Levy Brothers Built a Small Empire of General Stores (2)

[All research for this 1977 story was done at the <em>San Mateo County History Museum</em>, Redwood City.]

From the moment the Levys opened the doors of their new store, the brothers stocked a wide variety of merchandise and groceries intended to “startle the natives.”

Outside, the latest plows and mowing machines rested against the building., while many said that inside a fine assortment of dry goods, clothing, etc., actually spilled out and over the wooden shelves.

One every week either Fernand or Joseph Levy purchased new merchandise in San Francisco. Fernand usually left Half Moon Bay with a team of horses and spring wagon about 2 a.m. to begin the long journey. At the valley now filled with Crystal Springs Lakes, Fernand turned toward San Francisco, where he arrived in time for the early produce market. After visiting all the wholesale houses, Fernand returned to Half Moon Bay with a full wagon load 24 hours later.

Everyone in town confessed an instant fondness for the young Levy brothers. Their employees concurred, often citing Fernand (the older brother’s) fatherly ways and Joe’s funny approach to life.

[Once when a salesman bent down to pick up his sample case, he found that Joseph nailed it to the floor.]

In this friendly atmosphere, the new store prospered, and the pair entertained dreams of expanding the business.

But after the first year, the Levys encountered a crisis serious enough to dampen all their hopes. Without warning, the disastrous financial <em>Panic of 1857</em><em>paralyzed the economy. Suddenly scores of local and nationally known businesses declared bankruptcy.

(Next: Part 3)</em>

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About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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