Siblings Carry on Father’s Legacy at Star Supply
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Nearly two weeks after the loss of its owner, it’s business as usual at Star Supply as the children of the late Richard Rosenthal run the company he founded more than 50 years ago.
While the signage adorning the shelves of office chairs, home remodeling supplies and closeout items still reflect Rosenthal’s sense of humor, son and daughter Seth and Lisa acknowledge it isn’t the same without him.
“The signs won’t be as funny,” Seth Rosenthal says. “He was a master and we have a lot to learn.”
“He was always collecting cartoons, sending cartoons to family and friends,” Lisa Rosenthal adds. “Even when he was making deals, I think he was imagining the way he could present some products and something silly about them. We would hear his stories about, ‘I found this thing and I’m going to call it such and such.’ ”
The late store owner once said he has the “soul of an artist in the body of a surplus dealer.” Everything from the whimsical signs to the sculptures on the property to the way the aisles are arranged reflect a personal style that Rosenthal “spent a lot of his time over the years refining,” Seth Rosenthal says.
When his father bought the property for Star Supply in 1973, he saw potential as he looked passed the old, decaying buildings that stood in his path, he says. The front part of the store was completely reconstructed, but the store’s warehouse that’s there today was already existing.
“He’s always had this desire to make this little quarter of [Mahoning Avenue] interesting visually, clean and look busy,” Rosenthal says. “He turned this into a little park. When you go outside, you’ll see some of his designs.”
The Rosenthals grew up in the bargain outlet at 875 Mahoning Ave. and used to play hide and seek there with their sister, Mila. When they were old enough, working there was their summer job.
“It’s been a part of our lives since the beginning and we’ve seen it evolve,” Rosenthal says.
In the early days, their father primarily dealt with industrial equipment, such as giant punch presses that came out of local machine shops, they say. Over time, the inventory shifted toward the mix of things customers see in the store today, like items for home remodels, countertops, cabinets, doors and windows.
While working in the store, the Rosenthals heard stories from customers — some from as far as Cleveland and Pittsburgh — about how there was no other store like Star Supply anywhere, Lisa Rosenthal says. For former residents coming home to visit family, visiting Star supply was among the priorities, she says.
“I’ve been here on a holiday and people will be talking about how they used to live in Youngstown and shop here,” she says.
Richard Rosenthal remembered customers who shopped at Star Supply from the day he opened, Seth Rosenthal says. Popular items customers buy include windows, doors, countertops, tires for small trailers and vinyl naugahyde upholstery fabrics. Rosenthal also kept his prices low, his son says.
“Sometimes people would ask about sales,” Rosenthal says. “He’s never had a sale in his life. He was like ‘That’s not the right way to do it.’ The right way to do it is to just always have it at a low price.”
His acts of philanthropy in the community are still remembered as well.
“He believed in supporting the arts and local culture. He would donate materials and labor to maintain the John Young Memorial on Mahoning Avenue,” Lisa Rosenthal says. “He also supported the Youngstown Playhouse and the Oakland Center for the Arts.”
However, her father was not someone who went out into the business and looked for recognition, she says. He was a private person, but he was pleased about how he could serve the community, run the business and have a team to be proud of who have worked at the bargain outlet for over 20 years.
“Serving the residents of Youngstown, of improving this stretch of Mahoning Avenue, of him investing in maintaining the building and creating a colorful, attractive environment. All of that was important to him,” she says. “He created a nice culture for employees and customers. I think it was a win-win for everybody involved over the years.”
At the age of 77, Richard Rosenthal died on July 30. The Rosenthal family is in the process of organizing a memorial service, which is to be held on Oct. 13 at the B&O Station, 530 Mahoning Ave., from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Pictured: Richard Rosenthal founded Star Supply more than 50 years ago. After his death on July 30, his children, Seth and Lisa, keep the business going.
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.