Big & Tall founder Jerome Moskovitz, 91

One might think that the founder of a clothing chain for "big and tall" men would be big and tall himself — someone who knew how difficult it was for large men to find clothes that fit properly.

But the enterprising Jerome Moskovitz, founder of Rochester Big & Tall clothing stores for men, stood just 5 feet 4 inches tall.

Moskovitz, who lived in San Mateo, died Nov. 29. He was 91.

Born in Oakland, Moskovitz was the son of a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, who opened a tailor's shop on the corner of Third and Mission in San Francisco.

Along with his older brothers, Moskovitz began working in the store as a teenager.

"He grew up in the streets of Oakland," said his son, Myron Moskovitz of Berkeley. "He didn't have extensive education and had friends that got in trouble. His older brothers brought him in to settle him down and give him a future."

Their plan worked. Moskovitz was smart, and in 1957 he became president of the store, which then grew into a chain. "There was a real entrepreneurial spirit in the place," said Myron Moskovitz. "They were always trying to find a niche not filled by other people."

In the 1960s Moskovitz changed the store to specialize in fashions for larger men, and by 1967 he was chairman of the board, a position he held until 1999.

"He had a great personality," said his son. "He was very friendly and good with people. That showed up in his dealings with people outside the store."

It was in the living room of Jerome and Esther Moskovitz's home that Peninsula Temple Beth El was founded in 1950. At that time, there was no Reform synagogue from San Jose to San Francisco, recalled Sanford E. Rosen, rabbi emeritus of Beth El.

Moskovitz served as president of the synagogue's men's club.

Rosen said that Jerome and Esther Moskovitz were extremely loyal members of the temple, as well as his close personal friends.

He remembered one time when Moskovitz was overjoyed that he could sell the rabbi a suit, as he needed a "stout."

"He was a very warm, sweet and wise man and an extremely loyal and helpful friend, one of the best friends I've ever had," said Rosen. "He was extremely popular wherever he went. He had a certain way about him."

Moskovitz was a baseball fan, buying season tickets for the Giants' games and often going to spring training.

He was once honored as Man of the Year by the City of Hope.

In addition to wife Esther and son Myron, Moskovitz is survived by his daughter, Janet Hastings of Oakland, and three grandchildren.

Contributions can be made to the charity of your choice.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."