Edward’s 5¢ · 10¢ · $1.00 Stores and the Kronsberg Brothers

“Our business is founded on personal interest.  We make
friends in the community in which we establish ourselves
and share our time between community activities and business.”

Edward Kronsberg, President and Founder, quoted in
The Charleston Evening Post, May 4, 1949

Miriam Stoller Kronsberg, widow of Edward Kronsberg—grandfather and namesake of the man who founded Edward’s—immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1888, with her nine-year-old son, Abraham, his three sisters, and a half-brother.  They came from Antonuvka, Prykarpattia, Ukraine.  Abraham grew up in Baltimore and as a young man became a cigar maker.  He was introduced to Lena Jacobson by a friend of hers.  Daughter of Meyer Jacobson and Rose Rochell Mervis Jacobson, Lena was born in 1880 in Lithuania, where her family resided at the time.  Abraham and Lena were married in 1902.  Their first son, Edward, was born in 1903 in his grandparents’ home in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Edward contracted polio as an infant, and, for his whole life, he walked with a limp.

Abraham Kronsberg, ca. 1905.
Lena Jacobson Kronsberg, ca. 1900.

About the time Edward was born, Abraham moved the family to Tilghman Island, Maryland, where he opened a clothing and dry goods store.  They were the only Jews on the island, “mainly a center for the seafood industry, with many boat owners, small farms, and a canning plant or two.”1 Macey Kronsberg, “A Pioneer Jewish Family on the Eastern Shore, Maryland in the early 1900’s,” Newsletter of the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland, June 1978, 7–9.  Tilghman Island had a population of about 700 people, and it lacked running water, electricity, and plumbing.  Life was not easy.  Despite the logistical difficulties, Lena kept a kosher home, getting meat by boat from Baltimore, but mainly cooking fish, which was plentiful on the island.  Lena and Abraham had three more sons after Edward:  Meyer was born in 1905, Milton in 1909, and Macey in 1911.

Local historian Gary Crawford had this to say about the Kronsbergs:

Abe and Lena Kronsberg came to Tilghman Island very early in the 20th century, operating a clothing and dry goods store on the east side of the Main Road, south of Sinclair Hall where the Fire Hall is now located.  The Kronsbergs proved to be popular immigrants, despite being the only people of the Jewish faith on the island, perhaps the only Jews that many islanders knew.  Nevertheless, the people of Tilghman welcomed them and the Kronsbergs became valued members of the community.2Gary D. Crawford, Tilghman’s Island Album, No. 5. Tilghman, MD: Crawford’s Nautical Books, Nov. 2003.

Raymond Sinclair described Abraham and Lena in his book on Tilghman’s Island:  “…they were of the Jewish denomination and classed as Tilghman’s most loved citizens.”3Raymond R. Sinclair, The Tilghman’s Island Story 1659–1954, I954, 89.  The Kronsbergs were active in the town’s life.  Their neighbors respected their closing the store when the family would go to Baltimore for the Jewish High Holidays.

Kronsberg Store Tilghman Island, see label above. [4] Gary D. Crawford, Tilghman’s Island Album, No. 1, Tilghman, MD: Crawford’s Nautical Books, Oct. 2003.

Kronsberg family house, Tilghman Island, ca. 1960.

At the age of 39, Abraham got an infection and died, leaving Lena on the island with four boys to raise—15, 13, 9, and 7 years old, respectively.  She decided to move to Baltimore to be close to her family. Edward attended the Polytechnic Institute and worked at night.  As he was the oldest, Lena decided to send him to Charleston, South Carolina, to work for Uncle Joseph Bluestein, the husband of Lena’s sister Bessie, at Joseph’s King Street store.  Edward was still in his teens.  He lived with the Bluestein family and attended the College of Charleston.  In 1926, at the age of 23, with the help of his uncle Joseph, Edward opened the first Edward’s five and ten cents store on King Street, next door to Bluestein’s.  He did this with very little money, using homemade fixtures and employing assistants with no training.  Yet, the enterprise proved very successful—the first of ultimately 38 stores opened across South Carolina, and later, Georgia.

