To Alvin Ferst, Rich’s was more than a department store.
He met his future wife there. She was a children’s clothing buyer; he was a rising young executive.
In a 35-year career with the company, Mr. Ferst oversaw Rich’s expansion from one downtown store to satellite locations that included the opening of the Lenox Square Mall anchor in 1959. The Georgia Tech grad handled land purchases and design aspects.
“It wasn’t just about building a store to make money,” said a daughter, Doris Leslie Ferst of Cambridge, N.Y. “It was about building a great place for the community.”
In the early 1980s, Ferst retired as Rich’s executive vice president and treasurer. He then started Alvin Ferst Associates, Inc., a business and real estate consulting firm that he ran for 10 years.
The lifelong Atlanta resident was an admired community supporter whose impact spread far beyond Rich’s. He helped with various causes, from affordable housing to inner-city development and literacy.
“The city has lost a great friend and a great contributor,” said Atlanta architect-developer John Portman. “He helped the city with maintaining the airport at its present location; helped with the support for the World Congress Center; helped with the MARTA system; helped with the infrastructure in metro Atlanta. He took a tremendous interest in the community.”
Wade Burns, a former Carter Center employee, worked with Mr. Ferst on affordable housing issues.
“He took under his wing many folks [who were] trying to do difficult things,” Mr. Burns said. “He would volunteer his very valuable expertise.”
A memorial service for Alvin Meinhard Ferst will be at 10 a.m. today at The Temple. He died Wednesday of heart failure at his home in Lenbrook Square. He was 87.
A Georgia Tech industrial management grad, Mr. Ferst was a former president of the Georgia Tech Foundation and its national alumni association.
The Tech tennis star was a fixture at Yellow Jackets sporting events. He often attended road football games. Four days before his death, he was at Bobby Dodd Stadium to watch Tech beat North Carolina.
“We took him in his wheelchair,” his daughter said. “He wanted to sit in the stands. Everybody was coming over and saying, ‘hi.’”
Ferst volunteered and held posts for an array of organizations. They included the Metro Atlanta YMCA, Central Atlanta Progress, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Atlanta Kiwanis Club.
Mr. Ferst’s wife, Charlotte Elizabeth Boyette Ferst, a major arts supporter, died in 2003.
Mr. Ferst enjoyed golf and woodworking. His respite was a mountain get-away in Murray County.
“He loved to go up there, look at the view and piddle around,” his daughter said.
Additional survivors include two other daughters, Mary Lane Ferst of Davis, Cal.; and Sylvia Leigh Ferst of New York City; his brother, Harold W. Ferst of Monroe; and a sister, Babette Ferst Herzfeld of White Plains, N.Y.
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