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The Uniform Look

Malkie Lowinger

For the Zelcer family, business revolves around school rules: specifically, the rules dictating that uniform dress code in our girls’ schools. In their flagship Brooklyn store, they speak about plaids and pleats, sweaters and stripes, with a passion that comes from years of dedication to their craft. For this family, uniforms are the furthest thing from boring

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

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NO GIRL LEFT BEHIND Menachem Zelcer, his mother, and his siblings ensure that hundreds of thousands of Bais Yaakov girls around the world are outfitted in time for the new school year (Photos: Amir Levy, Family Archives)

It’s a pleasant morning in early spring, and Fraylich School Uniforms is relatively calm. March is a quiet time for the iconic store, directly across the street from Bais Yaakov of Boro Park and almost as endemic to the landscape as the mammoth school building. But the Zelcers aren’t sitting idle. They’re using the lull in sales to organize the stock and place orders for the huge demand they’re anticipating once back-to-school season hits. In just a few short months, throngs of mothers and daughters will be banging down their doors for the uniforms produced under their Betty Z brand. And the Zelcers will be ready. 

THE FIRST THING that strikes you when you walk into Fraylich are the rows and rows of skirts organized neatly on racks, lined up like little toy soldiers in size order. The pleats are razor sharp, the colors vibrant. Overhead, boxes are clearly marked by code (Navy/BD/14-16, Blue Horizon 12CH, and so on). Seven curtained fitting rooms span one wall, and a whiteboard notes whatever items are currently out of stock. “We’re a little obsessed with keeping this place organized,” Menachem Zelcer says. 

The store is narrow but deep, with one room leading into another and then another. I estimate that it holds thousands of skirts, shirts and sweaters, but Menachem assures me that it’s just a fraction of the inventory that is stocked at their Lakewood warehouse, where he resides and where his sister Etty Klein runs a thriving store, Fraylich of Lakewood. Clearly, the Zelcers are the royal family of school uniforms. 

One flight up, employees Franco and Wilson are hard at work at a long table, cutting plaid fabric in precise lengths. A corner desk seems to be the hub of this operation, fielding a steady stream of orders from as far away as Australia and as near as Bais Yaakov of Boro Park right across the street. I ask the Zelcers which school wears the blue-green plaid uniform fabric that is currently being cut. “Dushinksy Girls School in Bnei Brak,” Menachem’s answer comes instantly. “And also the Bais Yaakov in Antwerp,” adds his mother Leah. These people clearly know their business. (Excerpted from Mishpacha’s Behind the Scenes, Pesach Mega-Issue 5777)

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