Expansion began in 1930 with the opening of the Bamberg, SC, store, which was modeled after the flagship store in Charleston.  Meanwhile, brothers Milton and Macey had graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1932 and 1933.  Macey was working at Associated Jewish Charities in Baltimore, and Milton had started to attend law school.  In the early ’30s, Milton moved to Charleston, as did Meyer, to work for Edward’s.  Macey came to Charleston in 1936, and not long after his wife, Adele, drove Lena down to join her sons.

Left to right, back row: Edward, unknown, Meyer; front row: unknown, Macey, Milton, ca. 1919.
Left to right, standing: Macey, Milton; seated: Edward, Meyer, ca. 1937.

Further expansion came in 1936 with the addition of a store in Walterboro, SC, and in 1938, a store in Conway, SC, was opened.  World War II put a stop to further expansion, but in 1947, the Reynolds Avenue store in North Charleston was completed, right at the entrance to the Charleston Naval Base.

First Edward’s store at 496 King Street, Charleston, SC, 1929.
Left to right: Macey, Lena, Milton, ca. 1944, Sullivan’s Island, SC.

During World War II, the family energetically joined the war effort.  Edward, unable to enlist in the military because of his disability from polio, served on the Gasoline Panel of the Charleston War Price Rationing Board and on the 1945 Bond campaign, for which he received the treasury award for his War Finance Committee work.  Milton served in the army and was stationed in Charleston.  He was responsible for prison contract labor at the German Prisoner of War Camp located West Ashley.  Macey was drafted into the navy.  His wife, Adele, was appointed by the governor as a member of the South Carolina State War Fund and was asked to be a member of the Advisory Committee of the USO-Travelers-Aid Unit of Charleston.  She also served as both vice-president and president of the National Council of Jewish Women in Charleston during the war years, when the Council was dedicating immeasurable hours in aiding those who served in the military and refugees who arrived in the city after the war.

Groundbreaking of King and Morris Street store, ca. 1948. Left to right, first row: Adele, Peggy, and Rose, Milton holding Mickey, Gina, Avram, Freddie, Mrs. Jules, Mrs. Lehrer, Bessie Bluestein, Emanu-El Rabbi Weintraub (standing on forms), Hattie with sunglasses, and Lena. Photo by Louis Schwartz.

In 1949, one of the most significant stores in the Edward’s chain was opened in Charleston at King and Morris Street.  It was a large and modern building and was launched with lots of fanfare and newspaper coverage.  The 15,000 square feet of store space accommodated 34 departments, including a frozen custard bar, fresh baked goods, shoe repair, fresh flowers and plants, and goldfish and pets.  More than 15,000 people attended the grand opening.  Two thousand five hundred orchids were flown in from Hawaii for souvenirs and were gone in two hours.  There had been nothing like this store or its inauguration on the Charleston peninsula ever before.  Mother Lena, now secretary of the organization, opened the doors for the crowd.  In attendance were all the Kronsberg brothers now with the following titles:  Edward Kronsberg, founder and president, Macey Kronsberg, first vice-president, Meyer Kronsberg, second vice-president, and Milton Kronsberg, treasurer.

All the brothers married and had children:  Edward and Hattie Barshay of Charleston had two sons, Avram and Jonathan (Buddy); Meyer and Fay Karp of New York had two sons, Alan Michael and Lawrence; Milton and Frederica (Freddie) Weinberg of Staunton, Virginia, had two daughters and a son, Regina (Gina), Miriam (Mickey), and Abram; and Macey and Adele Jules of Baltimore had three daughters, Rose, Peggy, and Sandra.

Opening day of King and Morris Street store, News & Courier, May 5, 1949.
Edward’s New Store—King At Morris Streets, Charleston, S.C. Postcard, 3x5 inches.
Opening Day at Edward’s, May 5, 1949. Left to right: Mayor William McG. Morrison, Edward Kronsberg, and Lena Kronsberg.
Interior of the King and Morris Street store, May 5, 1949.

In the ’50s, there were many changes.  Macey retired from Edward’s and went to Florida to open his own store and work on his MBA.  Meyer moved to New York and became Edward’s resident New York buyer.  Milton, who had started in the business as an assistant store manager and later became a store manager, assumed the position as General Manager of the Distribution Warehouse, the first of which was a small building at 237 East Bay Street in Charleston, across from what is now the Harris Teeter.  With the continued growth of the stores, it had become necessary to provide a place from which to distribute the goods for the stores.  In 1951, the Kronsbergs opened a store in Byrnes Down, West Ashley in Charleston, and in 1952, one in Myrtle Beach, SC—the first of two in Myrtle Beach.  In the late ’50s, they moved the warehouse from the small building on East Bay Street to a bigger one on Huger Street in uptown Charleston.

