This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History
Project with Martin and Leah Godofsky is taking place on February 25, 1985 at
their home at 3025 Dale, in Columbus, Ohio. The interviewer is Judy Blair.
Interviewer: Marty, are you a native of Columbus?
Marty: I am a native. Born in German Village at the corner of Mohawk and
Beck, and I think my father made a sad mistake. He should have bought about a
dozen buildings there.
Interviewer: Did he own a building there?
Marty: No, he did not.
Interviewer: And your father had come from where?
Marty: My father came from Europe, from Lithuania, I believe. Yes.
Interviewer: To where?
Marty: Well, he didn’t come directly here. He came to New Orleans, and then
from New Orleans he came to Columbus, Ohio because his uncle lived here, and
they also had family in New Orleans. His uncle, Saul Katz, was Herman Katz’s
father. You remember Herman Katz?
Interviewer: Of course.
Marty: Anyway, Katz was not their real name. Godofsky is their name, also.
But in going through immigration there and, I think it was because of the Army,
that he took somebody else’s name and was able to get into this country with
the name of Katz, and that made things much easier for them to come here. But
their name is not Katz, it’s Godofsky, the same as ours.
Interviewer: Isn’t that interesting. So you are mishpocha?
Marty: Oh, definitely, definitely.
Interviewer: And you’re related to half of the people in Columbus.
Marty: Well, yes, true, true.
Interviewer: And your mother is?
Marty: My mother is also a Godofsky. My father married into the family.
Marty: Yes, and since he did marry into the family, he couldn’t get married
here in Columbus, Ohio, and they had to elope and they went to Covington,
Kentucky, and that’s where they were married.
Interviewer: I see. Now was there a state regulation prohibiting this kind of
Marty: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Interviewer: It was not a religious thing. It was a state…
Marty: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Interviewer: Isn’t that interesting.
Marty: Then they had to. Of course, after the marriage there then they came
back to Columbus and they had the religious ceremony.
Interviewer: And where were they married in Columbus?
Marty: I don’t know.
Interviewer: What business was your family in?
Marty: Same business that I’m in. That’s how I got into it.
Interviewer: OK, a family business.
Marty: Right. Right.
Interviewer: And where was the original store?
Marty: The original store was at Parsons and Elsmere.
Interviewer: That doesn’t exist anymore?
Marty: Yes, that’s about three blocks south of Livingston Avenue, and from
that location, that was 705 S. Parsons Avenue, they moved catacorner. My father
bought the building at 686 Parsons Avenue, and the store was on the main, the
street level and we lived upstairs. My father was in business there until right
after we were married. Anyway, this was about in 1932, I believe, and at that
time the Jews started to drift to the east end, the Driving Park area and all
through that area, and I thought it was a real opportunity because it would
really upgrade the area that I would be in and my father didn’t go with me
originally, he didn’t think it was a good idea. But I thought well, if you don’t,
if you don’t want to come with me I will go on my own. And this was at
Ellsworth and Livingston in the Driving Park area and this had to be 1940,
Marty: 40 years ago.
Leah: It was 42, May of 1942.
Interviewer: Right after the war?
Marty: No, no. We were there before the war. Fact of the matter is, because I
was in this business, I did not have to go into the Army. It so happened that
there was another store at Livingston and Lockbourne, owned by a Mr. Homer
Barton, and he was on the draft board, and even though we were somewhat
Interviewer: He was in the grocery business also?
Marty: Grocery business, right. He listed me as vital and essential
Leah: Essential but not vital.
Marty: And I never even had to go through an examination. Every time my name
came up and this was without any asking on my part, on his own, he must have
realized the need of the Jews in the business that I was in and he was very
compassionate about it, which I felt was really an outstanding contribution to
me and to the Jewish community.
Interviewer: Jewish community, yes.
Marty: Right. And…
Interviewer: Now at this time, let me go back a little bit. As a youngster
then, you saw the grocery business from day one.
Marty: Oh, I did. Yes, I grew up in it.
Interviewer: And you worked in the store as a youngster.
Marty: I grew up in it, yes.
Interviewer: What kinds of things were you able to do? How far back does your
recollection go in terms of working in the store?
