Chapter 14. Merchants

According to the 1930 census, the population in Mountaindale was 1,076. There were 736 Jewish people and 340 gentiles. The population was more than two thirds Jewish, mostly concentrated in town. The merchants lived in apartments behind or above their stores. The kitchen was behind the store and the bedrooms were upstairs. There were a few merchants who lived in houses away from their business; the owners of the lumber yard, the Ford dealership, and the coal and grain store, as well as the blacksmith. In 1930 there were many gentile farmers. By 1945 they were mostly replaced by Jewish people who came in and built bungalow cottages. The Jews who were farmers were mostly poultry farmers. The gentiles had dairy farms. By 1945 the only dairy farm was owned by a gentile.

There were three kosher butcher shops and no non-kosher butcher shops. There was no need for a non-kosher butcher because gentile farmers slaughtered their own cows, pigs and chickens. If you were to walk down the main street in 1945 you would probably have noticed that there were many candy stores and groceries in town. It was easier and cheaper to open a grocery store or candy store than other types of businesses. If you opened up a butcher shop or a fish market, you would have had to purchase a large refrigerator and know how to store your products. For example, to be a butcher you had to know how to cut your meat. To own a fish store, you had to know how to clean your fish. To sell fruits and vegetables, you had to know how long your products could remain edible. But to open a grocery, you just had to call a salesman from Krasdale, the grocery wholesale company, and order a truckload of groceries, rent a store and hope that your personality was pleasant enough to attract customers. You didn't have to know anything about your products. The same thing was true for a candy store. There was almost no turnover of merchants from 1930 to 1945.

Almost all of the merchants were men. Only two women ran businesses. One woman, Helen Kline, owned a hairdressing shop. The other woman was Mrs. Trustman, who ran a fruit and vegetable store. Some women worked with their husbands. For example, the pharmacist's wife worked in the front of the store and sold ice cream, soda and candy. Their store was the only one in town with a soda fountain. The baker's wife sold bread in the bakery while her husband baked the bread in the back of the store. The other woman that I know of who helped was the daughter of the owner of the wholesale dairy store.