Great Neck’s ‘Fred the Furrier’ dies at 84

Great Neck’s ‘Fred the Furrier’ dies at 84

Fred Schwartz, a Great Neck resident and former fur dealer  known for his role as Fred the Furrier in television commercials in the 1970’s and 1980’s, died on Sunday. He was 84.
His wife, Allyne Schwartz, told The New York Times that her husband died at his home in Great Neck of pancreatic cancer.
According to The  Times, Schwartz was born on Oct. 10, 1931, in the Tremont section of the Bronx.
As a young boy, a New York Times obituary said, Schwartz would buy balloons for three cents a piece, then sell them  at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for 25 cents.
He was a graduate of William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx and received his degree in social science from City College.
His brother, Harold, hired Schwartz to work for him at his retail store in Manhattan’s fur district.
The brothers operated stand-alone retail stores and licensed the fur department at the S. Klein department store in Manhattan in 1967, where they remained until it closed in 1975.
They then took their company, the Fur Vault, to Alexander’s department store and Bloomingdale’s, where they sold their products under the name Northern Lights, according to the obituary.
The company expanded to other cities, the obituary said, and eventually included a men’s fur sportswear line.
Schwartz appeared under the Fred the Furrier persona in television advertisements through the 1970’s and 1980’s wearing his “signature designer glasses under a mane of silver curls,” the obituary said.
But, the obituary said, he was reluctant to step in front of the camera and become the face of his company.
Martin Shaw, the president of the advertising agency representing Schwartz’s company, persuaded Schwartz to accept the role.
“He told me the price of hiring an outside spokesman,” Schwartz told The  Times in 1980.
He said in the same interview that he felt uneasy with his last line in his company’s first commercial, which had him saying his full name.
“I looked at the last line and I told [Shaw], ‘I can’t say Fred Schwartz.’ And Martin said, ‘What do you mean you can’t say Fred Schwartz? That’s your name,’” Schwartz said. “He was getting panicky, and almost out of desperation I said, ‘What about Fred the Furrier?’”
Schwartz retired from the company in 2005 and went on to found the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation,  a study center in Poland with offices in other areas of the world devoted to genocide prevention, according to The Times.
He is survived by his wife, their four children, Steven, Amy and Gary Schwartz and Anni Kluger, seven grandchildren and his brother.

By Joe Nikic

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