Marty: How far back does it go? Well let me say this, when I was, Oh I would
say 10 years of age, at that time the kosher meat business made it necessary for
my father and the others that were in the business to get up at 3:00 in the
morning and process the meat, and there was a delivery service. It was done on
bicycles, and by early afternoon he was tired and he had to have his afternoon
nap and I would watch the store, you know, and if a customer came in and they
did want meat. Of course I couldn’t cut it, he was napping in the back of the
store there and the house was also connected with it, and I would have to go and
awaken him to take care of that customer. But by that time in the afternoon
there were very few, most of the women had already made their purchases or had
it delivered and their needs were not what they are today and they didn’t have
card games. Of course, all the organizations and things, and that’s really how
I got my start and interestingly enough. When the orders were delivered they
were delivered 7:00, 6:30 in the morning you know, and the basket in front of
the bicycle and a basket in back of it. Some of our delivery boys, very
interesting, was Abe Wolman, of blessed memory, you remember him, Morris Looper
was another one of the delivery boys, and those are the two that I remember most
but I know that there were others. In all kinds of weather, rain, snow or shine,
the baskets on the bicycles were loaded and off they went.
Interviewer: OK, so then you are in the Driving Park area, you and Leah were
married at that time?
Marty: We were married, yes, yes.
Interviewer: You were a young man, starting your own business and your father
retained his business down on Parsons?
Marty: He retained his business for a period of, I don’t know, I don’t
even think it was two years. Of course they all were out in the east end already
and they all came to be in the business and the business kept going down, and
down, and down, and then my father came to me and relieved me of some of my
duties in the meat department, he took over the meat department. My
brother-in-law was in the store with me when we opened, that’s Joe Mechnick,
and I tell you he worked for several years without taking or getting a cent in
salary and I didn’t either, and Leah used to come to the store and also help
me and she was a social worker. Leah was a social worker, right. And whatever
time she had, even if she didn’t have time, she was in the store helping me.
Interviewer: Now you had learned how to butcher?
Marty: Just by observation and when I felt that I could handle a knife. If my
father was sleeping I didn’t want to disturb him, I did it on my own. Maybe
not too good and not too well, but I did it without cutting off an arm or a
finger, you know, I still have 10 fingers.
Leah: I will say this, he was one of the best meat cutters in the city of
Columbus and he brought innovations to the kosher meat cutting that had never
been seen in this city.
Interviewer: Well, tell me about this.
Marty: I had ideas there, and I, the way kosher meat was always sold,
customer would come up to the counter and say, and I’ll say it in Jewish,
ashtick flacia, so my father would go into the walk-in cooler and bring it out
to the block and, there were no saws, it was all by handsaw and knife, and Mrs.
Rubin, vos vilt ir,(what do you want?) So when we set up on Livingston Avenue,
we ordered a display case very similar to what they use today, not self serve
but it was service there and we had beautiful platters of meat on display there
and it was really very attractive. Fact of the matter is we gained recognition
for what we were doing by several national publications. At that time,
Manechvitz published a magazine on a monthly basis where, to keep things in
front of the public as to what was going on in the kosher end of the business
there, and then one of the national grocers magazines also heard of what we were
doing and also gave us a beautiful write-up. I think we still have these
available somewhere. I know Manechvitz where it is.
Interviewer: If you do a little housekeeping I’d love to have copies of
that to this transcript.
Marty: I do, and I will get those together. Well, looks like I’m doing the
right thing and the housekeeping of the store was entirely different than the
kosher meat markets. They were…
Interviewer: For example how were they different?
Marty: How were they different? In the housekeeping, the cleanliness and the
orderliness and the attentiveness of myself and whatever people we had working
for us. And we also did a very, very large delivery business.
Leah: Cleanliness, by that, everything’s under cover, before, everything
was in the open. Pickles and cookies were sold in barrels and if you wanted you
got in and got them yourself.
Marty: We had those on Livingston Avenue, too. Bulk cookies, not as many then
the companies were starting with packaging. It was a different ball game. Then
Leah: The delicatessen was kept away from the public by class separation.
Bread was also in a case, not in the open and the meat too, the refrigeration.
Interviewer: But this was also in the grocery business in general. I would
suspect at that time wasn’t it?
Leah: Yeah. No, no. Supermarket.
Marty: It wasn’t self serve.
Leah: And another thing too, this was the first time that the concept of a
supermarket type of kosher market was established. Where everything was housed
under one roof.
On a small scale, before it was usually a butcher shop. Sold you know, meat
Interviewer: When it was earlier, excuse me, when it was earlier was it just
meat, or did you…
Marty: Originally the kosher butcher, was a kosher butcher and if you wanted
the groceries to go along with it, there were a number of very small ones, you
know like a widow would take the front room of our home and bring in a few
Manischewitz items or Rokeach items and candles and things like that you know
and this is how they made their livelihood.
Interviewer: Now your father’s store, was that just a butcher shop?
Marty: No, we had groceries also, we had groceries, yeah, yes.
Leah: As a teenagers he started to initiate that.
Marty: As young as I was at the time, I said they’re coming into the store
here to get their meat you’ve got to have their kosher soap for them, you’ve
got to have the herring and the matzos, and all these other things so they won’t
go here and there. It’s gonna be a one-stop shopping event, you know.
