Leader Furniture

130-134 W Elder St.

Early Years
Built in the early 1870s, 130-134 W. Elder was initially numbered 66-70 Elder before Cincinnati renumbered its streets in the 1890s. While it is today the Leader Furniture building, it was historically three distinct buildings. Earliest commercial tenants included Abraham Reinbach’s shoes and boots store at 66 Elder, Emil Krause’s clothing shop at 68 Elder and Peter Gribling’s bakery at the corner storefront at 70 Elder.

Born in 1845, Emil was a Prussian immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1869. He was a tailor by training. As his store was at Findlay Market, he and his wife Josephine lived over on Moore Street in Over-the-Rhine. His neighbor at the northeast corner of Elm and Elder—Peter Gribling (1836-1920)—was also an immigrant, born in Alsace-Lorain in 1836. Peter immigrated to the U.S. in 1854 and married Ida (Brinbryer) (1845-1906). He raised a family at 70 Elder with her as he operated his bakery there; her extended family also lived there with them. Their children included Emma (1865-1940), Rosa (1867-1930), Edwin (1871-1896) and Ida (1877-1924).

In addition to being a baker, he also worked as a wagon maker to earn extra income. After his wife died in 1906, he lived with his married daughters until his death in 1920. Both his bakery and Abraham Reinach’s store lasted at their locations through the 1880s.

In the early 1890s, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company had one of its many locations at 66 Elder. It was a tea and coffee grocery that eventually morphed into A&P Food Stores, a major chain grocery and the largest grocery retailer in the U.S. in the 20th century.

In the 1880s and early ‘90s, the Letzler family—Jacob and then Harry—sold chinaware, specifically cream-colored queensware, at 68 Elder (along with 62 Elder). Jacob Letzler was a German immigrant, born in 1820 in Germany; Harry was his son, born in 1865 in Ohio. Leo H. Beck’s (1867-1925) shoe store followed the Letzer’s chinaware venture. Born in 1867 in Indiana to German parents, Romauld and Cresentia, Leo was married to Emma (Kuchenbuch) (1870-1945). They had Charles (1893-1946), Irene (1897-1977), Victor (1899-1947), Sylvia (1901-1990) and Dorothy (1902-1968) together as they lived on Green Street in Over-the-Rhine.

Leo came from a shoemaking family and grew up learning the trade. His father Romauld was a cobbler, born in Germany in 1830 and an immigrant to the U.S. by 1854. After living in Indiana, Romauld raised his family at 58 Elder at Findlay Market where he operated a shoe store. His wife Cresentia was from Indiana, born to parents from Baden. The couple had several children, including Mary, William, Robert, Frank, Leo, Helen, Joseph, Lucy and Henry. They also adopted an orphan named George who was about the same age as their son Frank. Most of the children, as young adults living at 58 Elder, worked in either the shoe industry or the garment trade.

The 20th Century at the Northeast Corner of Elm and Elder
From 1893 to 1906, George Ritter—and his early partner Henry Kessler—operated a clothing store at 130 W. Elder that sold men’s and children’s clothing, hats and caps. The storefront soon housed a shoe store, first under the Hooper Brothers of Baltimore and then, beginning in 1915, Abraham Friedman’s (1885-1951) business which lasted until 1923. Abraham also used the storefront at 128 W. Elder and also had another location at 620 W. Court.

Born in 1884 in Szilas, Hungary, Abraham was a Jewish immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1890. Yiddish was listed as his primary language, and his World War I draft card described him as short and stout with blue eyes and dark hair. The son of Jacob (1847-1924) and Lena (Falkenstein) (1848-1920), he was one of four children; his siblings included David (1873-1952), Hannah (1875-1939) and Ella (1887-1977).

During his shoe store at 128-130 W. Elder, he lived at 128 W. Elder with his parents and his sister Ella. Abraham was married three times. He first married Regina (Lefkowitz) (1895-unknown) in 1921. They wed in the Bronx in New York City and then had one child together in 1922 who died within the year. He then wed again in 1925 to Nanette “Nannie” (Berman) (1894-1928), yet she passed away three years later. He wed once more to a woman named Anna (1892-1964) who outlived him.

As a Jewish man, Abraham was involved with the American Jewish Congress which was established after World War I to represent the interests of Jewish families and communities in war-torn Eastern Europe. It later became an organization that aided Eastern Europe Jews and Jewish immigrants and generally advocated for Zionism. As a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe himself, Abraham most likely felt strongly about aiding those that followed in his footsteps.

After his business, William H. Rothenberg (1893-1971) sold shoes from 130 W. Elder until World War II at which point (in 1941) he moved his business to 116 W. Elder. Born in Kalvarija in what is now Lithuania (and what was then Russia) in 1893 to Abraham (1868-1952) and Bertha (Pekarsky) (1872-1931), William Rothenberg came to the U.S. in 1907 after traveling through Rotterdam, Holland, and New York City. After settling first in New York City and then Dayton, he returned to Europe to fight in World War I. He enlisted on October 2, 1917 and served in the Army until after the conflict had ended. He returned to Dayton in 1919 and then moved to Cincinnati where he married Fannie (Hellman) (1894-1974) in 1923.

