“Mr. Press, a phone call for you from Cary Grant,” came over the store speaker. I figured it was a joke and was about to answer in a faux Cary Grant accent when an unmistakable voice interrupted me, “Mr. Press, Cary Grant here. Wonder if I scooted over to the store you might be available to show me some of those mahvalous Shaggy Dog sweaters I spot on my Ivy League pals.”
He followed through choosing a gregarious selection. For unto a year we also finished a couple of custom sport coats and blazers at his suite in the Warwick Hotel on West 54th Street. Indispensable fitter Felix Samelson asked him if he would autograph a selfie for his young daughter Judy. He signed it, “Judy, Judy, Judy, all my love, Cary Grant.” He laughingly told us he never uttered the famous fake quote. It’s all show biz. Daughter Judy grew up to become Editor-in-Chief of Playbill Magazine.
Meanwhile Cary Grant and a member of the Press family became tied together during a 44th Street sojourn. I introduced Mr. Grant to Cousin David O’Brasky, son of Grandpa Jacobi Press’ daughter, Marion. No, she didn’t marry an Irishman. Her husband’s father Chaim Abrashkun had arrived from the Russian Pale at Castle Garden before Ellis Island opened its doors. An immigration officer abbreviated their foreign sounding name to Abrashky. Shortly thereafter the family moved to an Irish neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut. The family name was again changed, this time to O’Brasky, a better fit for the neighborhood. Dr. Lou O’Brasky was a lecturer in Dermatology at the Yale Medical School
At the time Cousin David was Publisher of GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly). Here’s his “treasured” memory:
We met through you and agreed to have lunch....which took place in his suite at the Warwick…because Cary Grant could not comfortably eat out in NYC due to his celebrity.
He was intrigued, not only because of my J. Press connection, but also because I was publisher of GQ. I told him the men’s fashion industry needed a male version of Coty fragrance suggesting he pitch the idea to the head of Fabergé with whom he was associated. “Oh, I can’t David...he would want me as the spokesperson and that’s not a job I want.”
We parted amicably and he left to catch his plane at JFK for a personal emergency. It was Halloween. He had rented a cul-de-sac house in the Los Angeles Los Feliz neighborhood where his ex-wife and daughter lived. He let me know he would appear when she trick-or-treated that night ringing the doorbell himself. Some surprise for the neighbor...what a sweet man!
Hope he trick-or-treated in one of his J. Press Shaggy Dogs.
All’s Well That Ends Well.
Abrashkin – > Ashley
I have been a J Press customer for over 40 years, and although I have lived in Florida for 20 years and own 15 shaggy dogs, I still buy at least one every year. When I lived in New Jersey, I journeyed to your East 44th street store every spring and fall to experience superb service from Jerry Haber and John Jackson. Keep the stories coming!
Come back to Cambridge!
I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed reading your entries about your life and the lives of others through your memories of the business and the family history. I grew up in a suburb of New Haven and started my experience with J.Press. I graduated from high school in 1962. And immediately began a journalism career at the New Haven Register. I can still remember my pink pinpoint oxford shirt that was my first purchase at the New Haven store. Now three degrees later I am still have several of your sport coats. My only issue with J.Press is that your suits only come with trousers that are flat fronted. I like a single pleat that gives me a bit more room when I am seated. I have not looked into your made to measure and perhaps I would fid out that a pleat could be added. Keep the memories coming which remind me of a less casual time.
I cannot tell a lie: I was doing some home renovation recently at Lowe’s Home Improvement in North Carolina and the manager who assisted me was Cary Grant. Not THE Cary Grant, of course, but equally nice in his down-home Southern manner.
These stories are terrific! Thanks.
“Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame” The German original reads: “Tradition ist nicht die Anbetung der Asche, sondern die Weitergabe des Feuers”
In 1981, while visiting a great friend from Vanderbilt, I was introduced to J. Press. I had very little disposable income, being class of ‘80. I purchased a very heavy navy blazer that the store basically remade. It fit beautifully and once I had eaten my way out of it, my son took it to boarding school…the same one I attended. It is still in good shape! Brioni I think made it for you. Tough fabric!
I too greatly enjoy your stories about the history of J. Press! Please keep posting them!
I started buying beautiful J. Press clothing in your New Haven store when I was a post-doctoral student at Yale Law School at the end of the 60’s, continued buying them during the 70’s while teaching at Yale, then at your Cambridge store when I moved to Harvard, and finally at your Washington store when I moved to the University of Virginia. And now I buy from your online site. I treasure everything I bought from you, and take pleasure every time wear any of the countless items I acquired from you, from bow ties to braces, button-downs, and blazers! They are all uniquely yours, no one has ever been able to compete with them, and no one ever will be able to duplicate what you do! Viva J. Press!
Don’t let the bastards wear you down- keep it up- great stories of days we don’t want to forget!
Your stories are inexhaustible and absolutely amazing. Please keep J. Press alive. As Gustav Mahler once noted, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes but is the preservation of fire”. Or something like that-
Please keep up the stories of early days- there are still a few old boys who remember and enjoy the memories.