I just realized that Friedman’s Home Improvement store celebrates its 75th Anniversary this month. Friedman’s has been an integral part of Sonoma County’s history since 1946 when they established their first store in Petaluma.
Brothers Bennie and Joseph Friedman of Santa Rosa purchased an existing hardware and furniture business from Meyer Lerer on April 6, 1946. The property was located across the street from the Golden Eagle Milling Company, now the River Plaza Shopping Center, on East Washington Street.
Lerer, a native of Poland, or Austria, depending on which census year you’re looking at, arrived in Petaluma from San Francisco in 1907 and rented a storefront in the Canepa building at the corner of Keller and Washington Streets where Volpi’s is today. He sold new and second-hand furniture and hardware from this location until August 28, 1908, when a fire started in a neighboring stable wiped out nearly all his inventory.
From Keller Street, M. Lerer & Company moved to a building on East Washington Street near the river and owned by the Petaluma Incubator Company. In 1911, Mr. Lerer purchased a lot from the Golden Eagle Company located on East Washington at Grey Street and built a two-story structure. The first floor of the building housed his store, while Lerer and his wife, Nellie, and their children: Gertrude, David, Charles, and Lillian, occupied the second floor. By 1920 the Lerer household had expanded to include Sam Goodman, Gertrude’s husband, and their daughter Sylvia and a lodger named Henry Lay.
Changes made to the river above the Washington Street bridge caused Lerer to move his large warehouse and barn from the rear of his store on East Washington Street to Grey Street in 1914.
The building purchased by Bennie and Joseph Friedman may have been the “monster warehouse” constructed by M. Lerer & Sons to meet the storage needs of their “extensive business” in 1921. This building and two other structures leased to Pacific International Auto Parts and Acme Sheet Metal were destroyed by a towering inferno that engulfed the East Washington Street business block during the early hours of January 2, 1978.
It’s believed that the fire started in the back of the Acme Sheet Metal Shop, but its origin was never determined. Some years before the fire, Friedman Brothers had moved to Santa Rosa. Today, the Downtown River Apartments, completed in 2005, occupies the site. And in 2015, Friedman’s Home Improvement (named changed in 2001) returned to Petaluma opening its fourth Northern California store at 429 North McDowell Boulevard.
- The Petaluma Daily Courier, November 1, 1907, page 1: “New Business Place.”
- The Petaluma Daily Courier, August 29, 1908, page 1: “A Spectacular Blaze – Group of Old Landmarks Wiped Out in Few Minutes.”
- The Petaluma Daily Courier, June 22, 1911, page 3: “Golden Eagle Mill Sells Valuable Lot.”
- Petaluma Argus, September 5, 1911, page 5: “Ground Broken for Building.”
- Petaluma Argus, September 29, 1911, page 5: “The Contract is Awarded.”
- Petaluma Argus, February 15, 1921, page 8: “M. Lerer Building Monster Warehouse.”
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, April 8, 1946, page 6: “M. Lerer Retires After 40 Years; Sells Business to Friedman Bros. of Santa Rosa.”
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, July 17, 1951, page 8: “Meyer Lerer, Former Local Retailer, Dies.”
- Shisler, Tim. “New Arrival on the Block.” Petaluma Magazine, April-May 2005, pages 12-13.