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language and adjust to a strange country and culture, they also grappled with heartbreaking sadness.

     Determined to make their lives meaningful, they saved enough money to open the first Birke's Department Store on Back Central Street in 1948.   There, they lived in a back room which was used for storage during the day.  At night, excess stock would be moved to the "store" to make room for cooking, dining and sleeping.  Their son, Lenny, slept in an orange crate on the floor.

     Some wholesalers refused to deal with Nathan because his business was so small, but one way or another, he changed their minds.  He waited for one New York wholesaler in the bathroom of his factory for three hours.  When the man finally came in to relieve himself, Nathan pushed him up against the wall and demanded, "You have to do business with me.  My money is as good as anyone's."  Shocked, the man agreed, and the two men eventually became lifelong friends.

    Woe be it to anyone who ignored this sign which
    "greeted" customers as they stepped into Birke's. 


Birke's moved from Back Central to Gorham to Market Street, where Sally continues to manage the store today.  Nathan passed away in 1992, and though the man is gone, his memory remains forever etched in the minds of Lowellians.  Although he was deft at buying wholesale, his approach to sales and customer relations would give most retailers nightmares.

     One day, handing Nancy Donohue, a prominent member of the Lowell community, a black crayon 

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