Hotel business accommodates family philosophy

Chaparral Suites Hotel in Scottsdale is truly a family business.

The general manager, recently elected Scottsdale Councilman Tom Silverman, co-owns the hotel along with his father, Ray; his brother, Richard; and sister, Carol, who is the hotel’s director of food and beverage.

The hotel, located on the corner of Scottsdale and Chaparral Roads, also caters to families, as well as business travelers and groups, Silverman says.

Perhaps even more accommodating than the average family, the 311-room Chaparral Suites Hotel offers guests a complimentary, cooked-to-order breakfast every morning, as well as a two-hour manager’s reception every evening. The all-suite hotel also offers 24-hour complimentary airport transportation.

The family has owned this land since they first came to Scottsdale in 1953.

“I asked my dad why he picked Scottsdale,” Tom Silverman says. “He looked in downtown Phoenix, downtown Mesa and Scottsdale. Something told him that Scottsdale was special and that’s where he needed to be.

“I’m happy that he picked Scottsdale,” he adds.

As a child, Silverman assisted his father with front desk and maintenance duties at the family-owned Paradise Valley Guest Ranch. He graduated from Arizona State University in 1968, with a degree in business management. He continued at the Guest Ranch and later became manager.

In 1978, the Guest Ranch closed and, after remodeling throughout 1979, became a Granada Royal Hometel. In 1984, the hotel became an Embassy Suites Resort.

In November 1999, the Embassy Suites contract expired and the hotel became independently-owned and renamed Chaparral Suites Hotel.

“That’s the only difference, the name change,” Silverman says. “Everything else is the same. Same ownership, same management, same amenities.”

Some hotel guests, including winter visitors who stay at the hotel for eight weeks at a time, have been staying there since 1980, Silverman says.

In December 1999, the hotel opened the Chaparral Grand Ballroom, a state-of-the-art conference center with 11,200 square feet of function space to accommodate 1,400 guests for a reception or more than 900 guests if set banquet style. An additional 6,600-square-foot foyer provides a variety of private entryways to the ballroom.

For Passover, the hotel’s restaurant, the Fourth Floor Grille, is offering a holiday dinner on April 19. The menu includes traditional holiday foods and costs $18.95 for adults and $9.95 for children 6 to 10 years old. Although there is no formal seder, says Carol Silverman, guests are welcome to hold a seder at their own table.

Tom Silverman is a member of Temple Beth Israel in Scottsdale, where he became a bar mitzvah at the temple’s second location, at 10th Avenue and Flower Street in Central Phoenix. He has three adult sons – Matthew, a Phoenix attorney; Michael, who works in the hotel’s sales department; and Joel, a navy pilot – and six grandchildren.

He says one of the biggest lessons that he learned from his Jewish upbringing is ethics. “(Judaism) teaches ethics and being ethical in your life,” he says.

“I think Jewish people are so well known about giving back to others less fortunate and we’ve always done that in my family,” Silverman says.

An example of this is the hotel’s participation in a charity event in which restaurants donate half of their profits from one dish to Waste Not, an organization that helps feed the homeless.

As another way to help the community, the family established The Silverman Family Foundation, which provides funding to many local charities, scholarships and fund-raisers. His family also provides scholarships for the nursing program at Scottsdale Community College.

More proof of Silverman’s commitment to Scottsdale is his recent election to the Scottsdale City Council on March 15. He says that it’s important to him to give back to the community.

“This town has been so good to us, we’ve got to give back.”

This article first appeared in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

When Harry met Geri…

Although their wedding wasn’t broadcast on national television, involving millions of dollars and millions of viewers, Geri and Harry Feinman have had a much more memorable experience than the “stars” of “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire.”

Geri and Harry Feinman will celebrate 64 years of marriage in June.

One of the first things you see when you walk into their Scottsdale home is a collage of pictures on the wall. Photographs document their daughter Arlene’s life, from infancy to marriage. Other photographs show their three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

One weekend in 1934, a 16-year-old Geri Schainen went with a friend to a dance. At first she refused to go because she was worried about running into a past date who didn’t know how to dance. However, only two boys were there and one was Geri’s future husband, then 17.

“He was my dream man except I wanted someone with dark hair and he had light brown hair,” she says.

Harry liked what he saw too – he asked her to twirl around in front of him so he could get a good look.

The couple began spending time together.

“Actually we’re not married 64 (years), we’ve been married 66 1/2 years,” Harry says.

“He’s talking about the 2 1/2 years we kept company,” Geri explains.

They got married after they finished high school.

At that time, people got married young, Geri says. “Today they are smarter, they want to live a little first. I think you should get married when you’re about 25.”

