Stechers founder passes on at 90

By Kim Boodram

HANS Stecher, founder of local luxury goods retailer Stechers, has died.
Stecher, 90, who was also president of the Jewish Society, died at his home in Trinidad last Saturday.
While Stecher’s penchant for picking fine goods was legendary, he was perhaps more fascinating for his tale of having found refuge in Trinidad and Tobago from German dictator Adolf Hitler’s genocide of the Jewish people during World War II.
Stecher arrived in Trinidad at age 15 with his parents and a small group of relatives, the start of a very small Jewish presence in Trinidad.
The Stechers chain brought to Trinidad and Tobago fine goods in jewellery, silverware, leather goods, perfumery, china and crystals and is well known for its duty-free shop at Piarco International Airport.
In 1996, Stecher sold the chain for an undisclosed sum to CL Financial. Some luxury lines were lost after CL Financial took it over.
Former CL chairman Lawrence Duprey had at the time blamed a slow economy and what he said was a need for heavy investment to revive the brand, news reports said.
Stecher had disagreed, stating that the brand’s new owners “made a lot of mistakes”.
The chain has since recovered well and in 2012 opened a new store in Gulf City Mall, La Romaine.
Stecher, who was writing his memoirs after retiring, was also that year the recipient of the Paul Harris Award from the Rotary Club.
That award is an honour usually reserved for departing presidents of the club but is also selectively offered for yeoman service — which Stecher earned as a member since the club’s inception in 1957.
He was also known as the “Calypso Jew”, who opened his first shop in 1945 after coming to Trinidad with nothing.
When Stecher and his family arrived in Trinidad in 1938 after fleeing Vienna, Austria, this country was one of the few territories offering sanctuary to Jews.
Stecher went on to become a household name and the patriarch and caretaker of Trinidad’s small Jewish community.
Stecher’s funeral will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Lions Cultural Centre, Woodbrook, followed by interment at the Woodbrook Cemetery.
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