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Melvin & Renee Lewis Epstein Family

Max and Ida Rosenzweig Epstein Family

Photos and articles courtesy of Meyer Denn

Melvin Epstein Family

On June 5, 1949, Melvin Epstein and Renee Lewis, daughter of Fannye and Max Lewis of Boling, were united in marriage at the Wharton Community Center with Rabbi Robert I. Kahn of Temple Emmanu El in Houston performing the ceremony. Twenty-five years later Melvin and Renee repeated their vows with Rabbi Kahn officiating in the sanctuary of Temple Emmanu El.


There were four children of this marriage:

Max Lewis was born on August 4, 1951, at Rugeley-Blasingame Hospital in Wharton. Max attended Dartmouth College, Vienna Academy of Music, and Northwestern University.  In 1984 he was associated with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York.


Jaine Frances was born in Bay City. She attended the University of Texas and received her Doctorate Degree in Psychology from Tulane University.


Robert Andrew was born in Houston. He received his Bachelors degree from The University of Texas and his Master of Business Administration from Southern Methodist University.


Betty Ann was born in Houston. She attended Southwest Texas State University.


Melvin Epstein’s first address in 1926 was 1507 Drew Street, Houston, Texas. From there the family moved to Kingsville and then to Bay City in 1931. The Epstein’s lived first in rooms rented from Mr. and Mrs. R. O. Kiser located at 1407 Seventh Street. Later the family rented homes at 1304 Sixth Street and Cottonwood at Fifth Street. In 1939 the Hite brothers built the Epstein home at 2900 Sixth Street.


Melvin attended Mrs. Blair’s kindergarten, Jefferson Davis Grammar School, Texas Military Institute, 1940-1941, and graduated from Bay City High School in 1943. He attended The University of Texas and the University of Houston, and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in January, 1948.


After their marriage in June of 1949, Renee and Melvin rented an apartment at 1010 Eighth Street from Ken Horton and later a house at 2412 Eighth Street from Esther Goldman. In 1953 they moved to 2900 Sixth Street and rented that home for seventeen years. Melvin, Renee and their family moved into their first owned home at 1921 Linda Lane in May, 1970.


Melvin was active in the Rotary Club with over twenty-five years of perfect attendance, and was also instrumental in the organization of the Festival Arts Association in 1980, in which, in 1986, he remained an active participant. During his tenure in the above, he served as president of both of these organizations. He also served as director on the Western Gulf Financial Board, served on the Industrial Foundation, and was a sponsor of the Interact Club. In addition he served for ten years as superintendent of Sunday Schools at Shearith Israel Congregation, Wharton, Texas.


Renee was a partner with Melvin in business and family life. She was graduated from Boling High School in 1944, and attended The University of Texas. She served as director for Festival Arts Association and was a member of the Junior Service League. Renee’s grandfather, Morris Cohen Levine was an early settler in Wharton County. Morris and Minnie Levine arrived in Glen Flora by covered wagon in 1889, and Morris Levine was one of the eleven founders of Shearith Israel Congregation in 1910. Their daughter, Fannye, was born in Wharton on September 13, 1895, and married Max Lewis, who was born in Riga, Latvia, on June 18, 1889. Fannye died on November 16, 1950, and Max died on March 30, 1954. They were buried in Wharton at Sheareth Israel Cemetery.

Melvin Epstein - 1984

Historic Matagorda County, Volume II, pp 146-147                    Typed for this page by Faye Cunningham.

Rosenzweig's - Clothes, Inc. Building in 2012


2013 Site of Milady's


Matagorda County Tribune, August 23, 1956

Matagorda County Tribune, September 13, 1956

1965-66 Directory Ad

Personnel Chosen For The New Teen Shop Here

Melvin Epstein has told this paper that he has secured the services of Mrs. John Kershaw, Mrs. Tom Burchfield and Mrs. W. E. Cook for the Teen Shop which will open this week.

Mrs. Kershaw will be a newcomer to Bay City but she has had experience in the merchandising field.

Mrs. Tom Burchfield is well known here in Bay City in the field of fashion. She will certainly be able to help girls with their selections in planning a wardrobe with her vast experience in ready-to-wear to back her up. Mrs. Burchfield will be in the shop in the afternoons and on Saturdays.

Mrs. W. E. Cook, is new to working in ready-to-wear but with a teen-age daughter in school now she certainly will be on the ground floor to better understand the likes of all the girls.

These ladies will be on hand at the teen shop to aid and assist the girls in every way with their selections. Don't miss the opening of The Teen Shop. Go by late this week to see the shop and meet the ladies who will be employed there.

Matagorda County Tribune, August 23, 1956



Clothes, Inc. Closing Its Doors
Fifty-Seven Years in Bay City

By Jan Aikens

It's the end of an era. After 57 years of service to the Bay City community, Clothes, Inc. will soon close its doors forever.

