The Classic Story of the Levy Bros. (5) The Finale

A new-old story by June Morrall

The Classic Story of the Levy Brothers: The Finale

The answer is YES, it turned out that the third Levy, Adrien, and Josephine’s sister, Emma, were a perfect match and wed soon after meeting.[Makes you think of eHarmony, or one of those love match sites, doesn’ tit?]

There was one more Levy brother left, Armand. This time it was Emma and Adrien who conspired to bring Armand and Josephine and Emma’s sister, Natalie, to Half Moon Bay, where they felt certain another marriage would take place. And it did.

Now all the Levy brothers were on the Coastside and Josephine had her siblings as close companions. To complete this perfect family picture, each of the Levy’s wives bore three children each.

The brothers started out in the general store business but now they wanted to expand into areas they knew less about, always a challenge but a challenge often armed with the unexpected “black swan” kind of surprises. It sounds good but you just don’t know what’s going to happen and when.

They got into the stagecoach business by buying Andrew Taft’s line, including the often rough-and-tumble drivers. Perhaps their name was stamped on the side of the stages, advertising the chain of stores, I am not sure because I have not seen such photographs but it makes sense. The stage probably carried their dry goods, the mail, and of course, the passengers, who, in Half Moon Bay, stayed at the Occidental Hotel.

The newly arrived brother, Adrien, felt the real estate bug, and with his brother’s support bought 3,000 acres near Pomponio Creek. That was about 1900. They may have been going in the wrong direction when they tried to revive whaling at Pigeon Point, but whale oil was often used for light and Pescadero did not get electric lighting until the mid0 1920s. To work in the dark, you had to have lanterns or some way to get light, and the lack of it was a real problem.

Part Vi (finale) Next

The Levy Brothers were branching out into new businesses, including a sawmill on Butano Creek, employing two dozen men. As a mechanical cream separator revolutionized the dairy business, the Levy’s invested in Coastside creameries and cheese factories.

According to old newspapers, 600 cows were put to work at a factory at Pigeon Point. Another cheese or cream factory stood north of the old Petersen & Alsford store in San Gregorio. The third occupied the site once used by a water-powered grist mill on Pilarcitos Creek in Half Moon Bay.

In many ways, the Levy Brothers symbolized the ways in which American businesses expanded—sometimes successful when they moved away from their specialty, sometimes headed for black holes.

Their investments sounded like they linked together well: general stores, stagecoaches, real estate, creameries and sawmills. They had their fingers in a lot of possibly lucrative pies.

About the same time they also leased a much larger space for their Half Moon Bay general store on Purisima Street. Three times larger than the old location.

But their thirst for more outside investments wasn’t satisfied, and they looked to the Peninsula for more places to put their money. They were intrigued by plans for the extension of an electric trolley service from San Francisco to San Mateo (where their stage line could pick up passengers, or were the brothers hoping to extend the trolley to Half Moon Bay and south along the Coastside? The trolley was a giant step beyond the stagecoach.) While exploring new possibilities, the Levys also decided to open a new store in San Mateo. Now they had a chain of four stores.

Living on the sunnier Peninsula helped convince them that that would remain their permanent home. About 1902 ads appeared in newspapers announcing that all the Coastside stores were for sale, including the land near Pomponio Creek.

Many decades later, around 1972, descendants of the original Levy Brothers opened a clothing store in Half Moon Bay, next door to  the present day location of the New Leaf Community Market. This time their stay was shorter than in the 19th century and in the blink of an eye the store closed, leaving one open in San Mateo, which also closed in the late 20th century.


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