About Herbert David Rothman
Herbert David Rothman, whose merchandising success in Pittsburgh ranged from grocery stores to a lumber company, died Saturday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., of complications from abdominal cancer. He was 75.
Mr. Rothman learned his business skills as a teen working in his parents' Hill District grocery where he often found himself responsible for all of the store operations while his parents were consumed with caring for his ill older sister.
His first grocery store was Food Town in Arlington Heights. After selling that, he bought Amber Lumber and Supply Co. in Homewood.
When that business was lost in a fire, he bought Prime Kosher market in Squirrel Hill, which he owned for about 20 years, until his retirement in 1989.
As the owner of the premier kosher grocery in the city, Mr. Rothman met virtually everyone in the Pittsburgh Jewish community. The store was famously crowded as well with shoppers from Ohio and West Virginia on Sundays, the only day they could make the schlep to buy kosher food.
He adhered to the maxim that the customer is always right -- no matter what. He always accepted returned items, and it was not unusual for a customer to call him at his home in Squirrel Hill, said his son Jeffrey.
One Thanksgiving Day, as the Rothman family was sitting down to eat, Mr. Rothman took a call from a frantic elderly woman.
"My turkey's got a green ving," she told his father, her Old World accent unable to leap from "v" to "w."
"I can't cook this turkey," the woman wailed. "Can you help me?"
Mr. Rothman put his own dinner on hold and opened the store for the woman so she could get a different turkey, said Jeffrey Rothman, of Shaker Heights, Ohio.
An avid bridge player and golfer with Sheila, his wife of nearly 50 years, Mr. Rothman also liked horse racing. He joined two friends in buying and racing thoroughbred horses in the region. During the 1960s, their Big O Stable entered horses at Cleveland's Thistle Downs and at the former Waterford Park, now known as Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort, in Chester, W.Va.
"We had cheap horses," said Otto Abraham, the lone surviving member of the stable. "We couldn't afford expensive horses."
Abraham and Mr. Rothman, friends for 45 years, often took trips to Florida's Hialeah and Gulfstream parks to bet on the horses.
Mr. Rothman was the primary caregiver for his late sister, Rhea, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her early 20s when he was still a teenager. After their mother's death 18 years ago, Mr. Rothman assumed care for his sister at the Charles M. Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, spending several afternoons a week with her and even serving on the facility's board for a while.
In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by a daughter, Janet Brody, of Atlanta; and six grandchildren.
Visitation will be today from 10 to 11 a.m. at Ralph Schugar Chapel, 5509 Centre Ave., Shadyside, with the service to follow. Interment will be at Homewood Cemetery's Star of David section.
Contributions may be made to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, 4600 East West Highway, Suite 525, Bethesda, MD 20814.
Herbert David Rothman's Timeline
September 11, 1929
Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
May 21, 2005
Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach, Florida, United States
May 24, 2005
Pittsburgh (Homewood Cemetery), Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States