Utah History Encyclopedia


By Terry L. Overturf
Maurice Warshaw founder of Grand Central, Inc., was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and humanitarian. Born in 1898 in Dubossar, southern Ukraine, Russia, the son of a prosperous Jewish food broker and community leader, Maurice was named Samuel Warshawsky at birth. He was nicknamed "Little Mieche" or "Little Mouse" because he was such an active child. In America, where the closest word anyone could come to "Mieche" was Maurice. The family eventually dropped the last syllable of the surname and he became Maurice Warshaw.

His family emigrated because of the horrors of the Russo-Japanese War and the concurrent hatred aimed at Jews. They journeyed to Kishinev, where they hid for seventeen days in a friend's basement. Maurice's father left the family in Kishinev to proceed to the United States on his own. Maurice's step-mother saw that the rest of the family made it to safety, first to Poland and then to Bremen, Germany.

The family booked passage in steerage on the SS Bremen for the nineteen-day voyage to America. After processing through Ellis Island, the family boarded a train at Grand Central Station for Philadelphia and a reunion with Maurice's older brother and father. For seven years the family lived in the tenements of Philadelphia in conditions that were worse than in Russia. But they were together and free.

At age fourteen Maurice left Philadelphia with his sister and her husband for the newly established Jewish colony of Clarion near Gunnison, Utah. Life was hard in the colony since most of the people were ill-equipped to handle the demands of farming in such an isolated area. After two years in Clarion, Maurice left for Salt Lake City, where he was joined shortly thereafter by the rest of his family.

It was in Salt Lake City that Maurice left his mark. Conditions for the Warshaw's were difficult but Maurice and his father made a living peddling merchandise and foodstuffs. After several years in Salt Lake City, his step-mother died and his father moved to Cleveland. Maurice continued to work at various jobs until the Depression years, when he opened his own business at Ninth South and Main in Salt Lake City. He named his first store Grand Central Market hoping one day it would become "as busy as a big station." Because of his marketing innovations and firm belief in being volume-oriented along with giving the customer a good deal, his Grand Central spread throughout Utah into Idaho and Wyoming.

With continued business success and expansion, he turned his attention to civic and humanitarian projects on the local, national, and international level. He was active on behalf of CARE and UNICEF. He traveled to numerous countries throughout the world visiting medical facilities in the cities and the remote and backward areas. This travel gave him a greater understanding of the needs and feelings of the peoples of the world. His life is best summed up in the words from the title of his autobiography, "Life, more sweet than bitter." Maurice Warshaw died on 5 January 1979.

See: Maurice Warshaw, Life-More Sweet Than Bitter (1975).