Interviewer: And then when you went up to Parsons Avenue, were you adding
then more departments, when did the produce go in?
Marty: Before I went into business for myself you mean?
Marty: A smattering of produce, just very small. I mean the basic things,
potatoes, onions, apples, oranges, and lettuce. You know, just the basic things
that most people were using then. They were not using kiwi fruit or anything of
Interviewer: I never saw a kiwi in my family’s home. And when you went into
business for yourself then, did you expand even further?
Marty: Oh yes, oh yes. Whatever was available in the area we got and we
displayed and we sold it.
Leah: We came into our own business at a time of great disadvantage.
Interviewer: In what way?
Marty: Oh yes, yes, yes. This was war time and Of course we had not
established a base as to what we were going to be allowed to get from our
suppliers to serve our customers, you know, and we started off with a bang
there. We opened on a Saturday night and there were people standing in line on
Livingston Avenue there, that’s when we opened on Saturday night after
sundown, you know. And so we really had a battle, and of course there were at
that time six or seven other kosher butchers in the city. They saw that I was
really successful in what I was doing and they tried to put the clamps on me
through their suppliers which were also our suppliers that they had dealt with
for a number of years, you know, and there was really a battle. I really had a
difficult time in getting the things we really needed to satisfy our needs.
Interviewer: Now who were the other kosher butchers at that time?
Marty: Well, let me intimate them for you. There was an I. Briar and a B.
Briar and Harry Center who was just about the top one, he was just about the top
one, and Saul Katz & Sons, and, let me think now, and there was a Mr. Levy
on Washington Avenue, that was five.
Leah: That was in the early years.
Marty: Yes. And, well earlier than that before I went in the business.
Leah: Well are you talking about when he was in business his competitors..
Interviewer: Generally about this time, yes.
Marty: Those were our competitors, yes. And we were, three of us were on
Livingston Avenue, Saul Katz and B. Briar and I. Briar.
Marty: Oh yes, Mendleman, he’s another one, yes. I knew that there was
another one. And I’ll tell you we had a lot of competition.
Interviewer: I can see that, right.
Marty: And compare that to today, we’re the only one not only in the city
but in the whole central Ohio and beyond. Dayton has no kosher markets,
Springfield does not, Toledo has a very small one, Cincinnati, even though the
Jewish population is much greater than Columbus, they have three small ones that
will fit into our present location and still have room to move around in. And
today because of the lack of kosher outlets, we have customers coming from
Dayton, Springfield, even Cincinnati with the three that they have there and
even from out of state, Lexington, Kentucky, and Mansfield, and the whole area
they’re coming in. But unfortunately I’m getting ahead of my story now. You
know the Jewish population of this city, of this area, and the country is larger
than the number that are keeping the dietary laws in their homes is diminishing.
Interviewer: And this is the reason that the area can’t support that
Marty: That’s right, that’s right.
Interviewer: That’s interesting.
Leah: We used to ship to Birmingham, Alabama, to New Orleans.
Marty: Oh, we shipped to Atlanta, Georgia.
Interviewer: You had some special mail order.
Marty: Well, this was by plane, we shipped by plane.
Leah: By word of mouth.
Interviewer: People would just write to you and say please ship..
Marty: Right. Friends of theirs would either be in some way related or heard
of us through one way or another and they would phone us or write to us and we’d
Interviewer: How interesting, how interesting.
Marty: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: Let’s go back to when you opened your own store. How many
years were you in the Livingston Avenue location?
Marty: Livingston Avenue location, we were there ten years.
Leah: That was a strange phenomenon.
Interviewer: What happened?
Leah: A sociological change, it was almost unheard of. A population change
which usually you don’t get a population shift more than once every 30 to 50
years, a strong shift.
Leah: You may get a slow one but here there was a complete population change
in less than 15 years. The Driving Park area, which was almost exclusively
Jewish, young Jewish couples changed almost overnight, and all of them moved
into Bexley, or maybe Berwick Community.
Marty: Oh, Berwick was not hardly getting started it was a golf course.
Interviewer: I think that was probably early 60s that Berwick started.
Marty: Right, right.
Leah: From 1941 Martin opened the store 51-52 when he moved over on
Livingston Avenue. All the Driving Park, practically all the Jewish people
mailed out of there were just a few left after you moved.
Marty: Those are good points to make but I’ve got to inject this also. When
we made our move to East Broad Street, we still kept our East Livingston Avenue
store and I put my brother in charge there because that there would still be
enough in the Driving Park area, people living in that area there to support
that store then they wouldn’t have to go clear out on East Broad Street.
Interviewer: That was pretty undeveloped at the time you went out there.
