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Object of the Month: December 2014 0 Comment(s)

Interior of Friendship grocery, ca. 1950s.

Accession No. 2014.33
Donor: Ronald S. Levine
Description: Collection of photographs documenting Friendship Deli, 4932 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, mid-1940s-1950s.

This December, will you join the collective shopping frenzy around Friendship Heights? As you meander past bustling shopping malls and boutiques, remember the neighborhood's quieter past as a home to small, mom-and-pop businesses. One of those businesses was a grocery and later a luncheonette called ‘Friendship.'

Herman Levine opened Friendship grocery shortly after the Second World War, in a small, two-story building at 4932 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, between Fessenden and Ellicott Streets. Like many mom-and-pop groceries, the store was on the first floor, and the family lived in an apartment on the second floor. "It was a typical mom-and-pop store," remembers Herman Levine's son Ron who, with his older sister Maxine, spent part of his childhood living ‘above the store.' "It was open 7 days a week, from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. And my mother worked in the store, but would run upstairs to fix lunch and meals, and then go back to the store." Levine remembers being called home from school to help. "They would call the principal who would come into my classroom, and I knew that someone didn't show up for work that day." Herman usually took off Monday afternoons, and he and Ron would fish near the current site of the Kennedy Center.

Herman, Lillian, and Maxine Levine in front of Friendship grocery, ca. 1940s

From its beginnings, Friendship was a family affair. Levine, who was born in Brooklyn, NY, served as an airplane mechanic in Hawaii during the war and spent some time training in D.C. He met his wife, Lillian Furash, while staying at a boarding house for government workers on Nebraska Avenue, which Lillain's family owned. Lillian was born in Washington to immigrant parents originally from Pinsk, Russia. Shortly after the war, Herman and Lillian married. Lillian's father Jacob urged Herman to go into business, and helped him establish the grocery.

Friendship grocery was nestled within a strip of shops owned by Jewish, Greek, and Italian families. "The Kahn family ran a shoe store down the street," recalls Ron Levine. "Next to my father's store was a barber shop, and that was an Italian family. The toy store was next door, and next to them were Henry and Rose Greenbaum, and they had three kids. They lived above the shop, and were in business with Henry's brother. Both were survivors of Auschwitz. Next to them was a Greek florist. All of their children would run into each other's stores, and all of our parents watched us. On summer evenings we'd all be sitting out on Wisconsin Avenue and get together and talk. Our fathers were, of course, still in the businesses, still working."

Children whose parents owned stores adjacent to Friendship grocery
on the 4900 block of Wisconsin Ave, NW, ca. 1950s

Herman Levine and patron at Friendship when it was a grocery, ca. 1950s

In the early 1950s, a Safeway supermarket opened on the next block (it's still there). Unable to compete, Levine converted the grocery into the Friendship Delicatessen, a luncheonette that served breakfast and ‘kosher-inspired' sandwiches. Friendship Delicatessen offered signature items, including a version of a familiar D.C. favorite of the time. "Hot Shoppes came out with the Mighty Mo," recalls Ron, "and my dad came out with the Mighty Hy – because his nickname was Hy," short for his Yiddish name, Hyman. "It was a triple burger," similar to the Mighty Mo.

The Friendship Delicatessen flourished. Most of its regulars worked nearby at the WTTG (Channel 5) and WRC (Channel 4) studios, as well as at other offices and stores along Wisconsin Avenue. Within a few years, the family could afford to move to a house. They purchased and remodeled Lillian's childhood home on Nebraska Avenue – the same house where Herman and Lillian met.

"Once my dad changed the business to a deli, he worked Monday through Friday, and then closed up on the weekends," remembers Ron Levine. "After about 15 years, he had his weekends off." No longer needing to man the store on Saturdays and Sundays, Herman followed his passion for fishing. He purchased several progressively larger boats, which the family would take for deep-sea fishing excursions.

