Furniture chain matriarch Edna Schneiderman dies at 100

In 1948, with four kids at home, Max and Edna Schneiderman took a chance on a better life for themselves and their family and bought a run-down general store in rural St. Louis County.

Rural post office
Edna Schneiderman mans the counter at the post office in Elmer in rural St. Louis County on its last day of operation in December 1972. She and her husband, Max, took over a general store in Elmer in 1948 and helped build it into what is now the Schneiderman's Furniture chain. Edna Schneiderman died last week at age 100. (Photo courtesy of Larry Schneiderman)

In 1948, with four kids at home, Max and Edna Schneiderman took a chance on a better life for themselves and their family and bought a run-down general store in rural St. Louis County.

Together, they grew that business near Meadowlands and set the stage for it to become the regional furniture chain that bears their name today. Edna Schneiderman died Tuesday in Duluth at age 100 -- 65 years after she and her husband made the gamble that paid off so well.

"My mom was absolutely essential," to the success of the company, son Larry Schneiderman recalled Friday. "There definitely wouldn't have been a Schneiderman's Furniture without both of them."

Edna Minna Hedwig Kretzschmar was born Dec. 18, 1912 in Swanville in central Minnesota. After her father, a pastor, died at age 49, Edna's mother held the family together and ensured the family's six children received good educations.

Edna traveled to Duluth to train as a nurse at St. Luke's hospital. She met Max Schneiderman on a blind date and they married in 1935 -- in secret, Larry Schneiderman said, because the nursing program prohibited married students. The secret got out, though, putting an end to that fledgling nursing career.


Instead, she traveled with Max to Norfolk, Va., as he served in the Navy during World War II. On their return to Duluth, Max found work at the U.S. Steel plant in Morgan Park. But his dreams of advancing in the company were stymied by supervisors skeptical of his limited education.

"My dad was so upset, that he became resolved to leave there and go into business for himself," Larry Schneiderman said.

The opportunity to buy the store in Elmer Township came along, and Max jumped at it.

"My mom would say that, in that era, the men set the agenda, and the wives followed," Larry Schneiderman said. "She wanted my dad to be happy. She had faith in him."

They worked long hours, together -- Max overseeing the furniture and appliance sales, Edna handling the grocery and hardware ends of the business while also serving as postmistress for the community and raising a family that grew to include six children, all living in a one-bathroom apartment above the store.

Among the children was David, who was mentally disabled in an era when many children with special needs were sent off to be raised in county or state institutions. But Edna was determined that he be raised at home, and he was.

After the store dropped its grocery and hardware lines to focus on furniture, carpeting and appliances in 1968, Edna continued to sell furniture into the mid-1970s; she and Max sold the store to sons Larry and Russell at about that time. They opened the store in Duluth as well as other locations; the Meadowlands store closed in 2009.

After retirement, for a time, Edna, Max and David would spend two days a week traveling to homes in Duluth and on the Iron Range to take carpet measurements -- a way, Larry Schneiderman said, that they could all keep a hand in the business and spend a day out together.


Max passed away in 1988, and eventually Edna left her Meadowlands home to move to Westwood in Duluth while David lived at the adjacent Benedictine Health Center. At Westwood, Edna started a faith discussion group that continues to meet. She remained keenly interested in learning, in politics, in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and in good conversation.

"She encouraged us to question things," about politics, religion or other topics, Larry Schneiderman said. "She liked when you disagreed with her because she enjoyed a good discussion."

That discussion included looking back on the family business, which now includes the store in Duluth as well as locations in Lakeville, Plymouth,

Roseville and Woodbury -- a far cry from the rural store that started it all.

"My dad, before he passed away, said, 'I've had more success in life than I deserve,'" Larry Schneiderman recalled. "My mother, her way of looking at it would be a validation of the faith she had in my dad."

Edna Schneiderman is survived by her sons Larry and David, daughters Claudia and Karen, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her husband, and sons Phillip and Russell. One of her sisters, Bertha Toftey of Grand Marais, died in August at age 104.


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