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New York Times

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From the January 17, 2014 edition of the New York Times

 

Clothier Outfits New York’s Clergy and Judges in Robes
Marvin NYTimesJan2014

That measuring tape dangling from Marvin Goldman’s neck is almost a  formality: Even at 85, he can size you up at 10 paces for your height,  weight and sleeve length.

Mr. Goldman’s modest garment district shop serves a powerful clientele, as a main purveyor of robes for clergy members and judges.

If you’re an archbishop, he can guess the jacket size for your cassock. If you are a judge seeking a robe, he can tell you whether you need a  ceremonial Magistrate model with billowed sleeves, for high-profile  appearances, or a workaday Docket style “shorter in length, more  ventilation” for the daily courtroom grind.

Mr. Goldman has outfitted the likes of Cardinal John J. O’Connor, as well as New York Stateā€’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman.

“One thing about these types of people - getting paid is no problem,” he  said, leaning on a long tailor’s table laden with bolts of fabric, next  to big, sooty windows with views of Midtown.

 Another plus is that business does not fluctuate with fads, although there are  spikes, such as in January, when a new set of judges is sworn in.

“You know how many judges they make in New York?”  he said. “Tons.”

Mr. Goldman, who walks to work every weekday at 7 a.m. from his apartment  on East 16th Street, has long run his company under two different names. Many judges know it as Craft Robe, while clergy members have known it for decades as the more Irish Catholic-sounding Duffy & Quinn.

“Depends who’s asking” said a winking Mr. Goldman, who grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

Mr. Goldman took over the business from his father, Harry, a clothier whose inventory included black suits for priests. When Harry died in the shop of a heart attack at age 61, his inexperienced son, at 28, reluctantly  took over the company.

“I was a boy, I was in diapers,”  recalled Mr. Goldman, who nevertheless  was astute enough to team up with an Irish salesman named Conahan to  cultivate business among the Roman Catholic clergy. Mr. Conahan would  introduce himself, then Mr. Goldman would simply nod and make his pitch.

“I was a Jewish kid from Brooklyn. What did I know from Roman Catholic clergy?” he said.

But he learned, and he began carrying more elaborate clerical outfits and  robes and accouterments. Now, he said, “I know what they need, more than they do.”

He bought into a competing firm, Duffy & Quinn. He lost Mr. Duffy and Mr. Quinn but kept the name.

“It’s remained a powerful name, especially among the clergy”  said Mr.  Goldman, who used to keep an annex near St. Patrick’s Cathedral. One  Saturday morning in the 1980s, Cardinal O’Connor walked in alone, asking about a cleaning for his traditional miter.

“I’m asking myself, Where have I seen this guy? He looks familiar,” recalled Mr. Goldman, who persuaded the cardinal to splurge on new  headgear.

The cardinal began referring members of the clergy to Mr. Goldman, who said he would jokingly tell the cardinal that he was Duffy & Quinn’s  best salesman.

Mr. Goldman began traveling each year to national meetings of Catholic  bishops, and other Christian groups. He became a familiar fixture there, with his rack of robes, and his makeshift showroom in a hotel room,  where he would measure and fit the prominent church officials.

“When they see me, they say, Duffy & Quinn, you still have my  measurements?” he said. “The trick is, to hold onto their  measurements, in case of those emergency calls.”

Mr. Goldman, whose sales include school uniforms and graduation and choir  robes and gowns, also sets up outside judges. gatherings, such as the  annual training sessions that New York State holds for its newcomers to  the bench. One recent weekday, he drove alone to the Crowne Plaza in  White Plains for one such session and set up his table and racks. By dinnertime, he was swarmed by new judges, trying on robes, asking his  advice and putting in their orders.

Mr. Goldman reminded these rookie jurists that they would need more than  one robe, especially if they are asked to officiate at weddings and  other events.

“Would you wear the same pair of underwear every day?”  he said as he slipped a robe on a chuckling judge.

Mr. Goldman said he thought nothing of loading the robe racks in his car  and driving four or five hours to outfit a group of new monsignors or  jurists.

Might he consider, one of these years, sending a younger employee for such a task?

“No, they want Goldman,” he murmured, adjusting that measuring tape around his neck. “They want Goldman.”

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