Originally created 04/28/01

Son keeps family business



Sitting in his father's old office in what was once his grandfather's building on Broad Street, Fred Daitch explains the roots of his family's business.

Mr. Daitch's wholesale uniform supply company is the result of his great-grandfather delivering dry goods from a horse-drawn surrey.

"That's really where it started," Mr. Daitch said. "Fischel Levy immigrated from Poland in 1889 and settled here in Augusta. His main business was peddling goods - pots, pans, dungarees - from a horse and wagon."

D.S. Hillman, 88, a former customer, remembers Mr. Levy's two-seat surrey pulling up to the house he lived in as a boy about eight miles north of Wrens.

"That surrey would be loaded with dry goods from Augusta, and it was an occasion," Mr. Hillman said. "He would stay the night with us - we'd see to that - and he'd head for Wrens in the morning."

Mr. Levy's daughter, Sarah, married Philip Daitch and they opened Daitch Department Store in Newberry, S.C., in 1919. The couple moved to Augusta in 1930 and opened Daitch Dry Goods Co. at 1216 Broad St., selling pantyhose, lingerie, Hanes underwear, blankets, kitchen sets and other domestic products.

Mr. Hillman bought a small retail store near Wrens in 1933. He developed a strong friendship and business relationship with Philip's son, Irvin, and stocked his shelves with goods from Daitch for more than 60 years.

"We had confidence in one another," Mr. Hillman said. "It was more than a business relationship - he would bring his kids to my place to go fishing ... and his wife would bake me a birthday cake every year. A wonderful family."

Fred Daitch operates the company, which has evolved into a wholesale uniform business, out of the same Broad Street building his grandfather bought more than 70 years ago. His father's office is now his own, and he has brought the third-generation business into the new millennium while nurturing a family legacy.

Mr. Daitch points to the area in the building where his grandfather's office once stood, and with a sweep of his arm gestures to the old shipping and receiving area. The past is kept alive in this building, and that's just the way Mr. Daitch wants it.

"I realize how successful my father and grandfather were in business, socially and with their families," Mr. Daitch said. "And I hope to one day be remembered the way they are. That's why I've remained in Augusta. That's why I do business in this building. When you come from something like that, you don't want to hurt it, you want to live up to it."

Mr. Daitch and his brother, Gary, began running the business with their father in the 1980s, and the partnership continued until Irvin died in 1995. Gary left to pursue other business interests shortly afterward.

Fred Daitch closed Daitch & Co. in 1998 and bought the building from his father's estate. He opened International Uniform Inc., a company selling medical, culinary, industrial and golf uniforms to businesses wholesale.

On Friday, Mr. Daitch opened International Uniform Outlet, a retail uniform shop supplied by the same wholesalers his family have used for nearly 70 years.

"I was getting 15 customer calls a day, unsolicited and unadvertised, asking for one or two uniforms," Mr. Daitch said. "I couldn't accommodate them - I had to send them to my competitors."

"My father always said, `Find a need and fill it,"' he said. "Now we can address any additional needs after the big order has been filled."

With an eye fixed on the past, Mr. Daitch is planning for the future. He hopes to renovate the third floor of the Daitch building into a home where he and his wife can retire.

"It's very emotional to me to walk into this building every morning and turn the key," Mr. Daitch said. "I'm the last of the Augusta generation, and this building is where I want to stay."

Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or jbanks15@hotmail.com.