It was one of the best picnics of my childhood. Mountains of food. Games. It was some time in the mid-1960’s. After leaving his job with Raymond Concrete Pile when they moved to Baltimore (good decision by my dad as they later went belly up), my dad worked for a time as a furniture salesman at Haber’s Furniture, and the picnic was their company picnic, presided over by owners Frank and Martin Haber. It was the only time we went. My dad decided he just wasn’t cut out for a furniture salesman, and became a buyer trainee at McKelvey’s, where he worked until they closed.
The Haber brothers opened their store in 1943. For a number of years, they had a store on West Federal between Reichart Furniture and Home Savings and Loan, as well as their flagship store at 200 E. Federal Street. The building, now known as the Commerce Building was built in 1917 for the Oster Brothers Furniture Store. Oster Brothers operated stores in Birmingham, Terre Haute, Milwaukee, Columbus, and Youngstown.
Haber’s became known as a place to find quality furniture. Some of you might remember the slogan, “tell your neighbors it came from Haber’s.” They were part of a thriving Jewish business community in Youngstown that included the Strouss’s, Lustigs, the Warners, the Schwebel family, and later on the Raffel brothers of Arby’s fame.
By the 1960’s when my father worked there, they had consolidated the store to the E. Federal location. For it, as for so many other downtown retails stores, the closure of the mills spelled the beginning of the end. The store closed May 31, 1985. Mina “Min” Haber, Frank’s wife, lived into the new millenium, passing at the age of 101 in 2008. Jerold A. “Jerry” Haber, son of Frank and Mina, and his family continue to reside in the Youngstown area.
Ohio One purchased the building in 1987 from Jerry Haber, renovating it to serve as an office complex. They redesigned the building, adding a floor to the building and creating a five story atrium. The new fifth floor served as the home of the Youngstown Club from 1989 until 2012. In 2015 George Guarnieri opened The Fifth Floor restaurant. Sadly, it only lasted a little over a year, closing September 28, 2016.
I’m glad that the old Haber’s building endures over a century after it was built. My own experience, at that summer picnic, and the fact that for a time, the company helped put food on our table, was brief, but one for which I’m grateful. But the quality furniture they sold endures, as I discovered online. They were part of downtown Youngstown in its heydey. The family was (and is) part of a vibrant Jewish community. It will always be hard to forget “tell your neighbors it came from Haber’s!”