My great-great grandfather, Charles Czarlinsky (the first) was born in Prussia on October 20, 1850. At the age of eighteen he immigrated to America, eventually settling in Jefferson City, with no resources other than his own intelligence.
He established a store in Koeltztown, Osage County, which he managed for several years before coming to Jefferson City in 1888. He became manager of the J. Siegfried clothing store, where he remained for ten years. He then helped organize the Globe Mercantile Company on March 3, 1899 with a capital stock of $10,000, he being secretary and manager of the company. On May 1, 1900 he purchased controlling interest of the Globe Mercantile Company, later calling it The Jumbo Store. Several years before his death, the store was moved to 304 East High Street and renamed Czarlinsky’s.
Charles’s son, Benjamin Czarlinsky, took over the family business after his brother Sol became ill and his father died. Benjamin was my great-grandfather and the father of my “Popo”(the name I called my grandfather, Charles “Charlie” Czarlinsky). I grew up in the Czarlinsky store under ownership of my grandfather.
Located on East High Street in downtown, Jefferson City, I remember the smells of the store; the scent of a man, strong and woodsy. I was enchanted with the beautiful jewel tones of the silk ties, the endless rows of crisply starched dress shirts, and the three-sided, full-length mirrors where I could dance and pose to my hearts content. I loved to take my shoes off inside the store and walk on the thick, wool carpet. Of course grandmother would shake her finger at me and tell me that ladies never went without shoes. My brother and I would often weave in and out of the clothing racks, hiding from our mother, whispered giggles from underneath the sports coats. Grandmother would follow us with a bottle of Windex, wiping tiny fingerprints from the glass display cases.
We spent a lot of time at the store. I truly believe my strong and outgoing personality was developed within the walls of Czarlinsky’s. My grandfather would have me sitting up on the counter top, granting me permission to operate the cash register, teaching me to smile and make small talk with each and every customer. It seemed that my grandparents knew everyone in town, I was in complete awe of their social circle!
On Saturday afternoons, after helping grandfather set out new merchandise and helping grandmother to dust the shelves and dress the mannequins, grandfather and I would sneak out the back of the store when grandmother wasn’t looking, and climbing into grandfather’s Cadillac, we would drive down the block to Central Dairy for peppermint stick milk shakes! On Thursday’s after school, grandfather would treat me to freshly fried onion rings at Daisy Delight, which at the time was located next to Czarlinsky’s.
We had our traditions, and my favorite was during the Christmas holiday! Grandfather offered to pay me one dollar for every Christmas bow I could make. I vividly remember sitting in the back of the store, just in front of the men’s silk ties, with a large, metal machine, almost as big as me! Grandmother would place a laundry basket underneath to collect the bows as they came off the bow maker. I would place a tiny, sharp piece of plastic (this would be how the bows attached to the wrapped boxes) and add just the right amount of shimmering, silky ribbon. Using every muscle in my body, my tiny hand would crank the spindle around and around until a beautiful bow was created. That first year that I was old enough, I turned out three hundred bows! And to my grandfather’s surprise, he quickly revised our agreement: “Did I say a dollar per bow? I meant a dime!” I was seven years old at the time, so I let it slide thatyear!
As I grew older, I was promoted from “bow maker” to “present wrapper!” I LOVED wrapping the gifts, although oftentimes grandmother would have to hurry me along, “This is not the time to be a perfectionist,” she would say as the customers were lined up waiting for their wrapped gifts.
When my grandfather passed away in 1999, Pastor Gene Roooney shared a story of my grandfather closing up his store one cold, winter’s evening and seeing a mother and her two children walking without any coats to keep them warm. Calling the woman and her children over, my grandfather walked to the back of his store, grabbing three coats of various sizes and giving them to this family in need. It was a story I had never heard, but I was not surprised.
Czarlinsky’s closed their doors in 1986; I was in junior high. My grandfather went on to sell men’s clothing at Dillard's in the Capitol Mall. He was a legend to all of his regular customers who often counted on him to choose their entire wardrobes for them – accessories and all – for each season. He was a true artist in the world of fabric, style, and color, and was known as the “master of the suit!” Today, in my office, as a reminder to me of what success truly is, I have his well-known-around-town license plate that graced his caddy all of his adult years: “C-suits.”