Friedman’s, a landmark of Petaluma, turns 75

In March 1946, residents of Santa Rosa, Joe and Benny Friedman, turned over their savings – $ 4,000 – to purchase the contents of Meyer Lerer’s Petaluma Junkyard and rent the property at 17 East Washington St., on the River and near the corner of what was then known as Main Street.

And on April 1, the city of Petaluma issued a business license (at a cost of $ 3) to the new venture, Friedman Brothers. A third brother, Harry, would soon join the young company.

In “The Friedman’s Way”, a private book detailing the history of the company, Harry referred to Petaluma as “languid” at the time. You could cross Washington Street and stop in the middle to tie your shoe.

Lerer had said the brothers’ business was great but, as the book reports, day one sales totaled $ 1, and that’s only because there hasn’t been any change, Benny recalls. A sociable man with a sense of humor, Benny continued the story with, “Day two business has gone downhill. And on the third day a man come in to ask for change for a twenty dollar bill. We made him a partner.

However, the military’s demand for metal during WWII meant a shortage of raw materials after the war, and the hard-working brothers fared well. So much so, in fact, that 75 years later this scrap and salvage business, now known as Friedman’s Home Improvement, is a staple in the Sonoma County community and continues to thrive and grow.

In 1971, a new, modern branch of the store opened south of Santa Rosa. Five years later, the original East Washington Street store had become dilapidated, and inventory, headquarters, and staff moved to the new store. Harry, quoted in “The Friedman’s Way,” said: “It was a difficult decision. I cried when we left Petaluma, remembering all the good times, the hard work, and the wonderful friends and clients. They painted a sign and left it on the front window. “Moved to Santa Rosa,” he would say, “BUT WE WILL BE BACK. “

It took 38 years, but in 2014 the new Petaluma branch, now the corporate headquarters, opened in Deer Creek Village Mall on North McDowell Boulevard. In the years that followed, two more branches opened – in Ukiah and in Sonoma City.

It remains a family business, with Barry Friedman, 43, Benny’s grandson, now running the business. “I feel honored,” said Barry, “to lead this organization into the future.”

Barry said connecting with the community has always been a big part of the business.

“The way my grandfather and his brothers approached business was to treat people fairly, see what the community needed and do what met those needs, then give back to the community,” he said. -he declares.

When asked what has kept Friedman’s so strong for so long, Barry emphasized the company’s values: Lead, Connect, Grow, Serve and Care.

“It’s part of our daily work,” he said.

All new employees spend their first day in a company orientation, learning about the history and ethics of the company.

“I greet them, ask questions about them and ask why they chose Friedman’s.” It emphasizes to them the importance of people: “how you treat other members of your team and your customers”.

We see it as “the three circles,” he said: the team, the customers and the community. And the team is “the people who are committed to Friedman’s”. Even those who haven’t been around for a long time, “they want to be a part of something, and they do it because nothing happens without them. You don’t do it because you are asked to, but because you want to.

He started working in the store at the age of 8, “pushing carts and bagging for cashiers”. After college however, he wanted to make sure the company was the right fit for him. For a while he investigated being a cowboy in Montana and worked with a car racing team in North Carolina.

“But I was drawn to this business and in 2004 I came back and started over as a cashier from the beginning.” He rose through the ranks, he explained, to “keep his feet on the ground. I knew I would have opportunities, but I wanted to learn the trade, understand the pieces and the pieces.

In 2013, he became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “I like it: what we do, who we do it for and I like our place in the community. There is a lot of pride in knowing that we are a local company, offering great jobs and careers.

One of Friedman’s trademarks is its knowledgeable and helpful staff. In “The Friedman’s Way,” longtime general manager Ron Adams spoke about a time he showed Friedman’s to a big box store executive. “I walked… with him,” Adams said. “When we got to the cast iron stoves, he said to me, ‘We sell them too.’ I said, ‘No, you have them. We sell them. This is how I felt about Friedman’s… We have trained our employees to have an in-depth knowledge of our product lines and a real focus on customer needs.

Many locals are familiar with the company’s original slogan: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”. This, Barry said, was granted by a repeat customer in the early years. The man came from Willits because the business had become well known as a place to locate hard to find items. He once said, “If you don’t have it, I don’t need it.

He then gave permission to the brothers to use the slogan. Now, said Barry, it’s a relic of a time when things were hard to find. “It’s a good thing,” he added, to hear longtime county residents recall driving near this sign as children.

What about the future? “We are trying to create a more solid foundation for future growth,” Barry said. “Even though we’ve been around for a long time, our business has grown. Some of our processes needed strengthening and over the past few years we have focused on consolidating this foundation. We will only grow if we can ensure that we can maintain the culture and service that we expect – and that connection to our community.

“So, rhythmic and thoughtful growth,” he concluded. “We want to make sure we maintain our uniqueness, not just grow for the sake of growing. “

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