A Family Tradition Passes to a Friend

Yudofsky Furriers, a Louisville company that has been in business for 90 years, nearly closed last month because of location issues. Now, it has been purchased by the owner’s friend and fellow member of the Jewish community.

The business, owned by Joy Yudofsky, was being forced to move from its Holiday Manor home because the Kroger there wanted to expand into its space, owner Joy Yudofsky said.

“I had the choice to close or relocate,” Yudofsky said. “I wasn’t about to move. I moved 10 years ago from Oxmoor, and it’s too much expense and work. But I hated the thought of leaving the city with no major furrier.”
She had several people – locally and regionally – interested in purchasing the business, but she wanted to make sure it went to the right person.

“Yudofsky is an old name, and I wanted to preserve the name in a good way. I would rather close than have the wrong person take over,” she said. “Lior (Yaron) is the right person.”

Just before Thanksgiving 2014, she called up her old friend, who was in Israel on business, and asked him if he wanted to buy Yudofsky Furriers. Yaron, owner of YSL International – a company that contracts with GE, had never thought of owning a fur business.

“I came back to Louisville and looked at the business,” Yaron said. “It took me two days to make a decision. Within 20 days, it was finalized.”
Although this purchase was not in Yaron’s plan, he’s not entirely new to fur. His maternal grandfather was born in Kovno (now Kaunas), Lithuania, which is the same town in which founder Joseph Yudofsky was born. Yaron’s grandfather opened his own fur business in 1923, but moved to Palestine (now Israel) when the Soviets took over Lithuania and opened the first furrier in Tel Aviv.

“Until age 11, I remember as a child the furs,” he said. “[The purchase of Yudofsky’s] wasn’t planned, but everything happens for a reason. It has come full-circle.” He called it bashert – it was meant to be.

Joseph Yudofsky started the furrier business with his brothers while still in his teens. He had been working in New York, planning to start his own manufacturing business, when his older brothers lost their jobs at a local furrier. When they started, they could only make one coat at a time; they would make it, sell it and then buy the pelts for another coat, Yudofsky said.

Joy Yudofsky learned the business from her parents and took it over when they died. “It’s impressive that I haven’t destroyed it,” she joked.

Yaron said the purchase was a no-brainer. “Yudofsky is an institution in Louisville,” he said. “You cannot argue with 90 years of business and success, and Yudofsky is synonymous with furs, luxury and credibility.”

The biggest challenge Yaron faced was finding a new location, and fortunately, he did. The new Yudofsky Furriers will be in the Shelbyville Road Plaza shopping center in the place where Dolfinger’s used to be. There will be a 1,200-square-foot vault for cold storage and a shop for cleaning, remodeling and alterations, he said.

“I had to Google how to care for furs!” he added. But he won’t be alone in this effort: Yaron is keeping all of Yudofsky’s nine employees, many of whom have been working there for 30 years or more.

Yaron hired Vadim Kaplan of Studio A Architecture to design the building inside and out. Kaplan designed Westport Village and is also a member of the Jewish community.

Inside the store will be a small runway, and Yaron plans to bring in fashion designers from Israel and Italy to do a show in the store by the end of the first year. For now, the store is on hiatus until the new location opens April 1.

“There will be a seamless transition,” Yaron said. “I have a great obligation on my shoulders to preserve and carry on the Yudofsky name with a new look and in a new direction.

“Yudofsky is a Jewish institution we should all be proud of. It’s a pillar of luxury. I have a sense of responsibility to the community. I could have changed the name, you know, but I didn’t dare!”

Yaron is looking forward to keeping the local furrier going for many years to come. “The fur business brings a lot of joy,” he said. “It is not a business of need; it is a way to treat yourself, spoil yourself. It is no different from diamonds.”

Joy Yudofsky is looking forward to her retirement and having the time to devote to her own hobbies. Now she can rest easily knowing her friend is in charge of carrying on her family legacy. “Everybody’s happy,” she said.

Leave a Reply