Marty: Right, right.
Interviewer: Let’s make the differentiation here the old Broad Street
address was at Broad and Chesterfield.
Marty: Yes, yes, right, right.
Interviewer: At Broad and Chesterfield was the first.
Marty: That’s the first, Broad Street. And in sight of a year or just over
a year, under a year, the business there, the same as I told you on Parsons
Avenue, started to go down, down, down. We had to close it because all the
people from there they wanted more modern facilities and easier shopping and a
larger selection, so they came from the Driving Park area bypassing our location
there and coming to us and we saw the handwriting on the wall and we just had to
close it. And fortunately on the East Livingston Avenue there I had a very
understanding landlord and although I had a lease there he saw that he had to
help me out and he canceled the lease there and I made the move there,
Interviewer: Now, you had some changing concepts then when you moved into the
first Broad Street store.
Marty: Oh yes, oh yes.
Interviewer: What did you change, how did you change the store at that time?
Marty: At that point, we expanded our variety and we were able to enlarge our
produce department. Our deli department was quadrupled or even more so than that
and we started to carry as many of the fancy food items as we could lay our
hands on and things that were just not available at Kroger’s or Alber’s or
Big Bear or any of the other stores in the city here. And we were recognized
for, if you couldn’t find it anywhere you go to Martin’s and he would either
have it for you or get it for you.
Leah: Here’s another thing, too, Martin patterned his store now after the
corporate supermarket chains, not after a kosher, market.
Interviewer: Is this at the Broad and Chesterfield location?
Interviewer: In what ways was it different? What changes did you have to make
from a kosher super market to the general super market concept.
Marty: Well, the only changes we could make is adding on items that we just
didn’t have room for at the other store.
Leah: A frozen department, frozen foods.
Marty: Well, frozen foods was just coming into its own. When we first went
into frozen foods on Livingston Avenue, we had a chest type freezer that we kept
in the basement. If you wanted a package of frozen peas, we would go down in the
basement and get it for you. And it’s just things changed so rapidly there and
I read so many periodicals and trade journals and saw what was in the future
there. I had to keep a step ahead of these things and bring them in. We’re
very flattered on many an occasion when we’d have the top men of Kroger and
Big Bear and the other stores coming in with their pencil and pad, you know,
jotting down the things that we would carry and the way we displayed our
merchandise and the way we served our customers there, and…
Leah: Well, your pricing structure.
Marty: Oh, yes, yes.
Interviewer: How did the pricing structure differ from what they were doing?
Marty: At that time?
Marty: At that time, in many instances, we were lower that they were. Our
produce department was far better than what they had.
Interviewer: Well, the principle of economics is that when you buy in
quantity you can get it at a lower price, but that certainly wasn’t the case
for you, you couldn’t compete with Krogers or Big Bear in quantity. How did
you do that?
Marty: We were able to do that. We knew what it cost us to operate. We knew
what our investment was and we knew what kind of a figure we had to end up with
in order to keep going, you know, and to keep expanding. Fact is we spent money
in improvements faster than we were making it but fortunately it all came to a
head and we were, because of what we did, it was very successful.
Leah: Contrary to the belief of the Columbus population,. We never got rich
in it, but we did maintain an image as a facility for the community. Martin, Of
course he’s being modest, Martin was recognized as a very astute and able
business man and was acknowledged by the trade as such and when Big Bear sent
their men over and when Kroger sent their men over, they came over with a
purpose. What they came to do was to try and steal from Martin.
Marty: No, you don’t call it that, picking my brain the same as I had to
pick theirs, and everybody else’s brain.
Interviewer: That’s very charitable. Certainly, certainly.
Leah: You know it was an open thing although we know several several markets,
one had thrown a couple of Kroger men and Big Bear men out of his store. He
wouldn’t allow them to make price comparisons.
Marty: Oh, and I must, I must say this also Judy, even though we were a
kosher market, we, because of the product that we carried, because of the way it
was presented, the service that we gave, we started to get more and more of the
gentile business, and I mean…
Interviewer: We were talking about non-Jewish clients coming to the store.
Marty: Right. These are the families that lived out on N. Columbia and
Parkview and throughout Bexley and we got to know them and it was really a great
experience for me and what amazed them, I don’t have the memory today anymore,
but I would hear their name once you know and when they would come into the
store I would say hello Mrs. Jones, or, and I would remember their names and
they thought that was really, really some recognition. Everyone likes to be
recognized you know.
Interviewer: I remember I met you the first time I came into that store, you
remembered my name, I’m not sure I remembered yours, but you knew who I was
the second time I came down.
Marty: And even the Jewish families that who were kosher meant absolutely
nothing to them, you know, we were getting their business, and I mean on a
regular basis there because what we presented we presented well.
