PITTSFIELD -- Andrew J. Blau, the former president of England Brothers and the fourth generation of the England family to be involved with the long-remembered downtown department store, died at his 90 Dawes Ave. home on New Year's Eve. He was 73.
Blau, who took the helm of the store in 1976 at the age of 40, remained president of the corporation until it closed in 1989. At that time, England Brothers, founded by Blau's great-grandfather Moses England in 1857, was one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the country.
Blau was born in Cleveland in 1935, the son of Alan Blau and Rose England Blau. The family moved to Pittsfield when Blau was 3, and his father began working in the England family store.
Blau started working at England Brothers when he was a teen. He carved his own career in retail when he was hired by Bloomingdale's in New York City in 1960. He spent three years with the company as an assistant buyer and later as a buyer. In 1963, he decided it was time to return to the Berkshires and begin working in the family store.
Blau and his uncle, Simon England, bought the family shares of another of Blau's uncles, Daniel England, and become the store's sole owners in 1976.
In an interview that year, Blau admitted that although his last name was "Blau, I think of myself as an England."
Blau spent three years in the Army before his adult career in retail, including two where he was stationed in France. It was in France that he met his future wife, Kelly Hines, the daughter of an Army officer. They were married in 1960 in California.
After completing his military service, Alan Blau wanted his son to return to Dartmouth College, where he had attended prior to joining the Army.
"I was too impatient to go back to school," said Blau in a 1976 interview in The Eagle. "I wanted to go to work."
A lifelong member of the Country Club of Pittsfield, Blau was past president of the organization and had just completed a term as secretary of the board. He served as a rules official for the Massachusetts Golf Association and the New England Golf Association, working at a number of golf tournaments throughout New England.
He is a past member of the board of the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club, served as an officer in the Pittsfield Downtown Associates and the Central Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.
Blau was also very active in the Berkshire County Chapter of the American Red Cross and the county chapter of the United Way. He served as campaign treasurer for District Attorney David Capeless.
He is survived by his wife; his daughter, Stephanie Buonopane of Long Beach, Calif.; and two sons, Eric Blau of Miami and Christopher Blau with his wife, Catherine of Pittsfield; two granddaughters; and a brother, Peter.