The life of an impoverished immigrant is tough, whether the person is from modern-day East Africa or Southeast Asia, or came from Europe a century ago.

The Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park has an interesting immigrant-business-culture exhibit on display through May 26, titled “Peddlers to Processors: Scrap Stories from the Upper Midwest.”

The chances are, if your Jewish ancestors immigrated from Eastern Europe or Russia between the 1880s and the Great Depression, someone started out in the scrap industry as a peddler or recycler, which led to small Jewish-owned manufacturers, said Myrna Orensten, a board member of the Jewish Historical Society. Her family started out in the scrap trade in the early 1900s.

Many mainstream businesses closed their doors to Jews in the anti-Semitic Twin Cities before World War II. So Jews started their own businesses, often in the metals-and-rag trades, feedstock for industrial recycling and manufacturing.

Part of the exhibit will move in June to the St. Paul JCC.

The exhibit features the original peddler cart and 50 pounds of brass scrap collected from Hy Kaplan of H.S. Kaplan; glimpses into the lives of such builders as Harry Isaacs of American Iron; and photos and artifacts from the early days of the “junk business.”

A related panel discussion, which was filmed earlier this month, featured businesspeople with ties to the old days, including Jack Krenzen, whose father was one of the last wagon peddlers in Minneapolis; Rick Rosen of Union Scrap, Mike Zweigbaum of Alliance Steel, Harold Kaplan of Kaplan Metals and Steve Ettinger of American Iron.

“This is not old news,” Orensten said in a message. “It is just the beginning of an effort keeping our history alive; teaching, collecting, sharing and documenting our communities stories.”

Forum sponsored by Books for Africa

Kenyan Ambassador Robinson Njeru Githae will give the keynote address at the annual Books For Africa (BFA) luncheon on Thursday at the St. Paul Town and Country Club and dedicate the new BFA office on May 20 in the Exchange Building in downtown St. Paul.

Githae also will lead a session on “Business Opportunities in East Africa” that is jointly sponsored with the Minnesota Trade Office.

Githae will help Books for Africa raise funds and attend a reception at BFA supporter Thomson Reuters in Eagan.

More information on this week’s events is at: or 651-209-3488.

Former Cardiovascular CEO dies

Former Cardiovascular Systems CEO David Martin died May 1 in California, after a monthslong cancer fight.

Martin, 51, announced last September that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. His intention was to continue to work during treatment. He took medical leave in December to concentrate on treatment, and he resigned in late February.

Martin joined the board of directors of New Brighton-based Cardiovascular in August 2006. He was named CEO in February 2007. Martin lived in Napa, Calif., and maintained an apartment in the Twin Cities. He was a proud fourth- generation California native, and a dedicated Vikings fan, according to his obituary.

Martin led Cardiovascular from a start-up to publicly traded company in 2008 and revenue of $181.5 million last year. Under his leadership, the company commercialized its “orbital atherectomy system” to treat coronary and peripheral arterial disease.

CSI has hired a search firm to look for Martin’s successor. Scott Ward, the company’s chairman, stepped in as interim CEO for Martin in September and will fill that role until a replacement has been hired.

Martin is survived by his wife and three children. A memorial mass will be held at St. Apollinaris Church in Napa on May 18.
Patrick Kennedy


Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at