For over four decades Al Davis Furniture at the corner of University and Herbert has earned a reputation for offering quality home furnishings at a value price. But who was the man behind this well-known store?
Al’s life in the U.S. began as an illegal immigrant. In the 1920s his father, Sam, came to America from Poland in search of a better life. By the time the rest of the family could join him, the quota was filed for immigrating Jews. Rather than return to Europe (and virtually certain death), Al went to Canada and sneaked back across the border.
Along with his brother Jack, Al gained legal citizenship after serving in the Army during World War II. Their last name was hard to spell and odd sounding until one day in Chicago a billboard for Davis County Bourbon caught their eye. They agreed, “Now that’s a name! Easy to spell, short and American sounding!” A trip to the courthouse led to a new life as Al “Davis.”
His wife, Bea’s life began in Czechoslovakia as Alshbeta Pinselova before an Ellis Island clerk changed her name to “Beatrice Pinsel.” Bea and Al met in Chicago and married two weeks later. The newlyweds soon moved west, driving as far as possible. Al got his first taste as a salesman at San Diego’s Quality Tire & Appliance Company downtown in the 1950s. Ten years later the couple converted a small shoe repair shop at 1601 University Avenue into a used furniture and antique store. Al and Bea started selling new furnishings out of catalogs, and the store became known as a great place to get furniture, carpet and window coverings at the lowest prices around. When their son Bob started working with them, Mattress World was added.
Cancer took Al’s life in 2000, but his son still runs the family enterprise. Their showroom may remain small, but through manufacturer websites and catalogs their selection is vast. Consumers and decorators alike use davisworld.com as a valuable resource for home furnishings.
First published in HillQuest, an Urban Guide to 92103 & Beyond, volume 5