“Not many people have long marriages today,” Harry says. “It’s unfortunate. You see, sometimes when the young ones have an argument today, they say ‘why do I have take this crap’…they just pick themselves up and get a divorce; they break up families. One thing I’ll say about marriage: You have to work on it every day.”

“You have to take the good with the bad,” Geri says. “Two people living together are never fully happy. You can’t be. They’re two different human beings.”

“You have to be honest about the whole thing,” Harry says.

When they met, Harry was acting on the stage and he watched his friends move to California to try to find success in Hollywood. “I had a choice – her or California.” He loved Geri and decided a life with her was more important.

Harry was a traveling shoe salesman and later designed shoes.

Although they are both in their early 80s, they try not to let their age stop them from enjoying life.

“We feel that once you pass the age of 80, you are living on borrowed time and we cherish it. Therefore, when anyone asks me how I feel, I invariably reply, ‘I woke up this morning, so I know I’m still alive,’ ” Geri says.

Geri still likes to Lindy and loves to tango, but they don’t dance as often as they used to, she says. Harry is a good dancer, she says, but he doesn’t like it.

They both enjoy cruising. “It’s the only way to travel,” Geri says, while Harry is on the phone, talking about a cruise brochure he holds in his hand. They’ve traveled to Argentina, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Hong Kong, China, Alaska and Mexico.

They also enjoy going to the movies and visiting their family.

“We are fortunate that our bodies are still well preserved on the outside. However, on the inside, from the neck down, there is trouble brewing,” Geri says.

“No one looks good when they first get out of bed in the morning, and neither do we. Many times in the morning, we look at each other and laugh. We cannot understand who the old people are who have taken over our bodies because, spiritedly, we still feel like we are 35,” Geri says.

“My husband and I have not had a fairytale marriage,” she says. “I don’t think that happens in real life. We’ve had differences of opinions, we’ve been disappointed with each other at times, and we’ve suffered painful situations together. But we both weathered them and stayed together,” Geri says.

It appears they’ve set a good example, because their daughter, who lives nearby, will celebrate her 44th anniversary with her husband, Jack Millman, in June.

One of the most important aspects of a lasting marriage is compatibility, Geri says. “That’s the basis. Be compatible. You don’t have to want everything he wants; he doesn’t have to want everything you want. You have to compromise and be compatible.”

What is Harry’s advice?

“If you meet the right partner, you have the best thing of all.”

What do you look for in the right partner? “A good heart,” he says.

Harry picks up their 1936 wedding picture.

“You were beautiful, oh boy. This isn’t me. This isn’t the same guy. I don’t know what happened to this guy.”

“He got older,” Geri says.

Harry is quiet, as he stares at the picture.

“You could fall in love with this guy. Look how beautiful you are,” he then says to his wife. “Didn’t we both make a beautiful couple? Where did the years fly? What a time. This brings back a lot of memories, this picture.”

This article first appeared on jewishaz.com.

Valley man guides effort to restore Polish cemetery

Cows no longer graze in the Jewish cemetery in Lomza, Poland.

The dead who occupy the cemetery can rest in peace again, in part through the efforts of Phoenix resident George Puchall.

Since a 1978 trip to his birthplace – his first visit in 43 years – Puchall has wanted to clean up the town’s Jewish cemetery. He was shocked at conditions in the graveyard. Cows wandered through it, grazing on overgrown weeds. Tombstones with almost illegible engravings had been knocked over or sunk into the earth.

Before World War II, 11,000 Jews lived in Lomza. The community had a yeshiva, several synagogues and a Yiddish newspaper, Puchall says. Although a few Jewish residents fled the Nazis, most were killed in the town or perished in the death camps.

The cemetery is all that remains of the Jews of Lomza.

For years, Puchall was haunted by what he had seen.

Before a 1991 return trip, he sought help from Jewish organizations in finding contacts in Poland who might be able to help clean up the cemetery. From one of these contacts, he learned that relatives of Chaim Herzog, then president of Israel, were buried in the cemetery. He wrote letters to Herzog, and with Herzog’s influence, successfully arranged an initial cleanup in 1992.

Puchall paid unemployed Poles $1,300 to do the work.

In 1994, Puchall’s wife, Rose, was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He quit his job as a management consultant to care for her until her death in 1996, and during that time he put the cemetery restoration “on a back burner.” He learned, through correspondence from acquaintances who visited Lomza, that the cemetery was slowly becoming neglected again.

Then in February 1998, Puchall received a letter from Gerald Bender, a Jewish judge in Chicago, who had come across Puchall’s name while researching the Lomza cemetery. In his letter, Bender explained that his father had been born in Lomza, and that some of his ancestors were buried in the town’s Jewish cemetery.

Puchall learned that Bender had formed a friendship with Marek Kaminski, a Polish Catholic physician in Wisconsin he had met coincidentally through mutual business contacts.

