Polish-born Brazilian, Samuel Klein was a businessman who in six decades built one of the largest and most solid enterprises in the Brazilian retail sector. Simple man, wearing polo shirts and Franciscan slippers, good conversation and a vibrant Jewish accent, Samuel Klein could easily be mistaken with the public - the customers, as he used to refer to the millions of clients who attended his stores.
Born salesman, Samuel Klein loved to tell stories of the business world. Under no circumstances would he allow others to know the horrors he experienced during World War II, when he abandoned an Europe threatened by authoritarian regimes and established himself in São Caetano do Sul, in São Paulo. About this time, Klein seemed to have a selective memory. The past has left its marks, but does not conduct the future. "I live and let others live", he says.
The humble origin - Samuel Klein was born in Lublin, Poland, the third of nine children, a carpenter's son, from a Jewish family. At 19 he was arrested by the Nazis and sent with his father to the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland. His mother and five younger brothers went to the Treblinka extermination camp, and Samuel never saw them. Remembering those times, Samuel said that his luck was that he was young and strong, since that was what made the Nazis send him into a forced labor camp, where he survived with his carpenter skills, craft he had learned from his father.
His luck started changing in 1944. Taking advantage of a distraction from the guards, Samuel disappeared in the woods on his way to Germany, was able to escape, remaining in Poland until the end of the war. Then he went to Munich, Germany, in search of his father.
In Germany, Samuel did everything to make a living by selling products to the allied troops. In five years he gathered some money and married a young German girl, named Ana.
In 1951, Samuel decided to venture to South America. First, he went to Bolivia, but when faced with the country in full civil war, he quickly changed his course and arrived the next year in Brazil where, after a quick journey in Rio de Janeiro, traveled to São Paulo, settling in São Caetano do Sul, in the ABC Paulista region. His wife and the couple's first child, Michael, then a year old, accompanied him. Besides the family, he brought the dream to prosper in a country where, above all, one could live in peace.
The beginning - With US$ 6,000 in his pocket, Samuel bought a house and a carriage. With the help of an acquaintance who knew his way around in the commerce of Bom Retiro, a stronghold of the Jews and Arab immigrants in the 50s, he acquired a portfolio of 200 customers and goods - bedding, bath linen and table linen. Door to door, he began to peddle through the streets of São Caetano do Sul. When someone said he could not pay, Samuel would soon offer conditions: keep the product and pay in installments, all on installment plans.
Five years later, in 1957, he already had enough capital to take another step towards the future. He bought a small store in downtown São Caetano, at 567, Conde Francisco Matarazzo Street, called Casas Bahia. The name was a tribute to the great number of Northeasterns who had moved to the region in search of work in the automotive industry, and Klein decided to keep it.
Samuel increased the variety of products and began negotiating with furniture, cotton mattresses, among other items. The clientele was quick to attend the store to pay their installments and, of course, acquire new goods. It was the beginning of an empire that was conquering more and more clients and markets until it became the power that it is today.
Admirer of maxims, Samuel Klein used to say: "I grew up with Brazil, I was not still seeing the country grow. We have to love the country we live in. "
Upon completing 80 years old, Samuel Klein wrote his biography, "Samuel Klein and Casas Bahia, a successful path." He died on November 20, 2014, at 91, in São Paulo.
It was the vision and the pioneering ways of Samuel Klein in the supply of credit to popular sections of the population, that made possible the fulfillment of the dreams of millions of Brazilian families.