In 1955, a store was opened in downtown Beaufort, SC.  A few years later, in 1958, the Kronsbergs closed the Byrnes Downs store and opened a much larger store down the street in the new St. Andrews Shopping Center.

Another breakthrough came in 1958 when Edward had the idea to build the state’s largest shopping center.  Pinehaven Shopping Center in Charleston Heights was extremely successful.  It contained 23 stores, including an Edward’s, and had a mammoth parking lot.  Maxwell Lehrer of Charleston, who had been an important leader of the Edward’s organization for many years, was chosen to manage the shopping center.  Although Edward Kronsberg pioneered the new development and was responsible for it, the privately owned corporation did not have sufficient money to invest; rather the partners raised capital for Pinehaven through a public stock offering.

Finally, in another move in 1958, the Kronsbergs acquired a store in Georgetown, SC, the first of two, and in 1960, they opened a store in Sumter, SC.

Georgetown store opening, 1958. Left to right: Buddy Kronsberg, Emanu-El Rabbi Gerald Wolpe, unknown, Georgetown Mayor Sylvan Rosen, Hattie Barshay Kronsberg, Erma Levkoff Rosen, and Freddie Weinberg Kronsberg.

In the ’60s, Edward’s sons Avram and Buddy joined the business.  Before their entry, their father had continued opening stores in South Carolina, modeling them after the Woolworth stores, a concept he had followed from the very beginning of expansion in 1930.  Most of the stores opened by Edward measured between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet.  They were all five and ten cent stores.  Between 1963 and 1969, a huge expansion took place as well as a change in the square footage of the stores to make them larger.  Stores opened during this time were in the following cities:  Aiken, Orangeburg, Greenwood, Laurens, N. Augusta, Myrtle Beach (the second store), and Lake City.  Another store was opened in Charleston in the new James Island Shopping Center. With the addition of so many stores, it became necessary to build more warehouse space, so plans were made for a new 80,000–square foot warehouse and 18,000 square feet of office space to be located in a building that could be seen from I-26 in North Charleston.

Left to right: Avram, Buddy, and Edward Kronsberg, 1966, The NCR News.

In 1970, the Kronsbergs inaugurated a store in Greenville, SC, and the following year, stores were opened in Newberry and Georgetown (a second store), as well as in the new Ashley Plaza Mall, West Ashley in Charleston.  Again, all the stores were in South Carolina.  In 1971, they also opened a small store in the Harbor View Shopping Center on James Island, which was intended to serve as a prototype for future neighborhood stores.  However, not long after the Harbor View opening, Avram was named president, Edward became chairman of the board, and the trend was to build bigger stores, not smaller.

Edward Kronsberg (far left) assists his grandson Avram Kronsberg, Jr., with the ribbon cutting at a new store in Ashley Plaza. “’Mr. Ed,’ as the community called him, owned the popular Edward’s 5 and 10 stores.” (Courtesy of Ed Kronsberg). From Images of America, West Ashley, by Donna F. Jacobs.
The next generation takes over management.

As Avram and Buddy assumed management of the business, the stores were built even bigger. In 1972, they opened the biggest store to date—60,000 square feet—in Dillon, SC. The next year, they inaugurated stores in Florence, SC, and Summerville, SC, with the same larger square footage. Edward’s stores started to be described as “Junior Department Stores.” As the 1970s advanced, major changes began occurring in the retail business in general, with the advent of “Big Box” stores such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart—national chains offering similar goods at very competitive prices.

As public corporations, these “Big Box” stores had a lot of money for expansion. In 1960, Sam Walton had gone public, a concept Edward refused to embrace. Avram recalled his father’sattitude in a 2001 interview:

He didn’t want to share his business with anybody, and he didn’t want anybody telling himwhat to do, and we never had the capital. We had to expand out of profits, not out ofraised money, and so we didn’t grow as rapidly.4 Interview with Avram Kronsberg and Edward Kronsberg, recorded by Dale Rosengarten, April 4, 2001. Jewish Heritage Collection Oral History Archives, Special Collections, Nathan and Marlene Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.

