Thanks fur the memories
KEARNY MESA – It's a business that's been in Ludi Graf's family for 84 years. But in two weeks, Furs by Graf will close its doors, marking the end to an enterprise that's been handed down through multiple generations.
“It's very rewarding to be able to say you have a family business that's lasted through three generations,” says daughter Kimberly Graf.
But at 82 years old, patriarch Ludi Graf says “It's time to slow down now.”
“It's past time really,” says wife Janet Graf, “I mean most people don't work into their 80s.”
There was a time – the 1930s, 40s, and 50s – when there was a fur store on practically every corner in downtown San Diego. Most of those businesses, family-owned, later closed. But the Graf family kept going, to become the last remaining full-service furrier in town.
This is the shop window of the Graf family's first store, opened in 1929 downtown across the street from the US Grant hotel.
In this vintage photo, Ludi is in the middle, his brother and his father at either side.
But it was Ludi's mother Minnie, a German immigrant, who bought a failing fur business, and became the family's first furrier. “They bought it for 500 dollars,” says Ludi. “$519.29.”
Later, the Grafs moved to 5th and B – this is the ad announcing the grand opening.
And while other shops were closing, the Grafs prospered, moving to Fashion Valley in 1969. Their store, with its fancy decor, was one of the first tenants at the mall.
Now daughter Kimberley runs the family's store in Kearny Mesa. Janet says some of their customers also span generations.
“People come in, they say 'I used to come in your store when I was this tall,' with their mother, their grandmother.”
In these closing days, there's a flurry of traffic, customers lured by 50 percent discounts. Janet: “People have bought eight, ten, twelve furs.”
Their full service store also cleans, remodels and stores them. Kimberley says the fur business remains robust. “Fur is bigger than ever, it's on all the runways, we're really leaving on a high note.”
But now, after 84 years in business, the Grafs are ready to take it easy. Instead of tailoring, Ludi says traveling is now on their agenda. “I feel like this country is so great that I'd like to see all of it.”
But saying goodbye to this won't be easy. “It's bittersweet,” says Janet, “because when you've done something for so many years, you know, it's just hard.”
Of course, the Grafs will always have their memories – and a couple of furs to keep them warm.
And that, as they say, is a wrap.