Avrum Pesach and Etta Alper Baskind immigrated to Cleveland from Ilya, Lithuania, in the 1890s with their five children, Abe, Rose, Ann, Harry and Morris Aaron “Moe.”
Avrum Baskind arrived first. He packed cigars for $8 per week until he could afford to bring his family over. Once they arrived, he started a small factory in a barn behind his house, rolling stogies and selling the cuttings as chewing tobacco. The success of the venture enabled him to open a store and produce a brand of cigars called “Baskinols.”
Abe Baskind moved to Pittsburgh in the 1920s to start a confectionary store in the Strip District, and Moe Baskind soon joined him. In 1928, they opened the Peerless Wallpaper and Paint Company at 808 Fifth Avenue, next door to the Dinovitz Clothing Company. In the Jewish Criterion, the brothers touted their “papers designed especially for the formal living room; intriguing patterns for the kitchen; unusual motifs for the bathroom.”
The brothers parted ways about 1940, soon after a fire greatly damaged their Fifth Avenue building. Abe Baskind moved Peerless one block over onto Forbes Avenue, and Moe Baskind bought the Barnes Paint Company on Centre Avenue in East Liberty.
Abe Baskind (1884-1956) and his wife, Lena Shapiro Baskind, were the parents of Sam, Nathan and Pearl. All three worked for their father. Sam Baskind (1914-1960) was the vice president and secretary of Peerless and became its president after his father died. He served as president of the Pittsburgh Zionist District and was on the United Jewish Federation board of directors. Nathan Baskind (1916-1944) managed Peerless branches in New Castle and in Wheeling, West Virginia, before enlisting in the U.S. Army. He was killed in action. His twin sister Pearl Baskind Sadowsky (1916-1974) was secretary and treasurer of the business in the 1950s and became president after Sam Baskind died.
Sam and Sylvia Rosen Baskind had two sons, Mark and Philip. After Pearl Sadowsky died, Philip became president-treasurer, and Mark became executive vice president. The Fairman Wall and Window Coverings Company bought the Peerless chain of stores from the brothers in 1993.
After purchasing the Barnes Paint Company in 1941, Moe Baskind (1895-1990) changed its name to the M. A. Baskind Company. The company became a distributor for the Imperial Wallpaper Mill after World War II, and Baskind purchased a large building at 427 Liberty Avenue, downtown, to house the additional stock. Development of the Gateway Center area soon uprooted the business again. In 1950, Baskind moved to 5750 Baum Boulevard, where the business remained for the next 50 years.
Moe and Frieda (Shaman) Baskind had two children, Sanford and Ellen.
Sanford “Sandy” Baskind (c.1925-2013) and his brother-in-law Edwin Langue took over the business after Moe retired. They saw the business through a period of growth in the 1960s and 1970s, when the company became a distributor for a General Tire & Rubber Company vinyl “wallcoverings” line. “Painting is the cowards’ way out and just can’t express the personality and individuality of the family or person who lives in the house,” Sandy Baskind wrote to the Pittsburgh Press in 1973, in response to a critical article.
By 1989, the M. A. Baskind Company was a wholesaler distributor, a supplier to architects and home decorators, and also had a retail showroom for walls, floors and windows called Baskind’s Decorating Products Center. As the number of retailers in the field declined in the 1990s, the company dropped its wholesale division.
Sanford Baskind’s son-in-law Larry Miller and Edwin Langue’s son Jeffrey bought the business in 2000 and sold the building to the Lachina Drapery Company. In 2001, the M. A. Baskind Company bought the Peerless Wallpaper retail stores in the South Hills.