Saturday, February 2, 2013

Who Is Jack Robbins?

My kid has had this shirt for the past year or two:


Like a lot of clothing in Japan, although not as much as in the past, it has some inscribed English about which the wearer may be utterly clueless.  Or it may be the name of the foreigner who, say, helped introduce flavored yogurt or the flush toilet to Japan during the Meiji period and every single Japanese schoolkid knows his name and there is a statue to him on a hillside somewhere in Kyushu.

Well, both my son and wife professed utter ignorance of any "Jack Robbins", and they both seemed a little puzzled why I would be wondering about this.  Google yielded no "Jack Robbins" who would likely to be on a kids shirt in Japan.  LinkedIn came up with 63 Jack Robbins, each one of whom seems to be some middle aged guy effecting change and innovation in a suburban office park.

Confronted with this dry well, I dug a little deeper.  Here is a closeup shot of the shirt:


If you google "Jack Robbins Clothes of Distinction" and look at the image results:


Bingo!  And definitely a flashy nighttime sign:


It turns out that Jack Robbins was a menswear store in the Belmont area of Chicago, apparently for at least 2 generations of Robbinses.  It was a local landmark at best, not even particularly renowned in Chicago, basically a local family store fondly remembered by the neighborhood.

Jack Robbins stayed in business until about 2006 when "Irv" acquired the place and who (incompletely) covered up poor Jack.


You can still see a bit of Jack's crown peeping out at the top.

Irv's was not long for this world, as the place burned in 2009 and was demolished:


No word on whether there was an arson investigation....

A sad end for the venerable Jack Robbins sign:


But a bit of Jack remains, as the store owners had the foresight to have "Jack Robbins" also engraved in the sidewalk entryway:


And so Jack Robbins lives on in Belmont, where the store site is now used as a dog park:


So this does answer the "Who is Jack Robbins" question.

Yet, how and why he came to also be emblazoned on a child's shirt in Osaka remains a mystery.

 

10 comments:

Matteo said...

What a wonderful mystery! I lived in Chicago for two years going to grad school (2001-2003). I love that city. I can't believe I've followed your blog for so long already. Your son is growing up! And when I first found your blog, I only had ONE daughter!

robatsu said...

@Matteo, thanks for sticking with the blbog for so long. I should have my cast off soon and back to the U.S., so maybe I'll get back on topic here....

Jared said...

This is crazy I WANT no NEED that shirt!!!! Jack Was my grandfather... Where did you find that shirt!?! A lot of memories at that store!

Anonymous said...

Jack Robbins was my Grandfather Harry Robbins' brother...my name is Jackie Robbins and I have a fairly famous Leather Shop in Malibu CA. fun to see this post of uncle Jack's signage in Chicago....I guess style runs in the family!

Tom said...

Wow, that's so funny that the logo made it to a T-shirt!

Audrey Friedman said...

Hello, I am looking for the Jared and Anonymous who wrote on this page. Jack Robbins was my uncle - my grandmothers brother. I knew the store well. Please contact me for a cousins connection and to meet more cousins. Audrey Friedman at ahf514@gmail.com Thank you

Audrey Friedman said...

Is it possible to obtain more t-shirts? Where?

Maya Friedman said...

That store belonged to my dad and grandpa when it became Friedman's Jack Robbins. That store was a second home to me. Has your son outgrown that shirt? I will pay you above market value! Do you have any idea how I could get one for my family???

robatsu said...

Maya, Audrey,

My wife is looking around to see if we still have this shirt. Hope so, stay tuned....

Maya said...

Any clue where you bought it... If you find it can you check the tag?? This is insane. Are you still in Japan?