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

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 to 1876, Simon Levi had his own general merchandise store in Temecula.

All five 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 in Steiner, Klauber & Co., a grocery and general merchandise enterprise founded in 1869.

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

Simon Levi became a partner and the company became known as Klauber & Levi — 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, Melville Klauber and 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, San Diego, early 20th century, #WS1529

Later, Simon Levi & Co. expanded into a large wholesale grocery handling many items of supply and food, including liquor.

Today, the firm specializes in wholesaling wine and spirits from its 15-acre headquarters in Wilmington (in Los Angeles Harbor).

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

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


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, and vice-president of the San Diego Telephone Company and San Diego Gas and Electric Light Company.

He served nine years as a City Councilman in 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


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

His 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 Beth Israel site at 2nd and Beech Streets in 1889.

He was the third president of Congregation Beth Israel from 1909 to 1912.

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

Congregation Beth Israel, San Diego, soon after completion, #WS1514


Simon Levi married Ermance Meyer in 1876 in San Francisco.

Simon Levi died in 1918.

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

Simon Levi Wine Crate

Simon Levi wine crate to “Califonie”


  • Henry Schwartz, “Levi Saga: Temecula, Julian, San Diego,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 6/3.
  • Norton B. Stern, “Simon Levi,” Western States Jewish History 41/4.

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’s for Simon Levi & Co., with us. L’Chiam!

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