Obituary: Sam Wolkin / Polish immigrant, savvy buyer for former Treasure Island chain

Died July 24, 2006

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Sam Wolkin drove a hard but fair bargain as a buyer and merchandise manager for the old Treasure Island department store chain.

It's a field he entered following a stint in the Army during World War II. He worked for the chain for 52 years, retiring in 1999.

Mr. Wolkin, of Squirrel Hill, died Monday. He was 91.

It was another place and time when Mr. Wolkin, who was born in Poland, became a store buyer:

A time when you didn't need street signs to maneuver New York City's garment district -- you went by numbers, said his son, Gary Wolkin of Wilkinsburg.

A time when he knew all the salesmen and the manufacturers and they all knew him.

"He really learned his trade fast and was very good at it," his son said.

A young man in his 20s, Mr. Wolkin had narrowly escaped to Pittsburgh from Nazi-occupied Poland.

His mother had died when he was a toddler, and her mother and siblings had moved to the Garfield/Morningside area. When the Nazis invaded Poland, Mr. Wolkin's father sent him to live with them.

"He said he knew when they were at the train station, his father and brother and stepmother, he would never see them again," Mr. Wolkin's son recalled.

His father, stepmother, older brother and two younger siblings died in the Holocaust.

Mr. Wolkin was here only a few months before he was drafted into the Army and sent to the Pacific. He received his citizenship papers while in New Zealand, his son said.

He studied pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh when he returned Stateside. He was told, however, he'd have to repeat a semester after missing school with a bout of malaria.

He decided to get a job instead and landed one with the Treasure Island chain, which had stores in East Liberty and Youngstown and Steubenville, Ohio, according to his daughter, Dr. Sharon Wolkin of Emsworth. The company also had a chain of lingerie stores called Nolla Shops, for which Mr. Wolkin also served as a buyer.

"He was smart and exceedingly knowledgeable on all aspects of our business," said Dan Castleforte, of Churchill, a retired salesman for a lingerie manufacturer.

"The bottom line was he made money for his employers and he was fair enough to let you make some money."

John Pogranzni, of Whitehall, said his association with Mr. Wolkin dated to the 1960s when Mr. Pogranzni worked as a sales representative.

"They were fun days. We had great shows at the ExpoMart. I worked with him in East Liberty," said Mr. Pogranzni, a retired regional sales manager.

Dr. Wolkin said her father loved the Pirates and classical music and would accompany her to Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concerts.

In addition to his children, he is survived by his wife, Charlotte.

A funeral service was held yesterday at the Burton L. Hirsch Funeral Home in Squirrel Hill.

Monica Haynes can be reached at or 412-263-1660.


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