According to Puchall, Kaminski had grown up in Lomza and moved to the United States in 1979. He visits family in Lomza every year and retains his residency there. An article in a 1999 Polish newspaper article states that Kaminski had no idea that the Jewish cemetery existed even though he was born and brought up in the town.

The article reported Kaminski’s words: “I was devastated and ashamed, not only because I was born there, but as a human being.”

Bender and Kaminski agreed to start a foundation to raise funds to renovate the cemetery, Puchall says. During a visit there in February 1999, Kaminski hired workers to cut down tall bushes that had grown on the site. As bushes were removed, hundreds of tombstones became visible. Last year, the Lomza Jewish Cemetery Foundation was officially registered as a nonprofit foundation with the Internal Revenue Service.

In July 1999, Puchall, Bender and Kaminski met in Lomza. In a visit with Vice-Mayor Janusz Nowakowski, they learned that the town had posted signs declaring the Jewish cemetery to be an historical site and warning that any damage there would be punishable under the Historical Site Preservation Law. The town also replaced the roof and installed the doors on one of the original cemetery’s buildings.

The cemetery has approximately 500 graves with headstones and numerous unmarked graves, according to foundation literature. Most of the headstones are damaged and need to be lifted back into position.

So far, the cemetery has undergone a thorough and intensive cleaning. The next goal is to raise and repair 100 headstones, if there is sufficient funding, Puchall says.

The foundation has contracted with a family that lives in the original funeral home building to maintain the cemetery. Kaminski’s brother-in-law resides in Lomza and monitors the restoration process, which will resume in the spring once the weather is warm, says Puchall.

Puchall plans to meet Bender and Kaminski in Lomza in July to check the progress of the renovation.

Puchall says that the Poles currently living in Lomza have shown respect for the renovation. “The newer generation is tremendously interested in what went on and in the remnants of the Jewish culture. People respect it.” There has been no vandalism, he says.

The primary goal of the foundation, according to Puchall, is “to restore the cemetery and show respect for the final resting place of the deceased,” but it also is a way “to bring about better relations between Poles and Jews.”

This article first appeared in the March 3, 2000 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. 

Patrons feel at home in The Stockroom

In the world of office supplies, customers can get lost among the stacks of paper, rows of pens and boxes of computer labels.

Les Moskowitz, founder of The Stockroom, is there to help.

Instead of wandering aimlessly through the aisles of the larger office supply chains – only to finally find a salesperson who says he doesn’t work in that department – shoppers receive personal, friendly and informed service at the office supply store, located in a handsome new building at 6201 N. Seventh St. in Phoenix.

Staff at The Stockroom, the only remaining independently owned office supply store in the city of Phoenix, take pride in offering personal service, Moskowitz says.

Nancy Kennedy, a customer for several years, agrees. “They really make a big effort. If they don’t have a product (in stock), they’ll get it for you. And they get it fast,” she says. “I enjoy the people and the service.”

In February, The Stockroom moved from its longtime location in a shopping center at Glendale Avenue and Seventh Street. It is the most recent change for the company, which since opening in 1986, has experienced many changes – mostly related to the office supply industry.

“We’re constantly having an evolution in product,” Moskowitz says. “As more and more people get computerized, more and more product today is turning toward the computer.”

Nevertheless, The Stockroom still “specializes in keeping basic inventory of product that is hard to get and items that seem to disappear over a period of time,” he says.

“We continue to follow the technology,” Moskowitz says, “but the customers that have kept us in business and have supported us over the years have special needs and special services and we want to make sure we don’t miss those.”

How does The Stockroom compete with large office supply chain stores?

“Office Max and Staples offer price, but we offer knowledge and some competitiveness,” Moskowitz says. “They have a bigger buying power since theirs is in the billions and they buy things by the trainload and truckload.”

But chain store salespeople have limited product knowledge, he says.

In contrast, The Stockroom adds service and value, he says. “There is a trade-off value with price. We go to head-to-head with many items. We are as competitive as we possibly can be.”

Out of approximately 300 commercial customers, 50 receive inventory service. Stockroom employees visit customers’ offices, check their stock and manage their office supply inventory. Customers receive a price list to ensure consistency.

The Stockroom also offers quarterly promotions and volume discounts.

The Stockroom shares ownership and space at its new two-story building with Write Ons Etc., a store that sells stationery, cards, stickers and gift items. Write Ons, Etc., established in 1982, shared rental space with The Stockroom at the stores’ former location.

Moskowitz and his wife Linda have been members of the Beth El Congregation for 20 years and have three children: Lauren, 16; Adam, 18; and Michael, 21. Both he and his wife have been youth advisers and youth directors for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Before opening The Stockroom, Moskowitz worked as the director for charter operations for Greyhound Bus Lines for 13 years.

This article first appeared on jewishaz.com.