Simon Levi, Jewish Pioneer Wholesale Grocer of San Diego, California

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Simon Levi

Simon Levi of San Diego

Simon Levi of San Diego

Values Codes I-E-L-P

 

Simon Levi was born in 1850 in Bohemia, one of five brothers.

 

Along the way

Simon Levi, came to the United States at the age of 12 in 1863.

He arrived first in San Francisco.

 

San Diego

in 1873, Simon Levi came to the San Diego area where he worked for Louis Wolf in Temecula.

From 1873-1876, Simon Levi had his own general merchandise store in Temecula.

 

All 5 Levi brothers lived in San Diego at various times. A sister stayed behind in Europe.

The Levi Brothers, 1879. Back Row: Rudolf & Adolph Levi. Front Row: Isaac, Simon & Nathan Levi. #WS1525

The Levi Brothers, 1879.
Back Row: Rudolf & Adolph Levi.
Front Row: Isaac, Simon & Nathan Levi.
#WS1525

 

In 1876, Simon Levi joined his uncle, Samuel Steiner and Abraham Klauber as a partner in Steiner, Klauber & Company, a grocery and general merchandise enterprise that had been founded back in 1869.

In 1883, Samuel Steiner retired and an ailing Abraham Klauber moved to San Francisco to oversee the company’s business there.

Simon Levi became a partner & the company became known as Klauber & Levi, the Klauber being Abraham’s son Melville.

Under Levi’s leadership, the company became a large wholesale grocery firm that supplied the Southwest from Baja to New Mexico.

 

In 1895, the firm re-incorporated as Klauber & Levi, with Simon Levi as President.

They had 2 large warehouses, one at Seventh & Island and one at Fourth & K, plus a flower mill at Thirteenth & K.

 

Increasingly Klauber’s son, Melville & his friend & brother-in-law, Julius Wangenheim, were making decisions.

In 1896 Simon Levi resigned to form his own company, the Simon Levi Co., dealing primarily in produce.

The Simon Levi Warehouse in San Diego in early 20th century. #WS1529

The Simon Levi Warehouse in San Diego in early 20th century.
#WS1529

Later he expanded into a large wholesale grocery handling many items of supply & food including liquor.

Today, still operating, the firm specializes in wholesaling wine & spirits, from its 15 acre headquarters in Wilmington (in Los Angeles).

 

Bottle of Scotch whiskey, private label created for Simon Levi Co.

Bottle of Scotch whiskey, private label created for Simon Levi Co.

Civic

Simon Levi’s civic career began in the 1870’s.

He was Secretary of a Committee of Public Safety which helped protect the local Chinese community from hoodlums.

In the 1880’s he was President of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Building & Loan Association; Vice-President of the San Diego Telephone Company and San Diego Gas and Electric Light Company.

He served 9 years as a City Councilman of San Diego, some of this time as Chairman.

Though urged to run for Mayor, he never did.

Simon Levi's San Diego Residence, 1890's. #WS1530

Simon Levi’s San Diego Residence, 1890’s.
#WS1530

Community 

Simon Levi’s involvement with Congregation Beth Israel started in 1887 when the Congregation first incorporated.

Simon Levi’s name is on the incorporation papers.

He and his brother Adolph Levi and Samuel Fox, were instrumental in selecting the site and completing the building of the first Temple Beth Israel at 2nd and Beech Streets in 1889.

He was the third President of Congregation Beth Israel from 1909-1912.

 

Beth Israel Synagogue in San Diego soon after completion, #WS1514

Beth Israel Synagogue in San Diego soon after completion,
#WS1514

 

Family

Simon Levi married Ermance Meyer in 1876 in San Francisco.

Simon Levi died in1918.

Descendants of Simon’s brother Adolph Levi are prominent citizens in the community today.

Simon Levi Wine Crate

Simon Levi Wine Crate to “Califonie.”

 

For more information, see the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  • Levi Brothers; Levi Saga: Temecula; Julian; San Diego; San Diego; Schwartz, Henry; 6/3
  • Levi, Simon; San Diego; 1966; Norton Stern; 41/4

Plus:

The first 150 Years: A History of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, 2012, by Congregation Beth Israel, 9001 Town Centre Drive, San Diego, CA 92122, (858) 535-1111.

Stanley & Laurel Schwartz are the curators of this Simon Levi Exhibit.

Thanks to Mary Criscione for sharing her Cluny bottle of blended whiskey, bottled by Macpherson for Simon Levi Co., with us. L’Chiam!

Thanks to Marty Wood for this wonderful find of a wine crate shipped to “Californie.”

 

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