Half a Day on Sunday
Eastern European and Russian Jewish immigrants opened “mom and pop” grocery stores in all four quadrants of the city.
Often borrowing start-up money from relatives or assistance groups like the Hebrew Free Loan Society, Jewish grocers had opened more than 300 stores in Washington by 1924. Many learned English by reading can labels.
Most stores stayed open on Saturday, the busiest shopping day of the week—making it difficult to observe the Sabbath. For some families, the only time the store closed was “half a day on Sunday” and on the High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
The introduction of self-service supermarkets and the move to the suburbs gradually ended the era of “mom and pop” grocery stores.
The store had a wooden floor covered with sawdust…a countertop with a glass front contained bread. Another case contained loose candy and cupcakes. The candy sold for one cent each. Pop said that I ate up all the profit.
Dr. Howard Katzman, Interview, 1994
1910-1930s: Working six days a week, twelve hours a day, these Jewish merchants lived “above the shop,” running down to wait on customers who rang the bell. They catered to the needs of their neighbors. One store sold Italian sausages; others sold ham.
Isadore Gimble reading the Yiddish Forward at Congress Food Market, 5th and East Capitol Streets, NE.
JHSGW Collections. Gift of Josephine Gimble. 1993.22. Photograph by Gilbert Gimble.
1922: Joseph and Lena Shankman in the Economy Meat Market, 2827 Georgia Avenue, NW.
JHSGW Collections. Gift of Mildred and Nathan Shankman. 1996.21
1924: Benjamin Dekelbaum in his grocery store at 11th and P Streets, NW, in 1925.
JHSGW Collections. Gift of Joseph and Rosalie Gilbert. 2004.25
1914: Robert I. Silverman and his sister Augusta (Dessoff) in front of their father Morris Silverman’s grocery store, Georgia Avenue and Kenyon Street, NW.
JHSGW Collections. Gift of Robert I. Silverman. 1993.25
1920s: Israel and Lena Lisensky in their store at 2400 Minnesota Avenue, SE.
JHSGW Collections. Gift of Gary Malasky. 1996.05
1928: Shown here are Joseph and Rebecca Temin at their East End Meat Market, 1501 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.
JHSGW Collections. Gift of Alvin Temin. 1998.29
1918: In their 7th Street, NW, store near Griffith Stadium, Lewis and Frieda Klivitsky sold bread made at the Morningstar Bakery on 4 ½ Street, SW.
1921: Twelve Jewish grocers formed the District Grocery Stores (DGS), providing cooperative buying power and a means to fight discrimination from non-Jewish wholesalers. After paying $2,500 to join, DGS members could purchase goods at cost. Shown in front of the Vigderhouse family DGS store is Jennie Vigderhouse (right) with her son Norman, daughter Naomi, and an employee.
Members hosted annual banquets and summer picnics.