Richard Hyatt: Brother was the mayor of Broadway

October 16, 2013 

Like his ancestors before him, Brother Rosenberg was a merchant, a seller of goods in the tradition of wandering Jewish peddlers who traveled the backroads of Georgia until their goods ran out.

Most of his life he held court in a pawnshop at 1014 Broadway before turning the old store into an interesting store where customers enjoyed homemade fudge or sat in rocking chairs and listened to his outspoken opinions on sidewalk skateboarders.

His family has done business on that end of town for 70 years.

Irvin Rosenberg, his dignified father, constantly patrolled the area even after he needed a walking stick to get around. He was part of a group of businessmen known as the Round Table.

Every day they gathered and every day they complained.

Brother Rosenberg died Monday at the age of 70. After hearing the news of his death, I thought of him as one of the last remaining links to old school merchants.

High-end stores such as Kiralfy's and Kayser Lilenthal sold clothing to genteel women in white gloves. At the other end of the street, men like Rosenberg, Kravtin and Sol & Harry sold to working-class people with dirt under their nails.

Like other small communities in the south, Columbus leaned on its Jewish merchants.

It was said that, "If there was a Jewish holiday, you couldn't buy a pair of socks." Maybe. But in most ways these wise retailers gave into Christian mores, closing on Sundays and celebrating Christmas with gusto.

In Rosenberg's pawnshop you could find a bass guitar, fine jewelry or an imported camera.

Brother enjoyed telling how online he sold a Japanese camera to a customer in Japan and how much money he made on the sale.

Money could feed his belly, but the sale fed his soul.

At his memorial on Tuesday, a eulogist talked about how Brother was not a salesman who met you inside the store.

He met you on the sidewalk and brought you inside, reminding us that he was always excited about selling.

He was a character but he also had character.

He set up basketball hoops in an old warehouse so kids could play.

He fed the poor, and without fanfare was kind to wounded soldiers.

He reached out to the eccentric cavalcade of people who parade up and down Broadway, and if a city leader asked his opinion, he gave it willingly.

He was a link to a downtown of another time but calling him a throwback ignores his unique charm. He stayed on Broadway when wig shops threatened to choke the life out of the neighborhood and he found a niche when college students came to town.

Brother Rosenberg was the mayor of Broadway and no one will ever hold that office again.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906@knology.net.

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