Interviewer: Yes, that’s true.
Marty: The service and the variety and of course, it’s a lot different
today. You have to be gigantic and at that time we were pretty much the same
size as the average Kroger and the average size Big Bear. But there just too big
today for an individual to keep up with and this is why the independents and all
businesses today are finding it very, very difficult to get along.
Interviewer: Before we talk about your move to the present location, I just
want to ask you can you give me some of the names of the gentile families that
shopped with you, who you remember?
Marty: Oh sure, sure. The Schoedinger’s. A very dear friend of mine Mrs.
George Copland, Gen. Dargish, another one, the McCoys from the bank, Nida, Jack
Nida who was head of the Merrill Lynch for a number of years, so I have their
friendship even though they’re not here anymore.
Leah: What was the man who owned the Chevrolet? – Bob, George Bob?
Marty: Oh, yes, George Bob and Roger Dean and Jeffrey, some of the Jeffrey
family and the Overstreet family, remember the Overstreets?
Leah: Sessions Village.
Interviewer: Some people that you would never expect to shop in a kosher
Marty: But this was an unusual thing, too. Sessions Village would not allow
Jews, as you know, to live in the area there.
Leah: But Martin’s Kosher Foods…
Marty: But our truck at that time we put our name on it, we have a truck now
we don’t put our name on it, Martin’s Kosher Foods and that’s how we
operated at that time…
Leah: Martin’s Kosher Foods.
Leah: Drove right in to Sessions Village.
Marty: We went into Sessions Village to deliver groceries to our customers
there and they didn’t stop us and they knew what we were.
Leah: I want to tell you an interesting experience..
Marty: Oh yes, the Ryan family…
Leah: This is Overstreet I didn’t know who it was, but I walked in to the
store one day on Broad Street and just preceding me was this handsome lady,
liveried chauffeur, I didn’t see the car they got out of, and a beautifully
uniformed maid in a lovely grey and white uniform, and the chauffeur opened the
door and the maid stepped back and a lovely looking elderly woman, stunningly
dressed, walked in and the maid followed and the chauffeur followed with his own
basket. And this was an interesting entourage, so I stood back a little bit and
watched them and the woman looked at the shelves, walked down the aisle pointed
to what she wanted, addressed the maid and the maid addressed the chauffeur, and
he took the…
Marty: Chain reaction.
Leah: I went up to get Martin and I said I want to show you something
interesting, and brought him back to look at this woman, and she, I don’t know
whether he introduced himself cause he usually did, and tell them who he was and
ask for their name because the next day he received a call and he said she
opened the conversation with I bought some steaks from you Mr. Martin. And he
thought,”Oh boy, a complaint,” and she says, “I don’t know if
you remember me but I was in yesterday with my maid and chauffeur.” He
said, “Oh yes”, and she said, “I would like to open an account
with you,” she said, “the steaks were delicious.” We’d be
delighted to open an account for you but we do have forms that we ask our
customers to fill out, she said I’ll be delighted to just, send it in. Martin
had no idea who she was until she filled out the application, and of course he
was the owner of Buckeye Steel Casting and a couple of banks ____________
Interviewer: And what was his name?
Leah & Marty: Overstreet.
Leah: He was also connected with several banks.
Marty: Oh yes, the Huntington, and the Guysinger family, the Guysinger
Leah: These were all customers, and the doctors’ wives Dr. ______ wife…
Marty: He was a surgeon that came in…
Leah: Trent Smith’s family.
Marty: Michael DeSalle used to come in to the store personally all the time.
Leah: John Gilligan.
Marty: Yes, and Rhodes. Sensenbrenner, even though he lived clear on the West
side would come in and shop. Maybe it was because he’d stop to see Maury
Leah: And you know what else Sensenbrenner did, when Columbus was fighting
for Blue Laws that been what 25-30 years ago, he was in office and they passed
it. Course it was never very effective, but at that time he inserted an
exception to the Blue Laws and Martin was the exception that he was not to be
bothered by the police for being open on Sundays.
Interviewer: Oh how interesting.
Leah: Because he observed his Sabbath by being closed.
Marty: Well, since you’re on that, why don’t you tell the other story
about the church.
Leah: St. Catherine’s Church. When we opened up, Broadmoor opened up
shortly behind us and all the strip mall stores run by gentiles and they kept
open. Monsignor preached a sermon there that he did not name the name but none
of his parishioners were to buy in any store that desecrated their Sabbath. They
were to only buy from the one store that honored his Sabbath so that all the
Marty: But after church, after services were over.
Leah: But all the sisters and everybody used to come and shop at the store on
Marty: It was a very strange and interesting thing. We knew exactly when
services were over at the church because you’d get this entourage.
