Tell Me About Finkelstein's

The historic Towson shop closed years ago, but pieces of it are still around.

I've lived around Towson all my life, but I'm still learning new things.

Every so often, a source might mention the "Finkelstein's building" on York Road. That's the building in the 400 block that now houses , and the Towson Arts Collective.

Until 1994, it was home to Finkelstein's, the department store whose sign still adorns the facade.

I never knew much about it. I figured it was a longtime haunt that had left after many years.

But yesterday, as I left the framing gallery, I noticed old advertisement clippings from The Jeffersonian framed on the staircase.

The clippings hawked big sales on clothes. Khaki pants for 89 cents. Men's work shoes for $1.77. Straw hats for 95 cents. That sounds like a bargain until you realize that's 1930 prices, and America was in the throes of the Great Depression.

Another clipping touted a big first anniversary event and had a picture of the very building I was standing in.

Finkelstein's, I discovered, was a department store and Towson icon.

Finkelstein's started back in 1922, when immigrants Ellis and Fannie Finkelstein, who operated a small grocery store in West Baltimore, moved to Towson to open a clothing store on Chesapeake Avenue, a space most recently occupied by .

The Finkelsteins called it Towson Bargain Store. A 1994 Baltimore Sun article wrote that it was then the biggest department store in Baltimore County. The shop moved to the larger space at 408 York Road in 1929, right before the Great Depression. It survived through a mix of ingenuity and tenacity.

Ellis Finkelstein died in 1951 and sons Jack and Arnold took over the business, which was quite successful over the next few decades. But changing shopping habits, among other things, led the store to close in 1994, the Sun reported (when I would have been just six years old).

If you look around, though, you'll find traces of it. The oak floor of the Green Turtle, the sign outside and old clippings telling you to "Stop! Read! Heed!"

So, Towson, since I'm curious, you tell me. What do you remember about Finkelstein's? Share your stories in the comments. And if you have photos, share them using the "Upload Photos and Videos" button on this page.

Daniel Kelly March 01, 2012 at 07:30 PM
I remember my mother taking me there for school clothes in early August for a number of years. Was a great shop with wonderful customer service. It's a shop that will be missed.
scott morton March 01, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Wooden plank floors there if I remember correctly. Great memories of buying jeans and boots there. I wish they made the move to Kenilworth like Towson Bootery did. They might have survived.
Charles Carman March 02, 2012 at 01:32 AM
I remember Jack and Arnold very well my catholic schoool clothes come from ther every August> Both men knew my parents well and knew exactly what we needed from clothes to shoes. The first store on Chesapeake Ave was sol to my Mom's aunt Mrs. Catherine Dannenmann Ashby where she opened the first beauty salon in Balt Co. The sign over the door still says The Ashby Building. The seervice Jack and Arnold gave is lost now what a shame. Charles Carman
PatchFriend March 02, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I can recall two types of interactions with Finkelsteins.They graciously allowed me to use the store and the clothing to do a photo shoot for the class of 1981 Parkville yearbook feature on style. I got to dress my models in any clothing I selected and it was soooo fun and well-received! THEN I worked there briefly in the early 1983. Jack and Arnold were kind of aloof. I took the job to get the store discount to buy those suede kelly green tennis shoes they used to have. The fascinating thing to me was the endless parade of rich Moms that dropped off their kids, gave you a budget, told you how many outfits they needed for summer camp or school, and you got to select entire wardrobes! I would grab the most expensive duds in the place and deck these kids out! I gave the Mom's a total in a few hours after they came back, and they never blinked an eye! Classic!
diane March 02, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Finklesteins was THE place to go for back to school clothes..I remember it being very big and with lots of wood. Probably got my jeans there every school year.
Josh Klein March 02, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I remember always getting my Duckhead Khakis and Sebagos every school year... Lol
Claire March 02, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Scenes from the movie based on Anne Tyler's novel The Accidental Tourist were filmed there.
Bonnie Hauge March 02, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I lived in Towson for 40 yrs before recently returning to Texas to circle the family wagons. In the '80's I bought the most beautiful pair of western dress boots - now being worn by my 26 year old granddaughter. Talk about quality! I loved Finkelsteins and the wood plank floors!
Susan Neeks March 07, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Susan Neeks I grew up shopping at Finkestein's buying everything from head to toe including Levi jeans and Frye boots. There was something for everyone in the family. Finkelstein's carried every popular brand for all seasons. I remember their first Midnight Madness sale when people were lined up around the block. It was so innovative! I recall a young man named Roy, whom I later found out was a third generation Finkelstein working in the store. I frequently brought the whole family in to be outfitted and Roy Finkelstein took over! Finkelstein's was truly an institution that was "one of a kind". Its place in the Towson landscape will never be forgotten.
Jason Finkelstein March 09, 2012 at 04:29 AM
I'm Arnold Finkelstein's grandson. I spent my early youth running across those wooden plank floors and hiding behind the racks of Levi's jeans. I spent my later youth sweeping the floors at the end of the work day with a heavy old push broom. And then even later, was lucky enough to wear the Finkelstein's "uniform" to school - khaki pants, blue oxford shirt, navy blazer, leather belt, and dark brown leather wingtip Bucks shoes. I'm honored that people on this list have such fond recollections of this store. From my perspective, it's truly a Towson landmark, both public and for me, personal.
Tyler Waldman March 09, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Wow, that's amazing. I actually bumped into Ray last night at a community meeting, and it's good to see we stirred some vivid memories with this.
Keri Finkelstein Schless March 09, 2012 at 12:12 PM
I'll never forget my 1st job at Finkelstein's...I was 6 or 7...Arnold, my grandfather handed me a box of pins and had me one by one pick the pins from the wood plank floor. He literally wanted to teach me from the ground up! I loved the people who worked there and the customers. Finkelstein's had a warm neighborhood feel where people loved to visit. Like an extended family. I remember back in the 80's the beach shop in the front of the store-packed with Jams, Quick Silvers, Op's, to name a few, the shoes dept w/Nikes, Timberlands, Justin boots, Vans and best of all my grandfather's smile :), and yes who can forget that huge pair of Levi's that hung in the jean shop...my dad, Roy taking me on buying trips all over :) such amazing memories that will forever warm my heart
Tyler Waldman March 09, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Excuse me, I meant Roy. That's what happens when I write around midnight.
Makerwun November 29, 2012 at 11:46 PM
It was the ONLY store my father allowed us to school shop in - it was an all day affair drive up from Bmore, eat lunch at Beefsteak Charlies in the mall or hang at the library (YUUUUM!!!), then home. I soooo wanted to take my oldest there but it was already a distant memory
ron maher January 20, 2013 at 04:44 PM
I have a Finkelsteins Parking token ever heard of one?


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