RETAIL TRADE: Destiny's Knock

Before the massive, golden-brassy gate Of final destiny, I stand—and knock.

Thus, in 1927, wrote Richard Weil Jr. in Yale's famed Lit. magazine. The poem was prophetic, for destiny's doors seemed to develop a habit of opening before brainy young Richard Weil's imperious knock. The doors of Macy's, the department-store chain, opened because Weil was the grandson of Isidor Straus, one of the original owners. But Weil rose rapidly on his own merits. By 32, he had been propelled from a sales clerk to president of Bamberger's, Macy's Newark (N.J.) store. In 1949, at the age of 42, he became...

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