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Charles Lazarus; founded chain of department stores

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Charles Lazarus, 93, the last member of his family to lead its namesake Lazarus chain of department stores, died at his home in Gahanna on Monday after a brief illness, his son said.

The chain, founded in 1851 by Mr. Lazarus's great-grandfather as a one-room men's clothing store in Columbus, eventually grew to more than 40 stores in five states in the Midwest. The family's influence in the stores declined when corporate parent Federated Depart ment Stores Inc. moved Lazarus's headquarters to Cincinnati in 1986.

Mr. Lazarus started working as a sales clerk in his family's Columbus store in 1936 after he graduated from Yale University with bachelor's degrees in American history and art history. He became president of the department store chain in 1959 and added the titles of chairman and chief executive officer 10 years later.

He was named a board member at Federated in 1973. When he retired in 1981, his family's business had 16 stores in Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia.

Stuart Lazarus said his father's biggest asset was the way he was able to run a large business with a personal touch, forming relationships with store workers and shoppers.

"He knew more employees than I could ever believe," he said yesterday. "He knew their spouses' names, their children's names. He knew the customers. He knew birthdays and anniversaries, and knowing those things was very important to him."

In 2005, Federated renamed Lazarus stores as Macy's.

When the family name came down, Charles Lazarus took it hard, his son said.

"He didn't speak much about it, but I inferred from looking at him that he was crushed," Stuart Lazarus said.