In spite of the national competition, the new executives continued to open additional stores. Between 1973 and 1974, they expanded once again, building new stores in Union, Hilton Head, Camden, Easley, and Mt. Pleasant, east of Charleston. Finally, they made the decision to venture out-of-state, opening first in Savannah, GA, in 1975, and in 1977, in Brunswick, GA. At about the same time, there had been a storm in Laurens, SC, and the Edward’s store there was inundated, with no flood insurance on the building. All the stock was lost and the store needed a major renovation. The corporation was not able to insure the building because of the flood, and after the renovation, it flooded again. To top it off, 1974 brought a major recession to the country, and interest rates on borrowing capital for goods and maintenance went to 20 percent. This put extreme pressure on the liquidity of the privately owned stores. It could be said that this was the beginning of the end for Edward’s. In spite of everything, expansion continued with the opening of two more stores, in Charles Towne Square, Charleston, and a second store in Beaufort, SC.

In 1977, Big K-Kuhn Brothers of Nashville, Tennessee, purchased Edward’s. At the time of the purchase, the chain was doing $43 million annually, despite the depressed economy and floods.

The telling of this great American success story would not be complete without noting that Edward Kronsberg built the business from a single location to a conglomerate of more than 35 stores while giving his all to both the Jewish and gentile communities.  His brothers and business partners Macey and Milton also were active in organizations that might not exist today without their hard work.  They all loved Charleston and felt the city had been good to them.  In return they gave, not only financially, but in countless hours invested in a legion of civic, cultural, and religious organizations.

The three brothers helped launch Charleston’s Conservative congregation, Synagogue Emanu-El. Macey probably was the most active participant in this process. During the time they were living in Baltimore with their widowed mother, Lena, Macey and Milton were introduced to Conservative Judaism at Chizuk Amuno Congregation. Macey had become a bar mitzvah there. After moving to Charleston, Edward, Milton, and Macey and their wives attended the city’s first Orthodox synagogue, Brith Sholom, which Edward served as a board member and president. There was a movement by the younger members of the congregation to modernize the worship service and allow women to sit on the same floor as the men, rather than in the balcony. After much controversy, Macey organized the first meeting of those interested in forming a new congregation. Once Emanu-El was founded, he became its first president.

All the Kronsbergs, including the wives, immersed themselves in Emanu-El life. Besides Macey becoming president, Adele served as both Sisterhood president and head of the Sunday school. Edward was treasurer, and his wife, Hattie, was active in the Sisterhood. Milton worked with the Hebrew school and directed the congregation’s educational and cultural programs, and his wife, Freddie, became a Sisterhood president. When a new building was dedicated in 1955, 14 friends purchased a room named in honor of the Kronsbergs:

Your devotion, efforts and sincere deep interest for the welfare of your fellow men, and most especially of our Synagogue, so deeply impressed many of your friends that they desired to express their heartfelt appreciation of the privilege and honor of being associated with you personally and as brothers and friends of the same Synagogue.

The purchase of the ‘privilege’ of naming a room in the new Synagogue building to be known as the ‘Kronsberg Library’, we hope, portrays in some small manner our feelings to you and one well deserved by your entire families….5Letter from Irving Steinberg to the Kronsbergs, July 26, 1955.

Freddie Kronsberg dedicated herself to setting up the library. Her devotion to buying books, cataloging, and acting as librarian lasted for the next 20 years, until the synagogue was relocated West of the Ashley. A new page was written in Charleston Jewish history when Freddie andMilton’s daughter Gina persuaded them to let her have a bat mitzvah at Emanu-El. After six years of Hebrew School, she felt entitled to the same rite of passage as her male classmates. When she had her bat mitzvah in May 1955, not only did she become the first in Charleston to have one, but she also paved the way for women’s religious rights at Synagogue Emanu-El.

The Kronsberg brothers had such diverse interests and were involved in so many organizations, it would be impossible to name them all, so only some will be touched upon. Macey, while livi ng in Charleston, was active in the Masons and became Master of Friendship Lodge in 1948. He was active in Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, Retail Merchants Association, and the Red Cross. Macey was a staunch Zionist, devoting much of his life to the State of Israel. Macey and Adele moved to Israel in 1975, returning to Maryland in 1986 to be with their daughters and grandchildren.

