Son of Lawrence A Brill and Beatrice Brill
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Historical records matching Robert Brill
About Robert Brill
Known for building a successful chain of Milwaukee men's clothing stores, Robert "Bob" Brill may be best remembered for his quiet contributions to the community.
"He had a tough exterior with a heart of gold," said Gwen Jackson, former vice president of human relations at Brills Inc., the local men's clothing franchise that at one time included more than 10 stores.
Brill, who was among the first Milwaukee retailers to offer profit sharing to employees, was a pioneer, Jackson said.
"He offered benefits to part-time employees. He was among the first to hire minorities. And we had a pension plan long before other retailers," Jackson said.
"He was ahead of his time, but I don't think he wanted a lot of people to know that."
Brill became president of Brills Inc. in 1983, after spending years -- from the time he was 10 years old -- working with the firm.
His father, Lawrence A. Brill, opened the first Brill's clothing store in 1922.
At its peak, the franchise included nine Brills Colony shops and five Below the Belt stores, which specialized in casual menswear.
By the mid-1980s, the chain included four stores: three men's shops and one shop carrying women's clothing.
Brill retired in 1989, the same year the clothing chain was sold to the Hartmarx Corp.
Brill had been vice president of the the Menswear Retailers of America and director of the National Association of Men's and Boy's Sportswear Buyers.
While Brill was a "quiet and superlative businessman," he never hesitated to "come to the rescue" of any member of the Brill clothing family, Jackson said.
But, fearing that he would not be seen as a serious businessman, Brill kept his philanthropy under wraps, Jackson said. But his community involvement was evident.
"Bob really had a high sense of social responsibility," said Elmer Winter, Brill's uncle and co-founder of Manpower Inc.
"He really wanted to make this community better," Winter added.
Brill had served as the president and director of the Downtown Association of Milwaukee, director of Milwaukee Goals 2000 and president of the Milwaukee chapter of the American Jewish Committee.
He also was a member of the Jewish Community Center of Milwaukee, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the National Board of Governors and the Milwaukee Jewish Council.
Brill is survived by his wife of 50 years, Marian; three daughters, Barbara (Frederick) Gustin of Minnetonka, Minn., Peggy Brill of Jerusalem and Ruth (Michael) Polisky of Deerfield, Ill.; his sister, Sally Bamberger of Rancho Mirage, Calif.; and five grandchildren.