Berlin (Berlinsky) Family

114–116 King Street

Berlin’s Clothing, at the corner of King and Broad streets, one of Charleston’s oldest family-owned retailers, began as a small dry goods and clothier’s shop. Henry Berlinsky (1852–1924), a native of Poland, opened his first store on lower King Street within a few years of his arrival in Charleston. In 1883, he relocated his successful shop to the retail district above Broad Street, moving into today’s 116 King Street (Berlin’s Women’s). Berlinsky lived upstairs, above the business, with his wife, Lilly (1855–1938), and their children. As their sons grew up, they joined Henry Berlinsky’s staff (Sam later recalled having gone to work at the age of thirteen).

Just after the turn of the twentieth century, Sam and his older brother Ben expanded the family business by moving into the store at the corner of King and Broad, two doors down from their father’s shop. Unlike their father, who devoutly upheld the Jewish prohibition on trading on the Sabbath, the Berlinsky brothers intended to do business on Saturdays. Not only did Henry Berlinsky refuse to join them, but he told his sons if they opened their store on Saturday, they would have to do it under a different name from his. Ben and Sam had their names legally changed to Berlin, and in 1902, they established the firm of Berlin Brothers. A decade later, Ben Berlin moved to New York, where he manufactured children’s and boys’ clothing, and Sam, the younger brother, took charge of the Berlin Brothers’ retail business.

In 1927, the brothers purchased the corner property where their business was headquartered. They renovated and modernized it, building a new section along King Street to connect the three-story corner building to their father’s earlier shop. The grand opening on the evening of September 29, 1927, featured an orchestra, souvenir gifts, and, in a nod to local custom, no sales.

Berlin’s, 2017

Berlin’s, 2017

Corner of Broad Street. Photo by Jack Alterman.