The current owners, Melvin and Renee Epstein, have decided that that the time has come for them to retire and enjoy the activities they have put on their "someday list" for many years.

"Its the time in our lives for us to retire," said Renee. "Melvin has wanted to retire for a couple of years, but it has been me who has delayed it."

The store will be closed the first part of the week to prepare for the liquidation sale or "retirement sale" as the Epsteins prefer to call it, which will begin Thursday.

The decision wasn't an easy one for the Epsteins whose roots run deep in Bay City and Matagorda County. They didn't tell their vendors until last week because "it is so hard to say goodbye," said Renee who is originally from Boling.

This family-owned store was founded by Melvin's father, Max Epstein, in 19312. The Great Depression was in progress and the economy was poor in Kingsville where his father and another man co-owned a shoe business. Max was on his way to Houston to discuss his future with his wife's parents, Libby and Harry Rosenzweig, when the train developed mechanical problems in Bay City.

His father visited several retailers in town, including Aaron and Sonia Simon, parents of Haskell Simon, and Freda Simon, mother of the late Moise Simon. Their business, Simon Brothers, was for sale and Max and his father-in-law and partner, Harry Rosenzweig, purchased the store. The store was renamed Rosenzweig's and was located at 1717 Seventh St., the location of the former Conspiracy Restaurant [Fatgrass Restaurant in 2013].

During the early years, the store was referred to as a junior department store. Featured were clothing items for everyone in the family and a budget clothing department.

"I remember the ladies working in the store had to wear black, brown or navy blue clothes with sleeves in their blouses or dresses. They also wore hats when they left the store," said Melvin. "Our store hours were from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays. We were open six days a week."

In 1937 the store moved its location to the present site. Fixtures were purchased from Brochsteins's of Houston and Rosenzweig's and the newly-opened Milady's Shoppe, an exclusive women's store located next door, became the first air conditioned stores between Houston and Corpus Christi.

The elder Epstein died in 1945 and his widow along with Melvin and his brother, Lester, and Gertrude Cox and Leon Guzick continued to operate the store.

In the early 1950s Melvin and Renee, who were married in 1949, began purchasing corporate shares and by 1978, they had acquired full ownership of the store. An extensive remodeling took place and the name was changed to its current name, Clothes, Inc. At that same time the Milady's portion of the building was sold to M. T. Dearmond.

"I always believed a business name should describe the type of merchandise that could be purchased," said Melvin, commenting on the reason he renamed the store.

The Epsteins said they look forward to retirement with the same enthusiasm that has enriched their years together as a working couple. They plan to remain active in the Bay City community, especially with the Festival Arts Association.

However, they also plan to travel to visit their four children who are scattered across the country: Max, who is a staff conductor for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City; Robert, a market analyst for Bell South Telephone in Atlanta, Ga.; Jaine Frazier, a clinical physiologist in Dallas; and Betty Epstein, a real estate agent in Austin. Oh yes, they also have a grandson, Bo Frazier, who they plan to visit often.

Still, the Epsteins close their store with sadness. They are concerned about the future of Bay City from a merchant's point of view. They realize when their store closes, it will be another empty store in Bay City, that is until they can find someone to lease the building. However, they are proud about he appearance of the square.

"I still feel good about the square in Bay City. Some downtown areas are so depressed, but the square in Bay City still looks good," said Melvin.

They also know they will be saying goodbye to their employees, Elsie Benedict and Del Garza who have been with them for 25 years, as well as Margaret Berryman and Becky Brown, who have worked at the store for two years, and friends who have become regular customers through the years.

"We will miss our friends, " said Renee.

"But it is an exciting time. It will be fun," echoed her husband.

Daily Tribune, May 8, 1988

Epstein home in 2013

Melvin Arnold Epstein

August 24, 1926 -
January 14, 2016

Melvin Epstein died peacefully in his sleep in Atlanta, GA. He lived a long and happy life and will be missed by all who loved him.

He was born to Ida Rosenzweig Epstein and Max Epstein in Houston. Texas. Struggling because of the depression, the family moved to Kingsville when Melvin was two years old, to open a shoe store with another family. When the store could no longer support both families, they flipped a coin - winner take all. The Epstein’s lost and Ida and Max, along with their three young children, boarded the train headed to Rosenberg. When the train broke down in Bay City, Max walked to the town square and learned the adjoining store was for sale. The Epsteins purchased the store and moved to Bay City, where Melvin spent most of the next 65 years.

Melvin attended the University of Texas and completed his business degree at the University of Houston. He met Renee’ Lewis in Sunday school in Wharton, when they were teenagers, and married in 1949. Theirs was a true love story, and they were devoted to one another, and their family, until Renee’s death in 1995. They had four children, Max, Jaine, Robert, and Betty, and one grandchild, Bo.