The daughter of Louis and Gittel (Danziger), German and Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, Fannie was born in Cincinnati as one of five children. (Her sister Anna (Solway) (1897-1941) married Harry Solway (1898-1956) who was the next proprietor at 130-134 W. Elder.) After their marriage, Fannie and William had a son, David Joseph (1930-2003), and like other Cincinnati Jewish families, they lived in Avondale. William passed away in 1971, and his shoe store at 116 W. Elder transferred to his son David who owned that building until 1996.

At 132 W. Elder at the turn of the 20th century, Isaac Stein sold chinaware. Next door, the corner storefront was occupied for a number of years—beginning in 1890—by George Burger’s grocery. George (1852-1925) was listed as a “dealer in staple and fancy groceries, produce, fresh butter and eggs, received daily.” His and Isaac’s businesses lasted until the early 1920s. Isaac Stein was a German immigrant, born in 1870.

He came to the U.S. in 1889 (or 1891—sources list both). Here in Cincinnati in 1898, he married a German immigrant woman named Rosa; the couple did not have any children. His neighbor George Burger was also a German immigrant, born in Hesse in 1852. George immigrated in 1867, married his wife Josephine (Detwiller) ten years later in 1877 and then had seven children with her, including Laura, George, Emma, William, Lillian and Josephine (one child died very young). From 1923 to 1926, Josephine M. Althauser (1870-1949) used 134 W. Elder as a pharmacy, followed by Chester Lathrop (1895-1975) who was a druggist there until 1939.

Josephine and her younger brother William (1885-1964) leased the space at 134 W. Elder from Findlay Market butcher Clarence Stegner for a monthly rent of $125. Born in 1870 in Cincinnati to German immigrant parents, John (1845-1911) and Margaret (1843-1930), Josephine never married and lived with her family as she aged. She supported herself by running—in a move rare for women at the time—her own drug store.

In her later years, she moved to Los Angeles and died there in Glendale in 1949. The man who succeeded her at 134 W. Elder, Chester Lathrop, was known as “the Findlay Market druggist.” He was one of two sons born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Arthur (1862-1952), an engineer at Fay & Egan Company, and his wife Cora (1862-1938); Chester’s older brother was Clarence Gilbert (1891-1974).

While Chester finished high school, he worked in a drugstore, and upon graduation, attended the Pharmacy College (associated with the University of Cincinnati). He then worked for a pharmacist in Newport, Kentucky. Despite having three toes missing from his left foot, he served in the Army during World War I. After enlisting in August of 1918, he was sent to Syracuse, New York, where he worked in his professional capacity at the Syracuse Recruitment Camp and then the General Hospital before his honorable discharge in 1919.

Back from the war, he returned to civilian life as a pharmacist. In the early 1920s, he opened his own drug store, soon moving to 134 W. Elder. By World War II, he relocated to 131 W. Elder where his pharmacy remained until the mid-1960s. He and his wife Ann (1892-1982) first lived in Covington and then they moved to Kenton Hills, Kentucky.

After Rothenberg’s ended at 130 W. Elder in 1941, Harry Solway (1898-1956)—William Rothenberg’s brother-in-law—utilized 130 W. Elder in conjunction with 132-134 W. Elder for his furniture store. Solway’s—which began at 132 W. Elder in the 1920s—lasted at 130-134 W. Elder until 1963. Harry Solway was born in 1898 in Smolensk Oblast in the Russian Empire.

As a Russian Jewish immigrant, he arrived in the U.S. in 1912. In Cincinnati, he started a humble furniture store in 1920 with just three employees. That same year, he wed a German-Lithuanian woman, Anna (Hellman) (1897-1941), and had Tamara, Ethel (Peal), Norma (Ehrlich), Barbara (Cohen) and Carl with her. (After Anna’s death in 1941, he remarried a woman named Sylvia).

He was an active Findlay Market Association member—and president at one point—in addition to being an active member—and for a time vice president—of his synagogue, the Louis Feinberg Synagogue in Avondale. He was a member of the National Retail Furniture Dealers Association, the Retail Stores Service Syndicate and the Queen City Furniture Club. Additionally, he was a Mason. In addition to his main store at Findlay Market, in the 1950s, he also ran an Exchange Store—a consignment shop for gently used furniture—in the storefront of 1819 Elm. Solway’s in general was a Findlay Market favorite and staple; he was known for offering installment payments that allowed a variety of customers to afford new or used furniture.

After Solway’s, Leader Furniture moved into 130-134 W. Elder in 1963. Leader Furniture had its roots in another, older business, Karp Brothers Furniture Company, started by Russian immigrant Morris Karp (1870-1951) and his brothers. They initially had a storefront on W. 5th Street. In 1954, William Mallin (1916-1970)—a second-generation Russian immigrant and a butcher by training—purchased a share in the company. Two years later, he formed Lezam Inc. and then purchased 130-134 W. Elder.

What was Karp Furniture moved to the spot and became Leader Furniture. In the 1960s, William’s sons Gary and Gerald joined their father in running the business. In 1970, William passed away, and in 1974, Gary and Gerald purchased the Karp family’s stake in the furniture business. In 2016, Gary and Gerald decided to liquidate the business and sell the building.

Images

Leader Furniture Source: Google Images Date: 2022

Location

130-134 W Elder St.

Metadata

Alyssa McClanahan, “Leader Furniture,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed January 28, 2023, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/144.