Irvin “Brother” Rosenberg, the gregarious and irascible proprietor of Brother’s General Store on Broadway, died this morning at the Midtown Medical Center.
Rosenberg, 70, had been fighting cancer for months.
His store, a combination candy, ice cream, sandwich, soda and confection shop, is housed in a building his family has owned since the Great Depression. Over the years, the building has been a pawn and jewelry shop and for a while, a tattoo parlor.
He and his wife, Colleen, retired in 2006 and moved to north Georgia, but soon he realized he wasn’t cut out to sit on a porch.
“The problem was, I couldn’t sit still,” Rosenberg said later.
So they packed up and moved back to Columbus, opening Brother’s General Store in 2007.
“His family has been in uptown for well over 50 years, maybe closer to 70,” said Richard Bishop, president and CEO of Uptown Columbus, Inc. “When he had the idea for that little general store, it really added something we needed on Broadway.”
The store is a favorite gathering place for Broadway shoppers, especially on Saturday mornings during Market Days, when vendors line the east side of the boulevard.
“He’s been such a fixture on Broadway, standing in front of his store, talking to customers,” Bishop said. “Especially children, he had such a good way with children. We’re really, really, going to miss him.”
Long a champion for the downtown area, Rosenberg said he saw Broadway live and die, then come back to life. He said big projects like TSYS and the RiverCenter have been great for the area, but they aren’t the real backbone.
“My thought of Columbus is: all the really big things we do are great, but it’s the small retail stores, the small merchants, who really make it work,” he said in an interview.
For years, Rosenberg waged a campaign to get the city to put up signs banning bicycle traffic from Broadway sidewalks. When told that city officials had the signs on order and that they should be up soon, he reacted in his typical gruff manner.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said. “I just hope I live to see it.”
Rosenberg is survived by his wife and three sons, Howard, David and Eliot. His funeral is planned for Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Riverdale Cemetery.