Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Yosowitz Store on the North Side of the Square


The Yosowitz men’s Furnishings store is believed to have been in continuous operation in the same location on the courthouse square longer than any other business operated by the same family. Until his death, Mandell Yosowitz, son of Ben N. Yosowitz, operated the men’s clothing and shoe store which his father had opened in that location in 1920.  (In 1952, the record was surpassed by only one other business, that of Harry Glover who succeeded his father George W. Glover. Mandell Yosowitz, son of Ben N. Yosowitz, operated the men’s clothing and shoe store which his father opened in location on the north side of the square in 1920.

Ben Yosowitz was born in Czechoslovakia January 15, 1888, to Hyman and Leah Yosowitz. Like many other immigrants to America in the early twentieth century he arrived with a skill but without much in the way of finances. He was just sixteen when he arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. He came to Lawrenceville during the oil boom in 1907 or ‘08. He soon found a job in P B McCullough’s clothing store as an alteration man.  While working in the shop he received ten dollars a week salary and one-half of all the profit from the clothes cleaned in the shop, one- half of any alterations he made on his own time, and 10 percent of all the suits he made.  With this arrangement, he often made more money than the store manager. 

Ben had many friends among the oil field workers and the men working on the construction of the Indian Refinery.  He decided that if he could make more money than the manager of the clothing store on his commissions why couldn’t he make more money with his own shop especially since there was only one other tailor in town. 

It wasn’t very long until Benny, as he was then called, made his dream a reality. In 1910, Benny moved to an upstairs room of a building on 13th and State Street, directly across from the History Center, cleaning and pressing and making tailor suits. His store inventory consisted of $10, a big tailoring iron known as a goose, a secondhand sewing machine, his thimble and needles, and a few spools of thread.   His many friends patronized him and his business grew.   After six weeks, he opened a small tailor shop in a building located where the parking lot is now across from New Leaf.
He soon added a few items of men’s wear to sell such as ready-made Oshkosh overalls that he sold for 75 cents a pair. By offering good service and quality merchandise his business kept growing and in 1912, he moved to the old post office location on 12th street, then in 1918, to the building where later the was Oil Worker’s International Union was located, and finally in May, 1920 to the North side of the square where the business remained until it closed.

In those early days, the stock of merchandise was small. Ben Yosowitz said in an interview, “I sold out completely every Saturday.” When asked where he got the money to enlarge his stock, he said, “I went across the street and borrowed $200 from Mr. Breen of the Citizens Bank. It wasn't much, but by watching carefully, I was able to add more and more merchandise.” The store soon became famous for Society brand Clothes, Stetson Hats, Manhattan Shirts and Bostonian Shoes.  To accommodate the lady shoppers, Yosowitz added several better lines of footwear in 1928.

In May 1920, Max Yosowitz closed the deal for the business building owned by D. L. Ward at 1109 State Street. The selling price was $7000 and possession would begin on July 1.  The building had been occupied previously by W. F. Cunningham as a restaurant but was to be remodeled with a modern glass front, the rear of the building extended to the alley, and a steel ceiling installed to accommodate his son’s stock of clothing and gentlemen’s furnishings.   The opening date was to be about August 1. The building interior was remodeled again in 1929, and in 1952, it received an entirely new glass front and all new fixtures. However, the most talked about change in the building locally was in 1948, when Ben had air conditioning installed, a new concept for Lawrenceville merchants.   

While the many employees that worked in the Yosowitz store over the years are mostly unknown, a few were mentioned in the newspapers of the time. Mr. F. L. Orr was the Sales Manager in December 1920. Miss Bertine Maxwell was the bookkeeper for the Yosowitz clothing store in 1930, and in 1935, Miss Cornelia Phillippe resigned as bookkeeper to marry Eugene Gray of Bridgeport.

Tomorrow more about the Yosowitz family...