Simon Blau (1869-1923), a Jewish man from Austria-Hungary, immigrated to the United States in 1888. He settled in New Castle, Pennsylvania, and opened a small dry goods store in Mahoningtown in September 1891. In April 1892 he relocated his store to the Diamond in downtown New Castle.
The enterprising Blau was living the American dream. In fact, just before he moved he received some great news as the New Castle News of Wednesday, February 24, 1892, mentioned, “Simon Blau is now a citizen of the United States. Mr. Blau has always acted like a citizen and a good one, and yesterday he received his naturalization papers. Mr. Blau appeared very happy that be had succeeded in obtaining them.”
In 1894 he married a fellow Jewish immigrant named Goldie Stiglitz and together they would have five children. Blau also joined the Tifereth Israel Synagogue and in time became a leading member of the local Jewish community. A few years later, in 1898, he moved his store to East Long Avenue and before too long the Simon Blau clothing store became a well-known landmark on the South Side. In about April 1908 he moved once again – just a short distance to the Lowe Block on South Mill Street. The Blau family maintained a residence on Pennsylvania Avenue for some time, but eventually moved into a home on Winter Avenue on the North Hill.
Blau made a major acquisition in January 1920. The New Castle News of Friday, January 23, 1920, reported, “Simon Blau has purchased the Avenue Hotel property at the corner of Long avenue and South Mill street. He plans in the future to have the entire building remodeled. The property is one of the best known in the South Side district. The present occupant of the hotel property still has a year lease on the building and it will depend upon the plan of the occupant, as to what is done immediately, Mr. Blau said today.” It appears any issues were worked out because Blau opened up shop there in about August 1920.
A few years later he apparently grew ill due to bladder cancer. The New Castle News of Monday, March 26, 1923, reported, “Simon Blau of Winter avenue who recently underwent a serious operation at John Hopkins hospital, Baltimore, Md., is reported to be doing as well as could be expected.” Unfortunately, he passed away in a Pittsburgh hospital on Tuesday, October 30, 1923, at the young age of fifty-four. He was laid to rest in the Tifereth Israel Cemetery in New Castle.
His two sons William Blau (1896-1969) and J. Mont Blau (1895-1961) continued to run the store as partners. J. Mont Blau retired in March 1959 and left the business to his brother William. William soon retired and turned the store over to his own son named Simon Blau. Simon Blau and his wife Isabel ran the operations of the store for the next three decades. They finally closed it down in 1990 after deciding to move to Southern California to be closer to their three grown children. After almost ninety-nine years of total service, including seventy at the South Mill Street location, the Simon Blau clothing store closed its doors on Saturday, June 2, 1990.
Within a few years the building was sold to well-respected businessman Condi Augustine (1929-2009), a longtime supporter of the Playhouse Theater and founder of the Dolce Vita Restaurant and Lounge (now II Tomato). He later converted the Simon Blau building in several small office spaces.
An early advertisement from the Simon Blau Clothing Store. (Dec 1918)
The store at the intersection of South Mill Street and East Long Avenue was in operation for seventy years from 1920 until 1990. (c1991)