Herman retired in 1977 and sold his business. Similar to other Jewish Washingtonians, the Levines' mom-and-pop business helped the family to settle and prosper. The Levines and the Furashes live in the D.C. area.

Today, 4932 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, is home to the National Diving Center, which outfits SCUBA diving enthusiasts. The block continues to reflect the city's ethnic diversity, with Chinese, Thai, Mexican, French, and pizza restaurants, in addition to a bank, yoga studio, and pet groomer.

Object of the Month: September 2013 0 Comment(s)

Accession No.: 1995.16
Donor: Ruth and Vivian Weinstein
Description: Two grabbers, made of wood and metal, each stand 50" tall.

In the 1960s, Ruth and Vivian Weinstein took over Harry's Market, their parents' cornerstore in Mount Rainer, Maryland. They were among the few women who owned and ran a "mom and pop" store. Traditionally, women helped their husbands and fathers wait on customers and keep the shop's books. Rarely were they sole proprietors or shop managers.

Vivian and Ruth's parents, Leah and Harry Weinstein, had opened Harry's Market in 1924. They were among the hundreds of Jewish immigrants who opened "mom and pop" grocery stores in all four quadrants of Washington, D.C., as well as the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

The grocery business was popular with immigrants because it required little start-up capital and minimal knowledge of English. In fact, many grocers learned English by reading can labels in their stores.

Receipt books from Harry's Meat Market, early 1930s. Each book tracks the account of one customer or household.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Ruth and Vivian Weinstein.

These Jewish merchants lived above or behind the shop and ran out to assist customers who rang the bell. Sidney Hais remembered, "In those days, you waited on each individual customer. There was no such thing as self-service… It was exhausting." Grabbers such as the ones pictured here were used to reach cans and other items from high shelves.

The Weinsteins were part of District Grocery Stores (DGS), which provided cooperative buying power and a means to fight discrimination from non-Jewish wholesalers. Explained by Jenna Weissman Joselit in The Forward, "At once indispensable and taken for granted, the grocery store owner sought out the company of other grocers. Banding together, they formed trade associations that not only expanded their purchasing power, but also provided opportunities for socializing and for exchanging ideas."

Weinstein sisters, Vivian and Ruth, in front of their store, mid-1990s. 

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Ruth and Vivian Weinstein.

The era of mom-and-pop grocery stores started declining with the end of Prohibition in 1933, the movement of population from the city to the suburbs in the late 1940s and 1950s and the introduction of self-service supermarkets. Harry's Meat Market was one of the last Jewish-owned mom-and-pop grocery stores in the Washington area. The Weinsteins' sisters ran the store until 1996.

To learn more about mom-and-pop grocery stores in Washington, D.C., visit our online exhibition, Half a Day on Sunday!

This year, in conjunction with the Jewish Food Experience, our Objects of the Month feature DC's rich Jewish food history. For stories about this history and the latest on the local Jewish food scene – recipes, restaurants, chefs, events, and volunteer opportunities – visit jewishfoodexperience.com.

Making history with Giant Food 0 Comment(s)

Laura Apelbaum, JHSGW Executive Director, holding the GIANT check with John Hicks and Charlton Clarke of Giant Food. In the background are D.C. City Councilmember Tommy Wells and Giant Food President Anthony Hucker.

Courtesy of Giant Food

Last week JHSGW staff attended the grand opening of Washington’s newest corner grocery store – the H Street NE Giant Food.  As you can see, we were thrilled to receive a generous $2,500 contribution from Giant in appreciation for our work preserving Giant Food’s historical archives and photographs. With support from the Naomi & Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, JHSGW archivists spent five years cataloging Giant Food’s historical documents and photographs and conducting oral histories to help preserve Giant’s remarkable legacy in our community.

For a sneak peek into the Giant Food archives, check out this slideshow of historic Giant photos and a short film featuring memories of Giant Food and its founders, Samuel Lehrman and Nehemiah Cohen, from interviews with community leaders, former employees of Giant Food, family, and friends.