Interviewer: And all the sisters would come.
Marty: Oh, yes, yes.
Interviewer: Let me ask you a question about the politicians. Did they come
to the store for themselves because of the kinds of things that you carried?
Marty: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: Or was it out of difference to Jewish……….
Marty: No, no, no, no, no. It’s because, it’s because of the service that
we offered them and the product and the…
Interviewer: Just not the quality available elsewhere.
Marty: Yes. And then, as it is today, it was a shopping experience for them.
They would come in and we would chat, and these were not political visits at
all. It’s because they really enjoyed coming to the store shopping and
Leah: I remember sitting at a luncheon once with Mary Schoedinger and I
introduced myself to someone and I said I’m Leah Godofsky and she looked blank
and she said how do you do and the other woman, I’ve forgotten her name, she
was also a doctor’s wife. Anyway, whatever her name was, I said well if I tell
you I’m Mrs. Martin will you know who I am then, she says I know who you are
either as Godofsky cause her daughter-in-law and my daughter are very close
friends. And Mary Schoedinger perked up and she says Mrs. Martin do you mean you
are my darling Mr. Martin’s wife? Oh, I love that man. It was that kind of
reaction. They felt, then they were many of them are good friends of ours back
then for a number of years. The Binkeys from the Clark Vault Company come clear
out from Gahanna to shop and the real estate people, the old man that died?
Marty: Oh yes he lived to be..
Marty: Yes, oh, golly.
Leah: Whatever. You know he was a real estate man in Bexley for years.
Marty: The Kauffman’s, the Lattimers of the drug companies, you know, I
mean all of them. And we would open accounts for them and of course we never had
a bad one with them because we pretty much knew who we were doing business with
and they knew. And the thing is they respected us because they knew that we were
closed on Saturdays, they knew that we were closed on the holidays
Leah: No bacon. No pork chops.
Marty: And we didn’t have the meats that they wanted, but the fact that we
as very few businesses do close the number of days
a year that we did because we were Jewish and we observed the holidays.
Leah: A huge _________________
Marty: No. When I first started to see all these gentiles coming in,
especially over here on Broad Street, I figured uh oh we’re going to lose them
all know. Here Passover is coming, Roshannah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and all these
you know, and they’re going to get tired of seeing this store close and we’re
going to lose their business. But I would say 90% of them remarked about the
fact that we did keep the holidays we were closed beside other than what the
other businesses did.
Leah: Janet, the pediatrician, no the obstetrician we both had children at
the same time. Oh I can’t think of her husband’s name, their families had
grown with our store like the Ryans.
Marty: Oh, yes, yes.
Leah: A couple of their boys worked at the store and now one of them is one
of the outstanding brokers in the business.
Marty: ____________ was in the paper the other day, John Ryan.
Interviewer: Now when did you move from the Broad and Chesterfield address to
the East Broad Street at Town & Country?
Marty: This month here it will be 15 years, yes it’s this month.
Interviewer: And what kinds ______ that move was prompted by a need for more
Marty: Well, yes. For other reasons too which I don’t want to discuss how.
Interviewer: OK, I won’t ask. OK. So you moved out then and you moved into
a considerably larger store. I think the entire community accepted the fact that
you needed more space and whatever the other reasons were inconsequential.
Marty: Well, at the other place in addition to not having enough space, the
number of bumped cars that we had because of the parking there was horrendous.
Interviewer: Still is.
Marty: Oh yes, Oh yes.
Interviewer: But for somebody like you who had so many customers at the store
at one time, there was not enough space.
Leah: Especially on our busiest day, Sunday.
Marty: Especially, not only that but especially on a Friday or before a
holiday with the beauty shop there, oh my G-d, I’ll tell you..
Interviewer: That must have been a constant headache.
Marty: Well, I’ll tell you a woman goes into the beauty shop it’s not for
10 minutes, you know.
Interviewer: That’s right. I don’t think they spent 10 minutes in the
store either, probably as long as they spent in the beauty parlor. And were
there many dramatic changes that you made going to the present location?
Marty: Yes, yes.
Leah: I think that you ought to amplify a little bit what the non-Jewish
trade did for you in terms of the Jewish, of the Kashruth. They helped maintain
Kashruth in this city by being a supportive constituency of the store.
Marty: See it’s good to have an open thing here. Yes.
Interviewer: Do you want to tell me about that at this point? I have a whole
section on koshruth that I want to ask you because I think that’s a…
Leah: Marty, ____________________.
Leah: What percentage of non-Jews came, would you say?
Marty: The percentage of Jews that keep the dietary laws..
Leah: No, no what percentage of non-Jews were your customers, approximately?
