Frank & Alfred Berman: Jewish Pioneer Merchants of Coalinga, California

Frank Berman

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Frank Berman was born in the 1870’s in Russia.


Along the way . . . .

Frank Berman came to America in 1908, settling for a while in the Boston area.

He arrived in California in 1910, seeking a chance to open his own tailor shop.


Coalinga, California

Finding the rents too high in San Francisco, Berman boarded a train heading south.

A cloudburst washed out the railroad tracks in the area, forcing him wait around Coalinga, 70 miles southwest of Fresno.

Coalinga California, Turn of the Century, Vintage Postcard

Coalinga California, turn of last century, vintage postcard

Berman rented a large room at the Kettleman Apartments in downtown Coaliga, at a far lower price than San Francisco, and opened his tailor shop.

By the early 1920’s, Frank Berman, Tailor had grown to Frank Berman, Dry Goods & Notions, and still later, Berman’s Department Store.

Berman purchased the Webb Building at the corner of 5th and Elm Avenue for his dry goods store.



Berman was a member of Congregation Beth Israel of Fresno.



Frank Berman married Tillie Zwang in 1913.

Tillie was the sister of another early Coalinga Jewish settler, Jacob Zwang, who was a Jewish rancher and meat purveyor.

Together, Frank and Tillie had two children. One son, named Alfred Berman, was born in 1914.

Berman's Department Store of Coalinga, #WS2360

Berman’s Department Store, Coalinga, CA


Alfred Berman

Alfred Berman

Alfred Berman

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Alfred Berman became the owner-operator of Berman’s Department Storepurchasing the store from his father in 1959, and continued operating it until 1974.


Alfred was an active member of the Coaliga Chamber of Commerce.



Alfred Berman was a member of Congregation Beth Israel in Fresno.



Alfred was a member of the Elks Lodge and the Rotary Club in Coalinga.

He was also a member of the Horned Toad Derby Association.



Alfred Berman married Evelyn.

Together, they had two sons: Mark and Jerold.


Alfred Berman died in 2015.


  • Norton B. Stern, “Frank Berman: Leading Merchant of Coalinga, California,” Western States Jewish History 41/4.

David Epstein is curator of this Berman Family exhibit.