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humble-beginnings

From Humble Beginnings

From Humble Beginnings
From Baltimore Sun Newspaper

 

In 1907 Solomon Schapiro immigrated from Lemberg, Austria to begin recycling scrap metals and textiles under the company name Schapiro and Sons. Today, William Schapiro heads the family business, now called Whitehouse & Schapiro, LLC.

 

Leonard Whitehouse graduated from high school in 1934, desperate for a job. His uncle found him one. But when he got to the Hippodrome Theater, all the ushers’ uniforms were too big.

 

If he hadn’t been so short, Leonard Whitehouse would never have become a giant…, never would have taken that $11-a-week job working for Solomon Schapiro’s two oldest boys during the Great Depression. Never would have left the business 13 years later with Sol’s third son, Danny, to start their own.

 

Never would have made old Schapiro & Whitehouse into what was once the largest, classiest secondhand clothes business in the world.

 

“They are legends,” says Ella Clemente, co-owner of a used clothing business in New York. “They were the Tiffany’s of the used clothing industry.”

Schapiro and Whitehouse sold the business 20 years ago. But Leonard Whitehouse, all 79 years of him, is still around, still buying and selling rags, sending clothing from the out-of-the-way places of American cities to out-of-the-way markets of the world. Danny Schapiro, 84, is still around, though his occupation is golf, not used clothes.

 

Theirs is an untold story about Baltimore’s industrial history. About the rag and garment trade, which has long been dismissed as a dirty industry. About a time when Baltimore was No. 1.

 

“Baltimore used to be the capital of used clothing,” says Ed Stubin, a grader and exporter in Brooklyn, N.Y. “And that was because of Schapiro & Whitehouse. Everyone in the world knew that corner they were on, Parkin and McHenry.”

 

Leonard Whitehouse was just 15 when he was hired by Sol Schapiro and his two oldest sons, Joe and Ben. Back then, used clothing was ripped into rags. Depending on the quality, the rags were used as wipers for machinery or in roofing insulation or paper.

 

Read how the Baltimore Sun explore the history of Whitehouse & Schapiro in the ‘90’s for an illuminating article.