Bernard Joseph Lansky, 85, passed away peacefully at his home Thursday. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, a retail visionary, a businessman, a storyteller, and most notably, clothier to the King.
Founder of Lansky Brothers, Mr. Lansky started his retail business in 1946 on 126 Beale St. with a $125 loan from his father, Samuel. After World War II, the store started selling Army Surplus goods but when the supply dried up, he changed direction to a high-fashion men's store in the 1950s.
During this time, Mr. Lansky dressed many of the young musicians of Memphis, including a high school student named Elvis Presley. He was an influence in style for one of the most famous entertainers of all time. Mr. Lansky's popularity was created from dressing this one man, who became famous, but his legacy has been solidified by more than 65 years of customer service to people from the Mid-South and around the world.
Mr. Lansky was most proud of being a part of the inception of the Memphis music heritage. Besides dressing scores of musicians and performers from across American culture, he built stores and worked tirelessly to keep his customers looking sharp. Within the last few years, he was honored with his own Bernard J. Lansky Street sign on Beale Street, The Peabody Hotel's Duck Walk of Fame, and an Historical Landmark was officially placed by the Shelby County Historical Commission for Lansky Bros. contribution to Downtown Memphis' rich history.
Mr. Lansky's retail presence still remains with Lansky at The Peabody with second and third generations continuing his vision of bringing the latest in fashions to Memphis.
Mr. Lansky was the unofficial goodwill ambassador for tourists flocking to The Peabody Hotel and his shops. He loved working with all of the Lansky and Peabody Hotel associates. They affectionately referred to him as "Mr. B". He never met a stranger along the way and tourists were always grateful for the stories and the time they spent with him.
Mr. Lansky also leaves behind his comedic one-liners that were a testament to his true wit. On a whim, he was creative with words as if they were scripted. He used that humor and charm when conversing with customers. He would clothe customers and tell them they were "Clean as AJAX". This was a favorite of musician, Rufus Thomas, who regularly went on stage in Lansky clothing and said "Ain't I Clean?"
His biggest legacy, however, is his family. Mr. Lansky leaves behind his wife of 64 years, Joyce, son Hal Lansky (Geri), daughter Anise Belz (Ron), five granddaughters - Lia Lansky Pulver, Julie Lansky, Melisa Lansky Weisman, Rachel Belz and Rebecca Belz and two great-grandsons (Ethan and Max). He is also survived by his siblings Mildred Krasner, Frank Lansky, Bernice Banes and Alvin Lansky.
A public service will be held at Baron Hirsch Synagogue, 400 South Yates Rd., on Friday, Nov. 16, at 11 a.m., with interment to follow at Baron Hirsch Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be directed to Baron Hirsch Synagogue, Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab or Mid-South Chapter of Alzheimer's Association.