Sol Kirk, who owned and operated a Park Heights men's shop for nearly three decades, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at Sinai Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 89.
Born Solomon Krichinsky in Baltimore -- he later changed his name -- and raised on East Monument Street, he graduated in 1936 from City College, where he was a member of the wrestling team. His father, William, was a member of the extended Krichinsky family portrayed in Barry Levinson's 1990 film Avalon.
As a young man, Mr. Kirk was a sales clerk at Seif's clothing store on Gay Street in Oldtown, but he soon wanted a place of his own.
When he asked an older brother, Ben Krichinsky, who owned a pawnshop, how to start out, he was told, "If you want to go into business ... you go into business."
In 1946, he leased a store on West Baltimore Street near Stricker.
"His mother, Minnie, had a little grocery store, and maybe that's where he learned to sell," said a son, Neil Kirk of Venice, Calif.
"He was a master retail salesman. He had a way of not letting a customer walk away," his son said.
"When a customer seemed as if he was not going to buy anything, my father would move in and say, 'We have things in the back we haven't put out yet.' Maybe he got a sale. Maybe he didn't."
Family members said Mr. Kirk liked to please his customers and, depending on their build, would say, "All jeans shrink" or "All jeans stretch."
About 1953, Mr. Kirk moved his shop to the Park Lane shopping center at Park Heights Avenue and Cold Spring Lane, where he remained in business until 1982.
"He ran the shop all the way. He opened the shipping boxes and tagged the shirts and put them on the shelves. He could hem a pair of pants in six minutes," Neil Kirk said. "He did his own display windows. He was a great window designer."
Mr. Kirk did his own buying and would sit in the store while salesmen unpacked their sample cases so that he could decide what he wanted.
"He catered to his clientele," his son said. "In the disco era of the 1970s, he had the tight body shirts, the John Travolta-inspired white suits and the African dashikis."
Mr. Kirk, who generally worked from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, closed the store 25 years ago because business was declining, and he did not want to move to a mall.
"He had an incredible work ethic," said another son, Harvey Kirk, who lives in Baltimore. "He worked because it kept him alive, and it kept him young."
Mr. Kirk left the menswear business and began working at Harvey Kirk's downtown Baltimore law firm, now known as Saiontz Kirk and Miles, where he conducted initial interviews of clients and did general office work until last month.
He played softball for many years, then switched to golf. He also enjoyed writing short poems to commemorate family events.
Services were held Tuesday in Pikesville.
In addition to his sons, survivors include his wife of 64 years, the former Gertrude "Gerry" Kerman; another son, Mitchell Kirk of Frederick; 14 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.