Milton became president of the Charleston Jewish Welfare Board and United Jewish Appeal. He served as president of the Jewish Community Center and headed the committee that found a site for the JCC when it outgrew its downtown location. Milton also served as president of the Traffic Club, was a life-long member of the Exchange Club, and belonged to the Hebrew Benevolent Society and Hibernian Society as well.

It was Edward, however, who was known throughout the state of South Carolina for hisphilanthropy and fundraising efforts. He “served on over forty boards, commissions, and committees, regarding commerce, culture, education, charity, religion, and fraternity.”6Kronsberg family papers, Special Collections, Nathan and Marlene Addlestone Library, College of Charleston: http://archives.library.cofc.edu/findingaids/mss1078.html He was president or chairman of 18 of these, including the Charleston Trident Chamber of Commerce and the Carolina Art Association. He was the director and member of the Finance Committee of the Charleston Development Board and director and treasurer of the Charleston Industrial Board. He was Charleston Man of the Year in 1954. The Citadel conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws in 1971. In 1982, Roper Hospital honored Edward by naming a wing after him for recognition of his 25 years of service on the hospital’s Board of Commissioners. Edward’s portrait hangs in that wing. These are but a few of the honors bestowed on Edward Kronsberg in his lifetime.

In all these years, the Kronsbergs never forgot their roots and the people of Tilghman Island. On September 20, 1964, a park was dedicated to Abraham and Lena Kronsberg, on property thebrothers inherited after Lena’s death that they in turn gave to Tilghman Methodist Church for use as a park. Three plaques were dedicated at the ceremony, the first one to Abraham and Lena, one to the hundred Tilghman and Bay servicemen and women from all wars, and the third to the 13 doctors who had serviced the area. The back of the dedication program reads:

Four sons were born to the couple…. These four sons were destined to carry out the family tradition of mercantile trading.

LIST OF EDWARD’S STORES, LOCATIONS, AND FOUNDING DATES

496 King Street

Charleston, SC
Bamberg, SC
Walterboro, SC
Conway, SC

1926 (changed to Ward’s after 517 King opens)
1930
1936
1938

Reynolds Avenue
517 King Street
Byrnes Downs

North Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC
Myrtle Beach, SC
Beaufort, SC

1947
1949
1951 (closed when St. Andrews opens)
1952
1955

St. Andrews
Shopping Center

Charleston, SC

1958

Pinehaven Shopping
Center

Charleston Heights, SC

1958

Front Street

Georgetown, SC
Sumter, SC

1958
1960

Mitchell Shopping
Center

Aiken, SC

Orangeburg, SC

1963

1964

Hampton Place
Shops

Greenwood, SC

1964

James Island
Shopping Center

Charleston, SC

Laurens, SC

1965

1968

Clearwater

N. Augusta, SC

1968

Highway 17 South

Myrtle Beach, SC
Lake City, SC

1969
1969

Bell Tower
Shopping Center

Greenville, SC

1970

 

Ashley Plaza Mall

Charleston, SC
Newberry, SC
Georgetown, SC

1971
1971
1971

Harbor View
Shopping Center

Charleston, SC

Summerville, SC
Dillon, SC
Florence, SC
Union, SC
Hilton Head, SC
Camden, SC
Easley, SC

1971

1972
1972
1973
1973
1974
1974
1974

East Cooper Plaza

Mt. Pleasant, SC

1974

Largo Plaza

Savannah, GA

1975

Charles Towne Square

Charleston, SC

1976

Beaufort Plaza

Beaufort, SC

1976

Glynn Plaza

Brunswick, GA

1977

The Jewish Merchant Project is supported by the generosity of the Norman and Gerry Sue Arnold Foundation and the Stanley B. Farbstein Endowment at the Coastal Community Foundation. Longtime members of the JHSSC, Mr. Arnold obm, a merchant himself, and Mr. Farbstein obm were both children of South Carolina Jewish merchants.

JHSSC Office
Sylvia Vlosky Yaschik Jewish Studies Center
96 Wentworth Street
Charleston, SC 29424
Phone: 843 953 3918
Email: jhssc@cofc.edu