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August 24, 1990 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-08-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


there, Mr. Wall learned the
art of selling fruit at age 19
from the Feinberg family,
who ran small food stores
in the old Jewish neigh-
borhoods along Elmhurst
and Livernois, Chicago and
Livernois and Joy and
At the market he met
another produce
wholesaler, Charlie Snitz.
Soon after, Mr. Wall
started selling his pro-
ducts. He also worked for
The Harry Silverman Co.,
a dry foods business, as
well as Abner Wolf, a
grocer. In 1939, Mr. Wall
said goodbye to other
bosses and tried his hand
at his own business, State
With Mr. Wall still at the
helm, State Wholesale just
celebrated its 50th an-
"It's always been a place
where you can learn to
sell," Mr. Wall says of the
market. "But it has chang-
ed. There is no more small
grocer - just big super-
markets. And there is very
little in between. There are
still a lot of fruit houses, a
few restaurants and a
"At one time there were
nine wholesalers in total
at the market," Mr. Wall
recalls. "Five or six of them
were Jewish businesses.
"There are very few peo-
ple still here from way
back," Mr. Wall says.
"There is next to nothing of
the old timers."
The market, Mr. Wall
says, is not a place to love
or hate. Rather "it gets
into your blood. It gets to
be a habit. It's a job that
must get done."
United Meat and Deli on
Division Street is home to

- A k

..._3101k4 1

Sy Ginsberg Corned Beef.
Bob Fenkell and Mr.
Ginsberg started the busi-
ness in the past decade
and only moved to the
Eastern Market four years
ago; it comes with a dose of
family history.
Bob Fenkell's father,
Morris Fenkell, started
Fenkell Packing at the
Eastern Market after serv-
ing in the armed services
during WWII.


he story of Jewish
business at the
Eastern Market is
not complete without men-
tion of Harry Becker, the
tomato king. In the 1920s,
Mr. Becker, now retired in
South Florida, was the first
to grow his own celery and
to import tomatoes. He own-
ed farmland in Florida and
knew dealers who raised
tomatoes exclusively for
Mr. Becker was one of the
first people to operate a
business on the terminal,
which today is run by the
Detroit Produce Union.
At the same time Mr.
Becker was dealing in
tomatoes, Louis Tobin was
walking up and down
neighborhood streets with
a horse and buggy peddling
fruit and vegetables. He
passed up the Eastern
Market for the now defunct
Chene-Ferry Market,
where on Wednesdays and
Saturdays, he and his wife,
Jenny, sold produce from a
Mr. Tobin later opened
United Auto Parts in
Roseville, but never closed
the stand. He kept it open
for his wife, who loved the
business. The stand at the
market kept the business


alive during the Great
Depression, when few peo-
ple purchased auto parts
but came to the market for
"If it weren't for that
stand, there wouldn't ever
have been a store," says
Diane Tobin, daughter-in-
law of Louis and Jenny
Tobin, now deceased.
"My mother-in-law told
us how she always had
soup during the Depres-
sion," Diane Tobin says.
"If people came over, she
added water so they could
eat. She said the market
saved lives during the
Diane Tobin married
Morton Tobin when she
was 18. At 19, she was

driving a truck full of fruit
and vegetables and work-
ing at the market.
Soon after, the blond-
haired teen secured the
nickname "Blondie," and
it stuck. "The customers
called me Blondie. I knew
if I dyed my hair another
color, I could lose the busi-
Just like her mother-in-
law, Blondie operated a
stand at Chene-Ferry
Market with her truck at
her side. The truck, which
she kept near the stand,
boasted a large mural spor-
ting a blond woman with
many fruits and vegetables
on one side.
For 35 years, Blondie

Prinstein Brothers on Russell Street is one of a few remaining
Jewish-owned businesses at the market.



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