Recognize the big G? Most of these iconic Giant  store signs have been replaced in recent years so we were especially delighted to receive this sign last month when the Queenstown Giant in Hyattsville, Maryland closed. Opened in 1954 on Queens Chapel Road, the store achieved a brief moment of fame in 1957 when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip stopped in for a brief tour of the store after visiting the University of Maryland.

We plan to make the GIANT sign a centerpiece of our new museum in the future - but in the meantime our costs to preserve and store the sign will come to $12,000 over the next five years. Won't you help us support the care and preservation of this GIANT piece of history? Donate to the Giant Food Sign Preservation Fund.

Object of the Month: January 2013 0 Comment(s)

Description: Photograph of Louis and Frayda Klivitsky outside their store, 1702 Seventh Street, NW. An "EAT MORNING STAR BREAD" advertisement is across the top of the display window, 1918

Background: The Klivitzkys left Russia for Baltimore in the first years of the 20th century. They moved to Washington, D.C., and ran a grocery and kosher butcher shop on Seventh Street, NW, for decades. The business was one of many that carried Morning Star bread.

The owners of Morning Star Bakery, like the Klivitzkys, were European immigrants who first lived in Baltimore and then relocated to Washington. After operating a few small bakeries in different parts of the city, they settled on 4-½ Street, SW, one of D.C.'s Jewish neighborhoods. The Morgensteins' bakery and retail shop took up the first floor of the building at 613 4-½ Street and the family lived upstairs.

The bakery's name, Morning Star, held special meaning. When Harry's oldest brother arrived in Baltimore from Austria, the Immigration official mistook the penultimate letter of the family name, Morgenstern, which means "morning star", changing the family name to Morgenstein. All Morgenstern brothers who followed to the United States took on the new name.

In 1924, the Morgensteins expanded and renovated the bakery. Then, under rabbinical supervision, Morning Star began using an oven for Passover cakes and macaroons. The Jewish community previously had to import Passover foods from Baltimore and New York.

Much of the bread used by the Jewish Foster Home in Georgetown and the Hebrew Home for the Aged, then on Spring Road, NW, was donated by Morning Star. During the Depression, the bakery contributed much of its sliced white bread to food lines and various institutions throughout the city.

By 1934 when the Morgensteins sold the bakery, the business included several trucks delivering bakery goods to many Jewish butcher shops, delicatessens, grocery stores, and even private homes.

Do you have materials you would like to donate to the archives that document a local Jewish-owned business? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

This year, in conjunction with the Jewish Food Experience, our Objects of the Month feature DC’s rich Jewish food history. For stories about this history and the latest on the local Jewish food scene – recipes, restaurants, chefs, events, and volunteer opportunities – visit jewishfoodexperience.com.

Object of the Month: June 2012 0 Comment(s)

Object No.: 1999.36.1
Donor: Milton Weinstein
Description: Two-part green metal sign (28" x 116") with orange letters reading District Grocery Store, 1920s

Background:  This sign hung over Harry's Market in Mt. Rainier, Maryland for more than 70 years. Leah and Harry Weinstein bought the market in 1924 and became members of District Grocery Stores (DGS), a cooperative. DGS was formed in 1921 by a dozen Jewish grocers, providing cooperative buying power and a means to fight discrimination from non-Jewish wholesalers.

Through out its 72 years, Harry's Market supplied the neighborhood with groceries, beer and wine, diapers, school supplies, candy and other small necessitates. When Harry and Leah got older and could no longer run the store, daughters Vivian and Ruth (seen here), took over until closing in 1996.

The legacy of DGS lives on in the upcoming DGS Delicatessen, scheduled to open this summer at 1317 Connecticut Avenue, NW, just south of Dupont Circle.

Do you have material documenting a local Jewish-owned business that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society’s collection?  Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.