MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Our story starts on Beale Street. Not unusual. So many Memphis stories start on Beale Street. The music is there. On this day a man played blues guitar and sang right in front of the old Lansky Brothers clothing store. The Lansky Brothers sold the sharpest outfits on the street. Elvis Presley was a fan, and eventually a customer. Bernard Lansky made sure of that. The man known as Mr. B was known all over the world. Pamela Franklin and her husband were visiting from Wales and said “He has left his mark in clothes. They were fashions...and Elvis...and everything. It’s sad, but what a wonderful life. We should celebrate his life as well.”
Bernard Lansky was 85 years old when he died early Thursday, November 15. His life was a life worth celebrating. He made people smile; he made them not only look good, but feel good. On his 80th birthday he talked about some of his famous one-liners he’d tell customers. “Got to be right...don’t fight...and get tight. Cold blooded. The mirror is looking at you and the streets want you.”
Longtime Lansky employee Liz Neal worked for Mr. B for twelve years. “He’d look at somebody in a new outfit and say ‘Clean as Ajax. That’s as clean as Ajax.’ Just little things he’d throw out at the public.”
On this day the Lansky store was open for business, and people continued to stop by. Liz Neal thought back to the day she was hired a dozen years ago. She didn’t have one minute of sales experience, but Bernard Lansky said he’d teach her. He took her over to the cash register. “He pointed at the register,” Liz said, “...and he said ‘Do you know what a Jewish piano is? It's right here, and you’d better learn how to play it well.’”
Bernard Lansky showed up for work seven days a week until he was 82 years old. It wasn’t a job for him. He was a salesman, and this was his life. “Why do it,” he asked on his birthday in 2007. “What else is there to do? I don’t gamble, I don’t go to the casinos.”
Lansky closed his Beale Street store in the early 1980’s and moved to a smaller shop in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. A few years later, an Elvis Presley nightclub opened. It was supposed to be the first of a chain of Elvis clubs. It didn’t succeed. Meanwhile, Bernard Lansky kept working, kept selling, and kept customers happy. Because everybody wants to be as clean as Ajax.