Melvin went into the family business with Renee’ by his side, buying the store, Rosenzweigs, from his parents. Later, they opened Milady’s, The Town Shop, and Clothes, Inc. Their businesses included real estate and banking, but Melvin’s real passion was for the arts. He and Renee’ brought up their children with theatre, music, and dance, and brought Festival Arts to the community. He was especially proud when Max pursued a career as an opera conductor.

Traveling was a passion for Melvin, who toured all seven continents, usually wearing shorts, sandals, a Tilley hat, and carrying his backpack. We will cherish our memories of trips taken together from California to Kathmandu.

Since the 1970’s, Melvin carried a tattered piece of paper in his wallet with his favorite quotation: “Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts or measure words, but to pour them out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

To be in Melvin’s life was to experience just this kind of comfort. A quiet man, he always had a smile on his face, a positive attitude, and a heart open to anyone who sought him out.

Melvin is survived by his daughter, Jaine; his son, Robert and his husband Rob Dean; daughter, Betty; and grandson, and granddaughter-in-law, Bo and Esther Fraser.

Bay City Tribune, January 24, 2016

Renee Lewis Epstein

Renee Lewis Epstein died of leukemia in Houston on October 20, 1995. Born to Max and Fannie Lewis, Mrs. Epstein spent her childhood years in Boling, Texas. Then, after her marriage to Melvin Epstein, she moved to Bay City where she lived until her death.

Renee Epstein brought much love and enrichment to her family, her friends, and her community. While raising her four children, Max, Jaine, Robert and Betty, she found time to meet the many demands of managing a retail store with her husband.

Along with her husband, Melvin, she participated in founding Festival Arts, a community service organization which brings a wide variety of cultural and entertainment events to Matagorda County. Her recognition of the importance of music and drama helped to bring many performing artists to her hometown.

After the death of her son, Max, she and her husband established the Max Epstein Memorial Fund, an endowment that awards scholarships and other gifts to benefit Matagorda County and its aspiring young musicians.

Survivors include: Melvin, her husband of 46 years, Betty; Jaine and her husband, Tom and their son, Bo; and her son Robert and his partner, Rob Dean.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate contributions to the Max Epstein Memorial Fund, P. O. Box 111, Bay City, Texas, 77494-0111.

Daily Tribune, October 24, 1995

Met Opera Conductor Epstein Dies

By Lana Sweeten

Former Bay City native Max Epstein, conductor and member of the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera Company, died Friday at his home in Manhattan.

Epstein, 39, joined the Met in 1984, debuting in January 1986 with the performance of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro." He gave his final performance last March when he conducted and sang with a group of artists gathered for the national broadcast of the 50th anniversary of Texaco's Saturday radio broadcasts.

His conducting career began in Germany in 1975, where he held positions at opera houses in Nuremberg and Kassel. After nine years abroad, he moved back to the United States and accepted the position at the Met under the auspices of conductor James Levin.

The course of Epstein's life shifted after seeing an opera performance featuring Beverly Sills in Houston during a break from Dartmouth College.

Renee Epstein, Max's mother, told the Daily Tribune in a December 1985 issue, "When the performance concluded, he told us, 'I know now what I am going to do with the rest of my life.'"

Upon his return to school, he changed his major from business and economics to music. His only previous training in music was piano lessons and playing the french horn with the Bay City High School Black Cat Band. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude at Dartmouth in 1973.

Epstein later acquired additional music training from the Vienna Academy of Music and Northwestern University. When he graduated from Dartmouth, he became a recipient of fellowships to the Salzburg Mozarteum and the Hokhaschule fur Music in Vienna.

From 1980-86, he was a member of the Bayreuth Wagner Festival. He was also a member of the Salzburg Festival from 1987-89, and in 1990, he served as music director on a recording of Wagner's complete "Ring Cycle" performed by the Metropolitan Opera on Deutsche Grammophone.

Epstein is survived by his parents, Renee and Melvin Epstein of Bay City; two sisters, Betty Epstein of Austin and Jaine Fraser of  Dallas; a brother, Robert Epstein of Atlanta; and a nephew, Bo, of Atlanta.

Memorial services are planned at the Metropolitan Opera Company. Services are also pending in Bay City.

"We will sorely miss his wisdom, counsel and friendship but take solace in the fact that his memory will live on through his efforts and inspiration on behalf of both, the arts and artists of opera," said David Reuben, spokesman for the Met.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate memorial contributions to The Max Epstein Fund for Education in the Arts/Victoria Bank & Trust Co., P. O. Box 2360, Bay City, Texas 7404-2260 or to the charity of your choice.

The Daily Tribune, December 16, 1990


Copyright 2007 - Present by the Epstein Family
All rights reserved

Mar. 2, 2008
Oct. 24, 2013