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Newspaper Article: For Maynard's Bert Gruber, people come first


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Newspaper Article: For Maynard's Bert Gruber, people come first


Gerald Seaman






Maynard Beacon

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"I stand behind every mattress I sell", Bert Gruber said with a straight face.

This statement is just one of dozens that Gruber customers are likely to be subjected to daily at the furniture store on Main Street in Maynard. Bert Gruber has a marvelous sense of humor.

"I love people," Bert says. "I have a lot of fun in this job. Some people you can kid, but others you can't. Fortunately, most people are like Ivory Snow..."

Gruber Furniture was founded by Bert's father, Julius, and uncle Ben Gruber in 1917. At that time the building at 117 Main St. was a huge edifice, four stories high, containing a dance hall on one of the upper levels.

During high school in the 1930s Bert worked for his father in the store. After graduation he tried to find work elsewhere, but there was nothing. "Those were rough years", Burt said. "I lived at home but no matter where I looked I just couldn't find any work. One day my father said to me, 'Do you like the food at home?' I said 'Yes.' My mother's cooking was the best I'd ever eaten. Well my father said, "You'd better come down to the store and earn it. So I did." He has been there ever since.

In 1934 the building burned, destroying the upper floors and a hall at the rear. The burned sections were torn down and a smaller building resulted.

Julius and Ben retired in the mid 1950s and Bert took over. Those early years are filled with vivid memories. One of these memories involved a visit of a group of customers. The incident did not seemed unusual at the time, but over the years it has become more significant.

The group was comprised of a man named Ken Olsen. With him were his partners who had just rented a small section of the Mill across the street. Their new business had something to do with electronics. It was called Digital Equipment Corporation. These men said they needed a few pieces of furniture to make their office functional. The bill came to $69. They asked Bert if they could have 30 days credit.

Gruber has always been generous with credit. He is notorious for extending credit to newlyweds and allowing them to pay on their own terms. Between his father and himself, the family has furnished four or more generations of homes in the area.

His most distant customer was from Las Vegas Nevada. That person just HAD to have a particular bunk set of bunk beds immediately. Burt sent them an air freight. Closer at hand, shipments to Cape Cod are frequent.

But, of course, his closest and best customers are in this area. "All of my customers are famous." Burt says with a smile, They are all celebrities.

It is surprising that Burt Gruber never ran for public office. In fact, he does not even like to discuss politics. Instead, he retreats to the Italian Social Club where those of Italian descent have become the minority since doors were open to all.

"That's where my friends are" Bert explains. "We go up there to relax and not talk politics."

When asked about that marvelous All-American mix of ethnic backgrounds, Burt tells about his trip to the ball game.

Gruber furniture is closed on Wednesday afternoons. On one particular afternoon, Bert recalls, six of us went to the ball game in Boston. "It never occurred to us that no two in our group had the same religion" Burt said. "That's one of the nice things about Maynard."

But life goes on beyond the Social Club. Bert is also a member of the V. F. W., The American Legion, Maynard Rod & Gun, and a bowling league

A large part of Bert's recreation is the business itself. Asked when he was going to retire, he looked astonished ."Never" he said emphatically, "I'm having too much fun."

That's Bert, standing behind every mattress he sells.