Mom & Pop No More

Local Jewish-owned businesses thrived as the economy expanded.

Many businesses moved to the suburbs to follow their customers. Corner groceries, pharmacies, and hardware stores became regional chains.

Stores remaining in downtown Washington faced new challenges. In 1968, riots erupted in Washington following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many Jewish-owned businesses along 7th Street, NW, 14th Street, NW, and H Street, NE, were destroyed. Despite efforts by the Jewish Community Council and other agencies to assist the storeowners, most shuttered their doors permanently.

Sam & Saul Stern
Sterns photo

1966: Brothers Sam (left) and Saul Stern transformed an 1880s building at 734 7th Street, NW, into a modern showcase for their office furnishings business.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Sam, Saul, Andrew, and Eve Stern. 2003.25

Kann’s Virginia brochure
map showing location

1951: The opening day brochure for Kann’s new store in Arlington emphasized the full selection of fine fashions newly available in a suburban setting.

Courtesy of Bernei Burgunder.

Hechinger’s exterior in Rockville

1957: Sidney Hechinger expanded his original wrecking business and lumberyard to a regional hardware chain catering to “do-it-yourself” homeowners. The Rockville store seen here opened on Memorial Day in 1957. Following Hechinger’s death in 1958, his son John and son-in-law Richard England ran the family business.

Courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, DC.

ribbon-cutting in Alexandria

1961: Company president John Hechinger (second from left) attends the ribbon-cutting of the Alexandria store, accompanied by his mother, Sylvia, manager Leroy Bendheim (center), and Hechinger chairman Richard England (right).

Courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, DC.

G Street Fabrics shopping bags w/images of buildings

A downtown fixture since 1942, G Street Remnant Shop at 805 G Street, NW, filled every floor of its seven-story building.

Courtesy of G Street Fabrics.

G Street Fabrics shopping bag

In 1983, owner Judah Greenzaid moved the store to Rockville Pike in Maryland, promising his customers convenience, free parking, and proximity to the Beltway. The store’s new name, G Street Fabrics, maintained the link to its downtown origins. The store relocated to 5520 Randolph Road in Rockville, Maryland, in 2009.

Courtesy of G Street Fabrics

Jumbo elephant w/ad listing stores

1950s: Irving and Kenneth Herman and brother-in-law Samuel Levin expanded Herman’s Cut-Rate Market and created the grocery chain Jumbo Foods.

Courtesy of Karen Herman Keats.

interior photo of Jumbo store

In 1979, they opened Shoppers Food Warehouse, a no-frills grocery chain. Irving Herman is shown here (second from left) in the River Terrace store at 3439 Benning Road, NE.

Courtesy of Karen Herman Keats.

Giant exterior in Bethesda

1959: Giant Food had grown into a regional chain with more than 50 stores in the city and suburbs, including this new store in Bethesda. Giant remained a locally owned family business until 1998 when it was sold to Royal Ahold, Inc.

Courtesy of the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation.

Samuel Lehrman and Nehemiah Cohen

Company founders Samuel Lehrman (left) and Nehemiah Cohen (right).

Courtesy of the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation and the family of Charlotte and Jacob (Jac) Lehrman

Photo of Drug Fair

1960: Milton Elsberg opened a pharmacy in Arlington with Robert Gerber in 1938. By the late 1970s, Drug Fair had expanded into a regional chain of 176 stores. Many suburban stores stayed open all night—a marketing first.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Stuart Elsberg. 1998.20

Marlos on 7th Street

1963: Marilyn and Louis Glickfield opened their first major furniture store at 7th and I Streets, NW. They combined their first names and called the new store Marlo’s Furniture.

Copyright Washington Post; reprinted by permission of the DC Public Library.

interior of Forestville warehouse store

1972: Marlo’s entered the suburbs with this 175,000-square foot furniture warehouse-showroom in Forestville, Maryland.

Copyright Washington Post; reprinted by permission of the DC Public Library.

Photo of Rosenthal Chevrolet groundbreaking

1950s: In the city and the suburbs, Jewish-owned auto dealers catered to the new car-hungry culture. Harry Rosenthal (left) and son Bob (right) broke ground for Rosenthal Chevrolet at the intersection of Glebe Road and Columbia Pike in Arlington in 1954.

Courtesy of Robert Rosenthal.

Photo of window of Pasternak’s store w/50th anniversary sign in window

1953: By its 50th anniversary, Pasternak’s had grown from a small tailor shop to a four-story dress store on Connecticut Avenue, well-known for outfitting several First Ladies. The family sold the store in 1961 after 58 years in business.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Alfred Pasternak. 1984.06

Mortimer Lebowitz

1980s: Morton’s discount department store at 7th and D Streets, NW, had employed black women as sales clerks since the 1930s. By the 1940s, owner Mortimer Lebowitz desegregated the store’s dressing and rest rooms, years ahead of other downtown businesses.

Although Morton’s stores on 14th Street, NW, and H Street, NE, were looted and burned during the 1968 riots, Lebowitz remained committed to his downtown stores. As the once thriving retail core declined, he was forced to close his stores in the 1980s.

Lebowitz is shown here with long-time employees Patricia Carr and Sam Braun.

JHSGW Collections.

Hecht’s poster

1951: The Coordinating Committee for the Enforcement of the D.C. Anti-Discrimination Laws, led by Mary Church Terrell and Jewish activist Annie Stein, targeted several stores on 7th Street, NW, during the fight for desegregation. After the group picketed in front of Hecht’s for several months, the department store began serving black customers at its lunch counter in 1952.

Courtesy of Bennett Caplan.

Sam & Saul Stern
Sterns photo
Kann’s Virginia brochure
map showing location
Hechinger’s exterior in Rockville
ribbon-cutting in Alexandria
G Street Fabrics shopping bags w/images of buildings
G Street Fabrics shopping bag
Jumbo elephant w/ad listing stores
interior photo of Jumbo store
Giant exterior in Bethesda
Samuel Lehrman and Nehemiah Cohen
Photo of Drug Fair
Marlos on 7th Street
interior of Forestville warehouse store
Photo of Rosenthal Chevrolet groundbreaking
Photo of window of Pasternak’s store w/50th anniversary sign in window
Mortimer Lebowitz
Hecht’s poster