I just think about 30?
Marty: I would say 30% to 35%.
Interviewer: My that’s high.
Marty: Besides another percentage, a large percentage of customers that do
not keep the dietary laws, but will again buy some of our meat and some of our
poultry and these things.
Leah: Like liver ______ and veal chucks.
Marty: Yes, otherwise…
Interviewer: Because you can’t get such good quality.
Marty: Otherwise if we just had to depend wholly and totally on very
Orthodox, we could operate in a room the size of this right here. But what we
did when we moved to the other location, we put in a kitchen for prepared foods,
party trays, G-d forbid trays for unhappy occasions. We put in an oven where we
baked there not pastries or Danish or anything like that, but hopefully good
Jewish bread, you know which we didn’t have room for, although we did have a
kitchen over —— when we enlarged from our original locations at Chesterfield
and Broad, and when Lucas Appliance moved to Yearling and Broad we took over the
three rooms that they had. And at that time we put in a kitchen which did a nice
volume but did not produce and make the things that we’re making today and
that was just a stepping stone to what we have today. And there are
Interviewer: Holiday times, busy time I know that. Get your order in early.
Marty: Well, there’s many items we prepare that is sold over the counter
now. I don’t know, you may have, when you come in notice the different salads
that we have, the number of them.
Marty: These things
Interviewer: Now who is buying that? I see, especially in my family, since I
have elderly parents, an elderly mother, and she will go to the store and buy a
little beef stew or a little piece of kugel or a little something like that, do
you find a lot of elderly people come in, is this basically singles, and that
couples buy for themselves, too?
Marty: Oh, yes, oh, yes.
Interviewer: It would be hard to feed a family it’s too expensive to feed a
Marty: It’s a real help to them…
Interviewer: For one or two people it’s possible.
Marty: Well, they want a piece of prepared chicken you know that they want to
take home or a cabbage roll or barbecued ribs or meatloaf, a piece of meatloaf
for one meal or whatever, and it’s a real help to them you know. They can’t
go out to restaurants all the time you know.
Marty: And the way of getting that
Interviewer: Many people don’t like to do that, it’s an uncomfortable
feeling to sit by yourself in restaurants.
Leah: For an individual to prepare a meal is difficult and another thing
elderly people do not eat if they have to make it themselves so to have it
prepared or there are many times when I walk in the store I can hardly contain
myself the smells are so good in a scent and I think it stimulates for them too,
___________. A lot of men for instance
Marty: Who live alone, sure who are widowers and they don’t want to bother
or don’t know how, and it’s a real boon to them, it really is.
Interviewer: I just learned the other day that you’re delivering kosher
food to some of the hospitals for kosher patients.
Marty: Oh, we’ve done that for a number of years, but not of our own
preparation. Now they’re taking what we prepare in our own kitchen, before
they were TV dinners you know.
Interviewer: Right, and this is something new now, within the past year or
Marty: Yes, about a year, about a year.
Interviewer: Is there much demand for that?
Marty: Depending upon who’s in the hospital.
Leah: When you say much demand, those people who keep kosher even in their
homes eat out, so that if you’re in a hospital.
Interviewer: But let’s face it Leah, hospital food being hospital food
Marty: That’s right. When one’s in the hospital they just don’t feel
like eating either, you know.
Interviewer: Well, that’s true, too.
Leah: I mean I would bring things the hospital personnel was so solictitious
I wasn’t interested in food, you know, I said just bring me a baked potato or
an egg, and that was ample. I don’t want food, and yet our Rabbi, bless his
Marty: He had a healthy appetite.
Leah: Cane a hora, I’m glad he wasn’t sick and he ordered
sandwiches and lunches and he ordered special meals. I had to oversee it so that
he would be able to eat it.
Interviewer: Have any of your children ever been interested in going into the
business? Have they ever been in the business?
Marty: Oh, no indeed. If you had that letter, if you had that letter I’d
love for Judy to read it. We have one son and two daughters you know, and when I
expanded on E. Broad, and he was in junior high school now. He came up to me
while we were making the move and said Dad
Leah: Wasn’t he
Marty: In elementary school, OK, was sixth grade or whatever, said Dad if you’re
doing this with me in mind forget about it. If I have to be a trash collector I
want to be a trash collector but I’ll never going to go in your business, you
Interviewer: As he became an adult was he able to give you a reason for it?
Marty: Oh sure, sure.
Leah: Number one, of course, Irvin is not, doesn’t have Martin’s
patience. Now Irvin has a great deal of sensitivity and understanding of people’s
needs, but he isn’t a glad man, he can’t do what Martin does. You see Martin
is a real leader and P.R. person.
