In 1891, the Rifkin family fled the religious
persecution in Czarist Russia to begin a new life
in the United States. They were processed for
immigration through Castle Garden, and following
a brief stay on New York's Lower East Side, they
settled in the community of White Haven in northeastern
Pennsylvania. Abraham and Anna (Heller) Rifkin
brought with them their six children, the oldest
11 years old, the youngest six months.
and Anna Rifkin with their children
in 1891 shortly after their arrival
in America. In White Haven, Pennsylvania.
White Haven, they joined the families of Anna's
brother and sister (the Hellers and Friedlands).
They began to work as farmers, although they
had little experience and conditions were poor
for farming. Meeting with little success, the
families searched for another way to earn their
income. Soon, this enterprising group discovered
that there was a need for work clothing in their
small town. Using heavy-duty denim materials,
the group cut and sewed work clothing which
they sold to farmers and other workers in the
for more customers, Abraham Rifkin made the
18-mile journey from White Haven to the city
of Wilkes-Barre. There, the coal mining industry
was thriving. The miners liked the quality of
the work clothing that Abraham had to show.
The family realized very quickly that the city
of Wilkes-Barre would be a much better location
for their work clothing business. In 1892 the
Rifkins, Hellers and Friedlands moved to Wilkes-Barre.
They manufactured work clothing and at the same
time added a variety of dry goods items to their
began to operate as wholesalers, selling dry
goods as well as the work clothing line to the
various retail establishments which were springing
up throughout the greater Wilkes-Barre area.
Later that same year, in a rented building on
the corner of South Wells and East Northampton
Streets in Wilkes-Barre, the firm of A. Rifkin
& Co. was established. It partnered Abraham
Rifkin and his brothers-in-law, Sol Heller and
Barney Friedland (who remained for only several
years before returning to New York), in the
selling of wholesale dry goods and the work
clothing which they continued to manufacture.
1903, after 11 years of hard work, the business
had developed to a size which permitted Abraham
Rifkin and Sol Heller to purchase a three-story
brick building, 40 feet wide and 120 feet deep,
at 39 East Northampton Street in Wilkes-Barre.
At this point, A. Rifkin & Co. became a major
part of the wholesale business of the area.
It grew and prospered, with the dry goods portion
of the business being conducted on the first
and second floor of the building and the manufacturing
of overalls and other work clothing on the third.
nearly twenty years, the partnership of Abraham
Rifkin and Sol Heller was dissolved in 1911.
David (Dave), Jacob (Jack) and 'William (Will),.
three sons of Abraham Rifkin; joined their father
in the business until November of 1922, when
Abraham Rifkin passed away at age 67.