The Gorin Building

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The Gorin Building, at 255 Elm St., has only stood in Davis Square since 1986, relatively young compared to many of its neighbors. However, it shares both its location and name with the family’s previous venture: Gorin’s department store, which, for many years, provided West Somerville with an affordable shopping destination.

Nehemias Gorin was born in 1880 in Poland, then a part of the Russian Empire, and immigrated to the United States, 20 years old, in 1900. In that same year, he founded Gorin’s in Woburn, Mass. The store quickly became known for its low prices across departments including men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, infant wear, lingerie, shoes, linens, housewares and furnishings. Gorin’s burgeoning business grew past Woburn with stores opening in Everett, South Boston, Watertown Square, Central Square in Cambridge and Union Square (at the corner of Bow St. and Warren Ave.). The Davis Square location, occupying both floors of the building, as well as a basement and an overlooking mezzanine connected to the first floor by a broad staircase, may have been built as early as 1920 and was certainly in operation by 1934 when it participated in a boycott of Nazi goods led by the American Jewish Congress.

Gorin’s in Davis Square on December 16,1970 – From the City of Somerville Archives (picture is linked to the Archive’s Tumbr)

In September of 1951, to celebrate its 51st anniversary, Gorin’s raffled off a series of high-ticket items featured in its window displays. Winners included Walter Golden of Somerville, who received a deep freezer unit. In all, the 20 prizes held a retail value of $2,000. By this time, the business employed over 3,000 people working in over 20 stores, including a brand-new location at Shopper’s World in Framingham, designed with an eye for modern fashion and convenience. Its purchase of the Almy, Bigelow and Washburn department store chain added locations in Salem, Danvers and Beverly. Later acquisitions and mergers expanded the company to New Bedford, Mass, Manchester, N.H., Waterbury, Conn. and Rochester, N.Y.

Gorin’s Department Store in Davis Square, 1955.

Nehemias Gorin passed away in 1961 at the age of 82. He was still actively involved in the company at the time of his death. He and his wife Rebecca had several children, many of whom worked in the family business. In 1984, the Gorin family sold their company, by this time 32-stores strong and re-branded as  “Almy’s,” to an investment group. The Gorin’s business had been struggling to make a profit since 1978. By 1985, the new owners had sold most of the Almy’s chain to the Stop & Shop Companies. The Davis Square location, however, was purchased by members of the Gorin family for redevelopment, anticipating the growth and renewal the neighborhood would see after the Davis Red Line stop was built in 1984. In redesigning the facilities, the Gorins replaced the original facade and filled in the mezzanine level which had once overlooked bustling shoppers on the ground floor.

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