Paul Bloom’s father grew up in Lithuania at a time when all young men were subject to the draft. Like many Jews, he had to hide in his basement to stay safe. After marrying, he and his wife escaped across the border, crossing an icy river that reached up to their necks, and eventually traveled by boat to meet up with his father, a Hebrew teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts. Paul’s father became a peddler, selling thread, needles, and other products door to door. Wanting to move up in the world he went to New York to learn to repair umbrellas. At that time, people spent good money on umbrellas, sometimes buying ones with handles of silver and gold.
Photo: Paul Bloom/Jewish Historical Society of Western Massachusetts
Paul learned to repair umbrellas from his father and opened the family’s first store in Springfield’s Forest Park in 1934. Although Paul’s father died just before opening the store, Paul and his brother decided to move forward with their business plans. Paul, a lawyer by trade, never stopped building his family business. Within a few years, he had started selling luggage and a few years later began selling cameras. Bloom Umbrella & Luggage Company is one of the variations on the business name, location, and merchandise.
Springfield has changed a great deal since the opening of the Bloom family’s first store, but the stories of immigrants, and the children of immigrants is ever present. Sharing bits of wisdom, Paul said, “We should be proud that we are the children of immigrants, who when they had 50 cents, gave 10 cents to the needy.”