Claim: The discount chain E.J. Korvette took its name from a shortening of 'eight Jewish Korean War veterans' in honor of its founding partners.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, December 2005]
Origins: Korea in the 1950s. Eight earnest young dogfaces forge a bond of comradeship in the crucible of war. They have come to rely upon one another for their very lives; each knows his survival rests in the others' hands. Vigilance, courage, and their commitment to each other are ultimately rewarded; each manages to survive his tour of duty and make it safely home.
Back stateside, they pool their meager G.I. earnings to start a business, trusting once again to their comradeship to see them safely through. They name their fledgling retail operation in honor of themselves, coding the message of who they are into the appellation they create.
Hard work and business acumen parlay this humble beginning into an empire. The eight Jewish Korean veterans go on to live deserved lives of luxury as their chain,
Or at least, that's the way lore would have this story play out. But the whole thing was just a tale, one that grew up around the idea that the odd name fronting a
Those enthralled by the rumor found its premise quite plausible in view of Korvette's emergence in the post-Korean War, the prevalence of Jewish entrepreneurs in the retailing industry, and the fact that the chain did initially employ a number of the founder's army buddies. Besides, no one had ever heard of a
Which, indeed, it had been. The wonder-lovers were right about that; what they erred on was the meaning behind the name.
What Eugene Ferkauf brought to the American landscape was a very different type of mass merchandising retail outlet:
Author David Halberstam described Mr. Ferkauf's philosophy: If he could make a one-dollar profit selling a refrigerator, he could make a million-dollar profit selling a million of them.
Mr. Ferkauf's unconventionality was legendary. In a button-down time, he wore neither suits nor ties, preferring sport shirts and sweatshirts. He had no secretary and no office. In the casual banter he relished, he often slipped in Yiddish expressions. If he had to meet a banker, he used the lobby of the Plaza Hotel.
Ferkauf was well acquainted with the anti-price-cutting provisions of the Miller-Tydings Act. His dodge was clever: making Korvette technically a "membership store." To qualify for this loophole, Korvette was closed to the general public, but only by a nose. The threshold to membership was low: There was no application policy or admissions fee or initiation rite. Flashing a union card or a driver's license was validation enough but even customers without identification could join, since Ferkauf and his wife Estelle blanketed nearby office buildings with thousands of free "membership cards." Korvette employees passed out more cards to passersby on the street. It was almost impossible to walk down
When competitors sued, Mr. Ferkauf simply changed suppliers. Many came back to him hat in hand not only to solicit his business, but also to offer him even lower prices in order to land his mass orders.
Barbara "e.j. core unvetted" Mikkelson
Last updated: 22 September 2013
Ferkauf, Eugene. Going Into Business: How to Do It, by the Man Who Did It. New York: Chelsea House, 1980. ISBN 0-877-54135-3. Groner, Jonathan. "The Neatness of Myths." The Washington Post. 1 April 1979 (p. B7). Martin, Douglas. "Eugene Ferkauf, 91, Dies; Restyled Retail." The New York Times. 6 June 2012. Shell, Ellen Ruppel. Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59420-215-5 (pp. 30-35). The New York Times. "On the Origins of a Retailer." 12 October 1980 (p. C4).