When I grew up in the Miller Park neighborhood during the 1980s and 90s, there were only memories and rumors of what used to be. There were ghosts of busy shopping districts, a thriving school, beautiful churches and streetcars haunted the neighborhood. Some memories were so enticing that they made me imagine what was. One of those places was a small market at North 27th and Fort Streets. This is a history of North Omaha’s Fort Street Grocery.
Many of the earliest grocery store owners in North Omaha were Jewish. Working first pushing carts of fruits and vegetables through the Near North Side, Long School and Lake School neighborhoods in the 1870s, within a decade there were Jewish entrepreneurs investing in the booming neighborhoods north of Dodge Street.
Opened in 1919 by Sam Gendelman (1879-1943), the Fort Street Grocery was a small Jewish family-run business operating out of a storefront built onto a house at 2771 Fort Street in the Miller Park neighborhood. With streetcars and constant car traffic on the busy Fort Street in front of the house, it was located in the middle of the neighborhood between North 24th and North 30th Streets. Sam ran the store while his son Sol (1906 – 1982) was the butcher. Two other sons, Max and Hyman (Hy or Hymie) helped run the store, too.
In 1927, a story ran in the Omaha World-Herald about Sam unknowingly picking up a live tarantula from a bunch of bananas. Since it was half-frozen and curled up, it didn’t bite him.
In 1933, Sam opened a fruit stand at 5319 North 30th Street. This brick building eventually was sold to Yano Caniglia to become Caniglia’s Royal Boy Drive-In and later, Mr. C’s restaurant. Around this time, Sol was married to Betty (1909-1991).
By 1935, Sol was running the Fort Street Grocery with his brothers Max and Hy (1910-1994). That year, Sol announced that the Fort Street Grocery was becoming affiliated with the Super Service Store, a local group of independently owned groceries. Advertising and buying food, supplies and advertising together, the group of stores worked together for several years. During these years, Sol lived at 1426 North 19th Street.
The elder Gendelman, Sam, died in 1942 and was buried in Golden Hill Cemetery. His son Sol, had opened a new grocery called U-Needa Cash Market, later called Buy Rite Market, at 1902 Ohio Street in the late 1930s. It was much closer to his own home, and the Buy Rite Market stayed open for several years. Sol’s brother Hy moved to San Diego.
The Fort Street Grocery closed in summer 1954.