to persecute Jews. She settled on West North Avenue in 1937, becoming a children's clothing buyer at the old May Co. on Howard Street. Later, she opened a women's clothing store on O Street in the Georgetown section of northwest Washington and commuted to work on the old Pennsylvania Railroad.
"She had great taste," said Licien "Lun" Harris of Bolton Hill, a friend for more than 40 years. "Most anywhere I ever went with Ruth, people came up and spoke to her. She had customers wherever she was. She was a very smart woman who was successful because she knew what people in her neighborhood would like to buy and she followed their tastes."
Mrs. Harris recalled her friend as having a quick mind that could solve difficult word puzzles. She said they searched for discarded puzzles in copies of the old Philadelphia Record left behind on the commuter trains seats. She and Mrs. Nachman, who commuted alongside former U.S. Reps. George H. Fallon and Samuel N. Friedel, worked the puzzle as they rode.
In 1953, she and her husband, Franklin E. Nachman, a certified public accountant she married in 1945, purchased a gift shop in the 5200 block of Park Heights Ave. in Pimlico. He died in 1971.
The couple kept the name of the Pimlico store, Gundy's, a shortened version of the surname of Harold Gundersheimer, its original owner. In the mid-1950s, they opened a second location at Roland Avenue near Deepdene Road, and closed the Northwest Baltimore store in 1971. Gundy's on Deepdene Road in Roland Park remains in business.
"Ruth said to me one day, 'Diane, I have plans for you,'" said Diane Lochte, a former employee who bought the store eight years ago. "She groomed me to take it over. She was a wonderful teacher and wonderful lady. Customer service was the most important thing to her. She was also a very good buyer."
Customers said Mrs. Nachman kept typed lists of which gifts her customers had given to which relatives and friends. Under her counter, she also had a box of naughty, suggestive cards, often purchased by Roland Park matrons, who mailed them as gags.
For customers who did not like commercial credit cards, she also had house charge accounts and mailed individual bills.
Mrs. Nachman traveled extensively, often selecting giftware on these trips.
Services were held yesterday.
Survivors include a sister, Irma Friedenberg of Pikesville; and nephews and nieces.