DescriptionOne of the largest businesses on the West Side in the early twentieth century the Baltimore Bargain House -- a mail-order wholesale business that employed over a thousand people and earned profits in the millions that grew to become the fourth largest wholesalers in the county. Driven by the devotion of Jewish Lithuanian immigrant Jacob Epstein, the Baltimore Bargain House became a hub for Southern Jewish merchants and a local business community. When firm's grand showroom at West Baltimore and North Liberty Streets opened in 1911, a crowd of 500 local businessmen, the Mayor of Baltimore, and the Governor of Maryland all attended the dedication.
After spending years himself as an itinerant peddler, traveling throughout Western Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Jacob Epstein first opened a small wholesale store in Baltimore in 1881. Epstein focused his attention on the American South, working specifically with Jewish peddlers and merchants. In the early 1900s, Epstein treated hundreds of merchants to annual visits to Baltimore to restock and view new merchandise. Arriving from North Carolina, Tennessee, and across the South, these merchants helped grow a successful and extensive business in Baltimore. Between 1881 and 1929 the Baltimore Bargain House was one of the most significant businesses in Baltimore, with gross sales over $34 million in 1921 alone, comparable to over $410 million today.
To operate the Baltimore Bargain House, Epstein also built a local community of employees, which included over 1,600 people. The workforce was relatively diverse, comprising of immigrants from various countries as well as industry experts from across the nation. Many workers remained employed at the Baltimore Bargain House for decades. Although remarkable for his considerable business acumen and the success of the Baltimore Bargain House, the business' founder, Jacob Epstein was also well known for his extensive charitable donations to local Jewish groups and to institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art.