By Kevin D. Williamson –
I’d never heard the name Max Kohl until a few hours ago. But I like the guy.
Kohl’s, the department store he founded, is looking to hire some 52,000 or so people in the coming months — good news for job-seekers across the country. The downside is that these are seasonal jobs for the holidays, but the more interesting fact is that the number of seasonal employees the store is seeking is up 10 percent over last year, a very good indicator of the firm’s expectations for the all-important holiday retailing season, and a good indicator in general.
But expanding operations is not easy. It requires, in a word, capital. Lots of it. Tons of it. Where did Kohl’s get the capital to do this? As it turns out, Mitt Romney had something to do with it.
Kohl’s is a typical American success story: Max Kohl, a Jew born in Poland in 1901, decides that there’s a richer future for him in the United States than in Poland. He ends up in Milwaukee. He starts a grocery store. He does this in 1929, incidentally — not the best year in American history to launch a new business. But he weathers the Depression, adds a store, then another, and by the 1960s he’s the owner of the state’s largest grocery-store chain, employing more than 5,000 people. He then does the same thing all over again with a chain of department stores. And if you’re building department stores, why not build the shopping centers they’re located in? So he does that, too, and pretty soon he has so much real estate that he has to start a real-estate company to keep up with things. On top of having more real estate than he can keep up with, he has more money than he can keep up with, so he gives wagon-trains of it to Brandeis University, the Jewish National Fund, and a bunch of local charities and religious groups. By the time of his death at 80 he had, like so many immigrants, made more of the opportunities afforded to Americans than most sons of the soil do. Well done, Max Kohl.