Charles Goldberg, 91, marine business owner

Charles Goldberg in 1958. After World War II, he and his brothers formed Goldbergs' Marine, a Market Street store.
Charles Goldberg in 1958. After World War II, he and his brothers formed Goldbergs' Marine, a Market Street store.
Posted: May 05, 2014

Many young men came home from World War II and started their own businesses. Charles Goldberg did just that, and his was an instant hit.

With just $600 in capital, he and his older brothers, Harry and Jack, formed Goldbergs' Marine, selling boating equipment from a store on Market Street.

"They were a legend," said Bill Wermuth, a Wynnewood native who went there for 14 years starting in 1958 to outfit the boat his parents kept in Nova Scotia.

Goldbergs' was synonymous with savvy salesmen and apt advice, Wermuth said. "They weren't just in it for the money. They would tell you to do the right thing."

Mr. Goldberg, 91, who made pleasure boating a family hobby, died Sunday, April 27, of Alzheimer's disease at his home in Jupiter, Fla. He formerly lived in Jenkintown.

Mr. Goldberg correctly foresaw the buying power of returning World War II veterans and their families. In fact, his business was so brisk in the 1940s and 1950s that by 1958 the Goldbergs moved to a larger store at 202 Market St., and purchased a warehouse at 40 N. Second Street.

When the second generation of his family joined the business, Mr. Goldberg added mail-order sales.

"The business exploded," his son Richard said. Orders poured in from readers of Goldbergs' Marine catalogs. Anchors, rope, rain gear, signal horns, and electronic gadgets were shipped out the next day.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Goldberg opened a second retail site, in midtown Manhattan, at 46th and Fifth Avenue, to attract an international clientele.

"It was another home run," his son said. Entertainers, politicians, foreign dignitaries, and airline pilots on layover flocked to Goldbergs' for boating gear.

Around the same time, Mr. Goldberg started a line of his own products called "Sea Gee," or C.G., his initials. He began with deck hardware and added a fishing chair and a foul-weather suit that lit up so its wearer, if pitched overboard, could be seen in the water at night.

He also partnered with Uniden Corp., a Japanese manufacturing firm, to produce a line of marine electronics under the Sea Hawk label: ship-to-shore radios, handheld CB radios, fish finders, and location finders.

By the mid-1980s, having spent 40 years as a merchant, Mr. Goldberg sold out to his competitor Gerald Bench, owner of E&B Marine Inc. in Perth Amboy, N.J.

Mr. Goldberg took an executive job at the merged company and traveled to its retail sites, teaching marketing and merchandising, his son said.

Less than 10 years later, the combined business was acquired by West Marine, based in Watsonville, Calif.

Mr. Goldberg grew up in Strawberry Mansion and graduated from Northeast High School, then at Eighth Street and Lehigh Avenue. He married the former Ruth Katz. The two raised a family in Mount Airy before moving to Jenkintown and finally Florida.

His wife died in 2011. They were married for 46 years.

Surviving, beside his son, are another son, Robert; five grandsons; and 10 great-grandchildren. His two brothers died earlier.

Services will be at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, May 4, at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael Sacks Suburban North, 310 Second St. Pike, Southampton. Interment will follow at Montefiore Cemetery.

Contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 3333 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach, Fla. 33406.


bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

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