2009-07-10 / Front Page

18 Jewish Businesses That Have Stood the Test of Time

By Leo B. Schoffer

Leo Schoffer with a copy of "A Dream -  Journey -  A Community." Leo Schoffer with a copy of "A Dream - Journey - A Community." The original goal of our book "A Dream - A Journey - A Community" was to recognize the wonderful history of Jewish businesses that no longer exist in the Atlantic City area. While compiling the book, I received a call from Margie Berk who asked about submitting a story for Soltz Paint. I told Margie, "This isn't a book about businesses of today; rather, it's a nostalgic look at the old days." Margie's understandable reply was something to the effect that you mean to say that Soltz Paint made it through 100 years in Atlantic City and they don't make the book because they're still open.

Well, I got the message and began compiling stories and pictures of what we could reasonably determine were the oldest Jewish businesses that still exist.

Believe it or not, we had no intention to do so but we ended up finding 18 businesses that were at least 50 years old and still in operation. Appropriately, we added a section to the book called "Chai, 18

That Have Stood The

Test Of Time."I am hopeful that after people read the book they will find a business or two that we missed, for this we apologize. Our intent was to honor the merchant businesses that have shown the resiliency to make it through the good times and the not so good times and have remained in business to this day. Here they are, starting with the oldest!

1. Joseph Soltz came to America from Russia in the late 1800s and opened his first paint store on Atlantic Avenue in 1908. Over 100 years later Soltz Paint remains an Atlantic Avenue fixture.

2. Nathan Levin made fur hats in Russia and in 1910 opened the first fur shop in Atlantic City on Kentucky Avenue, Nathan Levin Furs.

3. Harry Davidson was among a group of Ukrainian youths who came to the United States under the sponsorship of presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan. In 1919 he started Harry Davidson Plumbing and Heating on Rhode Island Avenue.

4. Martin Miller founded Miller Studios in 1923 and his first big job was as an art deco plasterer at the Warner Theater. This successful business continues today on Adriatic Avenue under the name of Jersey Architectural Door and Supply.

5. Benjamin Kramer came to America from Poland in 1912 and in 1924 established a soft beverage business on Congress Avenue. Thanks to the end of prohibition, they became the distributor for old time favorites, Piels and Ballantine beers. Today, Kramer Beverage Company is bigger than ever. Ben would be proud to know that his great grandson Mark is currently running the show.

6. Paul Rosenberg was orphaned at the age of 13 after his father had been beaten to death by Kazaks. He came to America as a single man and in 1924 he purchased the Yellow Cab Company for which he had previously worked. Today the business is owned by his grandson who bears his name.

7. In the early 20th century the glass business was popular among Jewish families. Sam Rosenberg came to Atlantic City in 1925 and his first major job was the Flanders hotel in Ocean City. Unfortunately, in his bid he forgot to include one wing of the hotel. So in order to complete the job he summoned his son Isadore who worked for Perlstein Glass in Philadelphia. Founded in 1925, Rosenberg Glass is now known as Atlantic Plate and Glass.

8. In 1927 Irwin and Tillie Wood opened a pawn shop in Atlantic City. They catered to those who were in need of small sums of money and didn't have access to a bank. Over 80 years later Wood's Loan Office continues to thrive under the direction of Martin Wood and is one of only two licensed pawn shops remaining in Atlantic City.

9. Jacob Starkman established Starkman Cigar and Tobacco Company in 1941 on Tennessee Avenue. Over the years many local business people were involved with Starkman such as Joel Middleman, Sam Forman, Al Gardner and Abe Huberman. Today the business continues under the direction of David Gardner.

10. Robert Klein immigrated to America as an infant in the early 1900s. In 1946 he moved to Atlantic City and opened A.C. Home Furnishings at 445 Atlantic Avenue. In 1960 they purchased a former super market and remain in business at 625 Atlantic Avenue under the direction of local historian Fred Klein.

11. One of the iconic Atlantic City businesses, Art Handler's Good Year Tire and Appliance Store opened its doors in 1946 a block from the corner of Albany and Atlantic Avenues. The Handler family also operated Park Furniture Store at Ohio and Atlantic Avenues. In 1978 Art and Mel Parlin consolidated the stores and moved to Pleasantville. Art Handler retired in 1948 leaving the business to his son-inlaw Mel Parlin. Today the business continues to grow under the direction of Mel's son-in-law Scot Sacks.

12. This year marks the 63rd anniversary of the opening of Fischer Shoes at Maryland and Atlantic Avenue by Irv and Edith. After Irv died, his sons Martin and Norman joined their mother and continued the legacy. After years in Margate and now in Linwood, Fischer Shoes founded in 1946 continues under the leadership of Allen Fischer.

13. In 1885 David Kabat opened his first clothing store in the coal mining region of Pennsylvania. In 1945 his son Ruben came to Ocean City to manage the men's and boy's shop at Stainton's Department Store. Three years later he and his wife Sara opened up the first Kabat's Men's Store on Asbury Avenue and it would become a local institution. Dick, fresh out of the Air Force joined them in 1957 and continued to run the business until it closed in 2008 after a glorious 60 year run.

14. Samuel and Reba Leavy moved to Atlantic City in 1944 after Sam gave up his twenty year job with Dixie Cup in order to become a partner in Jersey Supply Company. An illness caused him to lose his ownership interest in the company and he could not get his old Dixie Cup job back, but instead they gave him one year's credit for the purchase of cups. Sam used son David's Bar Mitzvah money to purchase a used truck and so was born City Supply Company in 1952.

15. If you drive up along Atlantic Avenue to the 500 block, you will find Mel's Furniture. Established in1954 by Mel and Zelda Weinberg, who specialized in the installment plan, the business has grown over the years and today is run by sons Ronnie and Philip.

16. Harry Harrison purchased a bankrupt Anheuser Busch beer distributorship in 1956 and founded Harrison Beverage Company. Unfortunately, he passed away before it became a successful business. However, it grew dramatically under the leadership of his brotherin law Len Hollander and his son Larry Harrison. Today this very successful company continues to grow under the leadership of Harry's grandchildren, Dean Harrison and Brett Matik.

17. Atlantic City Shade Shop was founded in 1956 after Erwin Markman bought out the old Wallace Venetian Blind Company in Atlantic City. Today, the business operates out of a beautiful location on Tilton Road under the management of Erwin's three children, Susan, Barry and Howard.

18. Jacob and Sara Casel started with a dairy farm in Mays Landing in 1910. In 1920 they opened up their first grocery store in the city on Congress Avenue. In the early 1950s with the Jewish population moving down beach, many businesses began to follow, including Casel's Delicatessen which opened a small store on Ventnor Avenue in Margate. Abe and Herman Casel grew with the times and in 1956 they opened a New York style supermarket across the street. It was a big success and became a community institution. In 1982, the Casel brothers decided to retire and sold the business to Howard Seiden and Bernie Garber. 27 years later, Howard Seiden continues to maintain the great tradition and quality of Casel's Supermarket.

America has provided an opportunity for people to have a better life. These 18 businesses demonstrate not only the entrepreneurial spirit of the Jewish population, but how these families took advantage of opportunities and contributed to the growth and social development of the Atlantic City area from the end of the 19th Century to the present. Although in different businesses and ways this entrepreneurial spirit continues in our community to this day.

"A Dream - A Journey - A Community" can be ordered by calling the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties at 822-4404.

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