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Louis Zeiden: Clothier's personality a perfect fit for retail sales

| Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

When a customer died and his family couldn't afford to buy him a new suit for his funeral, Louis Zeiden did not hesitate.

“My father gave them a suit so they could bury their father and their husband,” said his son, Howard Zeiden of Baltimore. “It just demonstrates the man he was.”

Louis Zeiden of Shadyside died Friday in Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland. He was 97.

He was born in the Hill District on Oct. 28, 1914, to Isadore, a tailor, and Anna Zeidenschneider. The family moved to East Liberty, and he worked in his father's tailor shop. He shortened his name to Zeiden when he was married.

Though not a tailor, he followed in his father's footsteps by working in various men's clothing stores as a buyer and merchandise manager in Pittsburgh, Erie and Beaver Falls. When Isaac Baker & Sons in Beaver Falls burned down, he opened a men's clothing store there in 1966 and called it Zeiden's.

The store provided tuxedos for proms and weddings, and uniforms for millworkers and police officers, until he retired and sold the business in 1988. The store has since closed.

“He always said the customer was the most important thing in business,” his son said. “He basically would take anything back if somebody wasn't happy with it.”

Mr. Zeiden was so personable that customers going to the store just to buy underwear would ask for Lou, said his daughter, Barbara Mayl of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Friends introduced him to Ruth Friedman, and he took her dancing at the former Schenley Hotel. They were married in 1939.

The couple enjoyed playing bridge, and he was active in Rotary and Jewish organizations. He received the David Ben Gurion Award, the ZOA Citation of Honor and Menswear Retailer of the Year.

He taught his children about love, charity and respect.

“He loved me unconditionally, except for the time I crashed the car into the telephone pole,” Mayl recalled.

She remembers the time she and her father were walking on the main drag in Las Vegas when they spotted a dirty, unkempt woman in her 20s holding an upside-down baseball cap. He tossed $5 into the cap.

When Mayl asked him why he gave her some money, he answered, “Because she needs it more than I do.”

In addition to his children, Mr. Zeiden is survived by his companion, Harriet Lewis of Oakland; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, brothers Max and Saul, and sister Esther Klahr.

Visitation will be from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday in Ralph Schugar Chapel Inc., 5509 Centre Ave., in Shadyside. Services follow in the funeral home. Interment will be in B'nai Israel Cemetery.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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