Stan the man
Stan Kalafut is dead.
The man who ran D&B Wholesale Cosmetics for 40 years died a year ago, and like so many of the deceased people from my past, I only found out about it yesterday.
And like with so many other who I have not seen in decades, I feel pain at his passing.
They had a bigger place in my life than I had in theirs, icons of a time and place that transformed me and my life in ways that I alone recognize.
Find this news out prompted me to call John Telson, who worked for a time with me at Cosmetics Plus with Stanley and who I last saw in early 2002 just after my mother’s death.
I wanted to tell John about the loss of a man who we had both admired, and perhaps between the two of us, we could come up with some fitting tribute to offer in his memory, perhaps even pay a visit to Stanley’s grave.
But in searching out John, I found that he had relocated from his parents house in Moonachie – indeed, his father had died less than a year after my seeing John, later in 2002, and with a little more digging, I found that John had died only a few years after his father, in early 2006.
As sad as this was, John’s death was not a surprise.
He had always been a frail man, even when he pretended otherwise, and had suffered a series of debilitating ailments from the early 1980s. He did not look well when I last saw him, and I knew he did not have long to live.
I met Stanley for the first time in the Fall of 1972 when I came to work in a warehouse next door to the one he managed in a Bloomfield Avenue industrial park in Fairfield.
In a journal entry I wrote on 2/2/84, I described Stanley as “a nice guy who drove a green car and had a tendency to be over protective, and when I came around, he did his best to do just that, once he got used to me.”
Stanley had started at warehouse manager for Donald Gottheimer shortly after he got out of night college in 1968, and was likely on the ground floor of the business when incorporated in 1968, and there to witness when Donald opened his first store in Kearny in 1969, a store operated by Donald’s mother and sister. D & B Cosmetic, the wholesale operation that supported the retail business, was established six years later in 1963.
Donald used to boast about how he and his brother started the business in the back of their father’s garage with only $400 in cash. By 2010 when Stanley died, the business generated more than $1 million in annual sales – despite a lawsuit by Clairol and later, my activities to undermine them.
I started working for The Drawing Board’s Fairfield warehouse just after Labor Day in 1972, more than a little distraught by a failed marriage.
Both warehouses were located next to each other in an industrial complex of about seven or eight buildings, each housing about a dozen warehouse spaces side by side by side. Cinderblock walls divided one cookie-cutter warehouse from the other. And while many altered their interiors to their own needs, the basic format was largely the same in each.
Donald and Stanley were well aware of the antics that went on in the card company warehouse since they were sometimes victims of pranks, and witness to the numerous conflicts that went on between workers and the boss. During flood season, Stanley witnessed one of our workers sail away across flooded rear of the complex on the back of an air freight container top, pretending to be Huck Finn. In yet another instance, he was outside when the board workers at the Drawing Board conducted races on the backs of pallet jacks, one of which failed to stop in time before plunging off the back dock into the gravel yard. Still another time, Stanley came out from the rear door of his warehouse space to see three of us going through the trash bin of the Smugglers Attic warehouse which had dumped the last of its goods before going out of business.
Stanley frequently heard us screaming at each other and at the boss, not fully aware that the boss of our warehouse was little more mature than we were – though Stanley should have gotten a clue from when our manager – during the height of a gas shortage – drained Donald’s red delivery van, leaving a note on the windshield that one of us would drive the van to the gas station the next day for a fill up. Our boss failed to realize that gas rationing depended on odd and even numbers on the license plate and that the van had the wrong configuration for the following day, and Donald’s operation had to be held up for a full day and a half until we could drive the van to the gas station and wait on line for the fill up.