‘Only the Best for Children’


Tiny Town, circa 1951, was closed Tuesday in memory of Marilyn Gates Fleishman, the retail store’s matriarch. (Photo By Bill Kirby Jr.)

          There was a pall at the children’s retail business Tuesday, and where this store was Marilyn Fleishman’s pride and joy for 70 of her long years.

            She loved the feeling of seeing a youngster cuddle a Madame Alexander doll, with an anticipating eye on the dollhouse close by. Or watching a young couple look over a christening gown or a crib that had to be just perfect for that bundle of joy to come.

Marilyn Gates Fleishman was the matriarch of Tiny Town, circa 1951, the store she encouraged her late husband, Herbert Fleishman, to open and what would become a time-honored business that would be there for generations of Fayetteville families.

            “Everything for children,” was Herbert and Marilyn Fleishman’s motto when it came to Tiny Town and this community, and they never wavered in their philosophy. “Everything for children, and only the best for children.”

            She was a girl from the Bronx – New York born and bred.

            “A New York girl in every way,” son Michael Fleishman would remind those who gathered Tuesday at Beth Israel Synagogue to remember the life and legacy of Marilyn Gates Fleishman. “She went to City College of New York and later became a retail buyer in Manhattan.”

            And it was there she met Herbert Fleishman, who would become the love of her life.

            He was a young man, and smitten.

            “He would send typewritten notes and flowers to her every Sunday,” Michael Fleishman said.

            They would marry, move to his hometown of Fayetteville and Tiny Town would become their passion with his business acumen and her expertise when it came to retail sales.

            “Being a retailer, Mom worked in the store every day,” Michael Fleishman said, “and our father as well.”

A Destination

            Tiny Town wasn’t just another retail store in this town.

            Tiny Town was a destination.

            And Marilyn and Herbert Fleishman always were there to help with the perfect purchase, replete with gift-wrapping for those special occasions to include Christmas and Easter and birthdays. And a mother walking in her home with a Tiny Town shopping bag would bring anticipation and happiness to any youngster.

            Herbert Fleishman died at age 78 in 2002.

            With Michael Fleishman and sister Marcie Fleishman Justice following in their parents’ retail footsteps, Marilyn Fleishman carried on as the Tiny Town matriarch, and you often found her watching to see that everything was picture-perfect for customers, and always for children perusing the toys that brought happiness to her heart and a twinkle to her eyes.

            When she wasn’t at the store, she enjoyed watching an old movie from time to time, listening to classical music, keeping watch on squirrels at play during a morning breakfast and spending time with longtime friends and Sunday evening dinners with family. And marveling at every moment with such delight at the gift of two great-grandchildren.

            Declining health plagued her recent years, but not Marilyn Fleishman’s spirit or her resolve in how she viewed the world.

            “The first time I met Marilyn was before the pandemic and she was in the hospital,” the Rabbi Dov Goldberg said. “We had a marvelous time. We chatted. We laughed and she told stories. She reminded me of my grandmother. She always told it like it was and you knew without question you could trust what she said and you could count on her.

            “She was a pistol.”

Epilogue

            Marilyn Gates Fleishman died July 16.

            She was 90.

            “Mom was tired,” Michael Fleishman would say. “But she was the best mom we ever could have had.”

            A wreath of white carnations and a white ribbon was on the front doors of Tiny Town on Tuesday in memory of the store’s matriarch.

“But her Jewish faith was at the core of who she was,” Rabbi Goldberg said, “Her life will live on if you take the message of her life and pass it forward. We need to simply pass on the legacy of her life, and we can touch others as she touched others.”

A son would soften the sorrow.

            “Mom would not want anyone to feel sad today,” Michael Fleishman would say. “She believed life was to be celebrated.”

            Marilyn Gates Fleishman is survived by son Michael Fleishman; daughter Minda Fleishman; daughter Marcie Fleishman Justice; granddaughter Annie Fleishman Franceschi and husband Gus; granddaughter Ashley Fleishman Baugher and husband Justin; grandson Harrison Justice; great-grandson Leo Franceschi; and great-grandson Holden Baugher.                        

            Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961