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Samuel Huppin, son of store founder, dies

Sun., Jan. 27, 2008, midnight

Longtime Spokane resident and pioneering retailer Samuel I. Huppin has died. He was 85.

Huppin, patriarch of the Spokane-based Huppin’s Hi-Fi, Photo and Video, had been in failing health and died Friday at a local hospital, family members said. He was a driving force in the store’s early expansion into consumer electronics and had continued to work at the family business four days a week until about a month ago.

“Big Sam was one of the most kind and generous people you’d ever meet in your life,” said his great-nephew and business partner, Murray Huppin.

He was the son of the store’s founder, Samuel Huppin, who immigrated to Spokane from Ukraine to open the first Huppin’s in 1908. The store initially specialized in clothing and secondhand items.

Samuel Isaac Huppin was born March 31, 1922, in Spokane. His father died shortly before his birth, and his mother died when he was 11, so he was raised by his older brother, Abraham.

His brother’s family called him Big Sam, because one of Abe’s sons, who was only a few years younger than Big Sam, was also named after the store founder. The younger Sam is known as Little Sam.

Samuel I. Huppin was a graduate of Lewis and Clark High School. His nephew Eugene remembers him as a typical teenager who happened to be 6 feet, 3 inches tall and very handsome.

“The girls adored him,” he said.

He played basketball as a freshman but soon decided to spend his afternoons working at the shop.

After high school, Huppin worked in men’s clothing stores in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

While in Las Vegas, he worked in a men’s clothier at the Flamingo Hotel and outfitted infamous gangsters, such as Bugsy Siegel and Gus Greenbaum, according to Eugene Huppin.

When he returned to Spokane in 1953, he joined his brother Abe at Huppin’s, and the business expanded through the years to sell radios, cameras and electronics.

Murray Huppin, the son of Little Sam, said his great-uncle soon took over the financial affairs of the company.

“He was just a smart guy and a very hard worker,” Murray Huppin said. “He taught himself.”

Although he had no children himself, family members say Sam Huppin loved his nieces and nephews and subsequent generations as if they were his own children.

“He loved his family,” Eugene Huppin said. “And we loved him and honored him.”

Murray Huppin remembers his great-uncle taking him to lunch at the Ridpath Hotel as a child. In later years, Big Sam let Murray borrow his Cadillac for the prom.

Eugene Huppin said that Big Sam was named for his father, because it is Jewish tradition to name a newborn after someone who has died. His middle name, Isaac, means “laughter” in Hebrew.

“Maybe that’s why he could almost always appear to be happy,” he said.

Sam Huppin was preceded in death by his longtime companion, Betty Bone.

Survivors include his niece, Betty Rose Williams; two nephews and their wives, Sam M. and Norma Huppin and Eugene and Gerry Huppin; 10 great-nieces and great-nephews, including local residents Joel and Chris Huppin and Murray and Leslie Huppin.

He also had 20 great-great-nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m. today at Heritage Funeral Chapel, 508 N. Government Way. Interment will follow at Mount Nebo Cemetery.

Memorial contributions in Huppin’s name can be made to the Temple Beth Shalom, Hospice of Spokane or a charity of the donor’s choice.

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