Marty: Irvin is not that extroverted and that was one reason. But the other
you see in growing up with it the children never knew their father when they
were little, they never saw him cause his working hours were 18 hours a day,
asleep when he came home and asleep when he left, so they hated that. They never
had any time with him.
Interviewer: Now, Michael Singer is your son-in-law and he came to work with
Leah: That was fourteen years ago, thirteen years ago Carol came home.
Marty: It was before we moved over here __________.
Leah: Just before.
Marty: Just before we moved here, yes. Because if Michael hadn’t decided to
come with me at that time, I would never have negotiated for a lease at this
present location. I would have closed and gotten out of the business entirely.
Leah: Did Michael have any particular, he’s a business school graduate you
said, did he know the grocery business at all?
Marty: No, no he didn’t.
Leah: His father was in the furniture business and his uncle and his
grandfather and they wanted him to come in.
Interviewer: I imagine it’s tough to work with your father-in-law, too.
Leah: No, Martin was a very able and patient teacher.
Interviewer: And you taught him the grocery business then?
Marty: Well, he followed what I did and he’ll admit that and picked up what
he could learn from me and added on to his own and he really loves the food
Leah: He likes people too. He’s a lot like Martin.
Interviewer: Yes, very outgoing.
Leah: Much more so than our son.
Marty: He not only followed me in this, I was president of the Retail Grocers
Association for two terms and at present he’s the president.
Interviewer: Isn’t that wonderful.
Marty: And so he followed me there.
Interviewer: You must be very proud of that.
Marty: Oh yes, oh yes.
Interviewer: It’s nice to see him pick up, and you can see as you go into
the store that the personality is still there, even though you’re not there
when I’m there, I see him, it’s the same, it has the same warmth, it’s
Leah: Nice memories, nice feelings.
Interviewer: Before we move on to another area, is there anything else about
the development of the store, the customers, or anything that you feel that you
want to share with me at this point? Share with the world?
Leah: I think only in terms of, now this may be a different area, and the
fact that I told you before, Martin’s is one of three stores in the United
Interviewer: Talk about that.
Leah: Two of them are in the eastern seaboard, one in Washington with a
population of 160,000 concentrated Jews, the other’s in Baltimore which is a
Marty: Well, there are two there.
Leah: No, one.
Marty: No, Shapiro’s have two stores.
Leah: No, he closed one. He still has ________, 90,000 Jews
Interviewer: there are two Shapiros stores?
Leah: Well, you know one little branch and one he expanded, maybe left the
neighborhood. They are very, very religious city, Baltimore has several
Yeshivas, ultra Orthodox Community. On the west coast in Los Angeles, with a
population of close to 700,000 Jews, it’s the third largest population area I
think in the world, outside of Russia, Israel and New York. ______ there are
Marty: Well, Leah, you can’t say that because in the valley
Leah: There is nothing like you have
Marty: No, not a complete kosher super market.
Leah: They have a butcher shop Joe said.
Interviewer: There are butcher shops, and bakeries.
Marty: And a bakery.
Marty: A grocery and—
Leah: And bakeries.
Interviewer: But this total super market concept, it does not exist?
Interviewer: Isn’t that interesting.
Leah: And I think that’s a, I think it’s something that Columbus ought to
be well aware of because it’s a unique thing
Interviewer: It certainly is.
Leah: And it is a dying thing because in all cities, and I don’t know,
Philadelphia is a large Jewish
Marty: Well I’m not familiar with Philadelphia at all.
Leah: We have never heard of it.
Marty: Never heard of it.
Leah: Now one thing, no matter where we have gone or where we have traveled,
we always run into people who say Oh, Martin’s in Columbus, sure we heard
about you. You asked how, word of mouth. People come from California and they’re
always so amazed. From New York, and are just awestruck that we have this kind
of a shopping area and you know it’s a concept that is not a growing concept
Interviewer: Why do you say that?
Leah: Well, I know that, I think the change in the temperament of people, the
change in the dietary observances in spite of the fact that Orthodoxy wants to
believe very firmly that they are bringing a lot into the fold but they are
doing it, bringing isolated more groups into the fold. The vast majority of
Jews, which is number one diminishing. Young people are not having large
families like they used to. If they have one or two children they have a lot of
Unfortunately they are highly motivated, highly educated and those
kind do not opt for large families in today’s life styles, and so you have a
diminishing population, you have an inter-marriage population, too, where
whichever partner is the dominant partner and usually neither of them care one
way or the other, so you’re going to go with a non-kosher. And, thirdly, many
people, even from very observant homes, do not observe the dietary laws.
Marty: Speaking of the offspring.
Leah: Yes. I think of 3 huge families in the city of Columbus.
This is the end of the interview with Martin and Leah Godofsky on February