The late Joe Schabo, business editor at the Fort Pierce Tribune, paid tribute to Arthur Rubin in a 1987 column as the store prepared to close after 60 years
under the family’s ownership.
clothing store. At one time, we had a fabric shop within the
store. We had a junior department store in Vero and a luggage
and shoe shop in Vero.”
The Rubins also owned a beach shop on South Beach as
well as a decorating shop at Orange Avenue and Depot
Drive. Their businesses drew customers from Vero Beach,
Stuart and Okeechobee. The motto of their downtown store
was “One of Florida’s Better Department Stores.’’
“Basically, Second Street was the downtown,” Rubin said.
“Within two or three blocks were all the businesses in town.”
With competition from retail chains and approaching
retirement age, Rubin closed the family department store in
1987, one of the biggest blows to downtown Fort Pierce until
Rubin and Holtsberg played together as boys, attended
Sunday school together and have shared memories of
“In the ’30s, most of the stores would have pots of fabric
that they would set on fire to keep the mosquitoes out of the
places of business,” Rubin said. “They were smoldering rags
is what they were.”
“I can remember being down on Second Street and smelling
those things burning,” Holtsberg said.
The stores weren’t air conditioned in the early years.
“In our store we had what they called bullet fans,” Rubin
said. “They looked like an airplane engine with the propeller
in front. We had 20 or 30 of them in our store and that was
our air conditioning.”
Holtsberg’s Grocery was cooled by ceiling fans. “That
was the only way to get any kind of cooling effect,”
The Jewish community was minuscule in those days, but
Sunday school for Fort Pierce’s early Jewish families was held at the North
12th Street home of Ralph and Ida Rubin. Ralph Rubin is in the back row at
the far right in this 1931 photo. Also pictured are Harold Holtsberg, front
row far left; Arthur Rubin, second row, far left; Bernard Rubin, third row,
far right; Libbie Rubin, third row, far left; Sylvia Rubin, front row, third
from right; and Spencer Gilbert, front row, far right.
Rubin and Holtsberg says the larger community was always
accepting and there was no prejudice. In fact, the town’s
voters elected Fred Holtsberg mayor twice. Rubin’s brother,
Bernard, also was elected mayor twice. Milton Tucker, who
served as mayor in the 1960s, was also Jewish.
Jewish families in Fort Pierce held worship services at the
Methodist and Presbyterian churches and at the Women’s
Club. Holtsberg remembers “years and years ago” when his
parents and Arthur’s parents would take them to a temple