Friday, May 2, 2008

Flint Portraits: Bernard Rosenberg

A guest post from an Alaskan adventurer, fishing guide, art teacher, author and Flint Expatriate...

"I am Bernard Rosenberg, son of Sherwin Rosenberg, and grandson of Edward Rosenberg. Our family business was Edward Rosenberg and Son Wholesale Fruits and Vegetables, Inc. We had a massive warehouse on West Water Street and serviced Flint and the surrounding communities for over four decades.

"Yeah, I'm ex-Flint. I grew up in it during my junior and senior high school years at Southwestern. My name opened just about every door in town. In the heyday of my family business if a cop stopped me during a moving violation all he had to was read the last name on my driver's license and he would let me go. Sure enough, I would see him the following Saturday morning helping himself to bags full of fresh produce, free of charge. Jesus! We paid off everybody from the Teamsters to the County Commissioners. I never waited for anything and just the utter of my family name would open closed doors. I knew just about every alley and kitchen backdoor there was. I serviced everything from the elite upscale restaurants on Dort Highway to the country clubs in Holly. I delivered all the way from the dead-end joints off North Saginaw to the lunch-stops on Fenton Road.

"I was a rich kid, but an unspoiled rich kid.

"I worked hard and had no fear. I shot pool with Terrance Knapp, who went on to form Terry Knight and The Pack and manage Grand Funk Railroad. I hung in the coffee houses of the early '60s and blew dope with Joanie Mitchell before she became a superstar. I was gang-stomped in that town. I was shot in that town. I was almost stabbed to death in that town. I survived.

"I graduated in 1967. I had no intention of going to college, but I did, simply following a high-school girlfriend who later dropped out. I didn't quit and graduated CMU in 1971. I migrated to Sarasota, FL and I'll soon end a 37-year career as an art teacher.

"I never planned any of it.

"I always thought I'd be taking over the family business in Flint. We were purveyors and sold produce to the community all the way from the '40s to the '70s. My grandfather was the founder and the millionaire. When he dropped dead in his office chair in the early '60s my father took over. By the time we reached the '70s everything about this business had changed. Though I tried to get my father to adapt, he wouldn't, and by 1970 he went belly-up.

"Our family business was nicknamed the 'fruit house' by all of us, and though gone, the name still endures. A lot of the back-end boys were hillbillies from the rural heartland and were quite vulgar. It didn't stop there. Profanity ran rampant and it continued all the way into the front office with both my father and grandfather. It was a rough business, and cursing was the norm. It got me too, and even to this day when I slip and let fly my wife will ostracize me and tell me to 'knock off that fruit house talk.'

"I have been a visual communicator during all these times and will end being a visual artist when I retire. I have traded the brush for the keyboard and microphone. I am a writer and publisher. I plan to enter the lecture circuit and will launch as a motivational speaker in two weeks. I also do wholesale and retail business in the USA using a Chinese manufacturer. I am soon to expand into the area of print brokerage.

"Obviously, I am now planning everything."


  1. I love these Flint Portraits! Flint seems to have given birth to more than its share of mavericks.

  2. That's a very nice way of phrasing it, Bernal Sphere.

  3. It is great to hear stories about the Rosenberg family in Flint way back when

  4. Could not remember the name of the owners. My Grandfather drove for the Fruit House is all I could remember. my brother called a relative in Michigan and she remembered Rosenberg on Water St. My Grandfather was Lawrence Winn.

  5. I remember "Winn" very well and his son Morgan. I remember all the "boys" that worked the back dock at Rosenbergs; I remember them like yesterday: "Jug Head", "Orie", "Jay Bird", "Cliff", "Red" most of all "Slick" daddy. After work, they all went across the street to "Vet's" the Arrowhead Veteran's Club on he corner of Water & Mason. Even after nearly 60 years, I still remember the phone number of Vet's.
    I can close my eyes and remember that smell of the warehouse (produce mixed with exhaust & cigarette smoke) and can hear the "clug-clug-clug" of the water cooler in the front office with it's little white paper-cone cups. I wish I had something with Rosenberg's logo or name on it but I guess after all these years, I'll just have to settle for the memories.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at