WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ... MANGURIAN'S?
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Dec 19 2014
Mangurian's was a thriving furniture-store business whose founder's
son became a high-stakes real estate developer who hobnobbed with
sports legends and owned professional sports teams.
The company operated two stores locally and a dozen or so more in
Florida and other states. Mangurian's was considered one of the "Big
Three" local furniture dealers during its more than half-century
run, with a long-tenured workforce and an innovative "showcase"
Harry T. Mangurian Sr. started the business selling Oriental rugs in
1923 and opened his first store on Park Avenue. He added furniture
in the 1930s and moved the shop in 1945 to Monroe Avenue near South
Mangurian was a rags-to-riches success story. Born in Armenia, he
came to America at age 11 to attend school. His parents, who remained
in Armenia, were killed during the Turkish deportation of Armenians
in 1915. Young Harry saved enough money from a printing job to open
His son, Harry Jr., expanded Mangurian's into a nationwide success. He
became a prominent businessman and horse breeder in Florida but
maintained real estate holdings in Rochester. Harry Jr. sold the
Lincoln First Tower (now the Chase Tower) in downtown Rochester for
a reported $32 million and built and sold thousands of condos in
He owned a charter jet fleet and tallied enough money to first become
part-owner of the old Buffalo Braves NBA team and then sole owner of
the Boston Celtics.
Mangurian's was known for its "middle of the road" traditional and
colonial styles of merchandise -- not cheap, but not top of the line.
The Monroe Avenue store was a cavernous 90,000-square-foot outlet, and
the company added a second local store on West Ridge Road in Greece
in 1970. The company tried to upgrade its image in 1980, adding more
upscale lines like Weiman, Clyde Pearson and Hickory Tavern.
For a time, Mangurian's also operated a home-furnishings store on
Thurston Road called the Thurston Colonial Shoppe.
News stories touted the Mangurian method of merchandising. "No other
furniture store in the country can boast the display and selling of
home furnishings offered in ... Mangurian stores," stated a January
1970 Democrat and Chronicle article. "The company is a pioneer of
the warehouse-showroom concept of furniture retailing," said a 1972
The business went public in 1969 and was sold by the Mangurian family
the following year to General Portland Corp., a Dallas-based cement
company. After the sale, Mangurian's -- which had added stores in
Florida, Georgia, Texas and Colorado -- was a wholly owned subsidiary,
with Harry Mangurian Jr. as chairman.
When General Portland announced plans to sell some stores, Harry Jr.
bought back the Rochester-area outlets in 1974 "because of the friends
he had in those stores," company president George Alfieri said in a
1988 Times-Union story.
The Mangurians had long since moved to Florida. Harry Jr., who got
into thoroughbred breeding in the early 1970s, bought a horse farm
in Ocala, Florida, and owned as many as 900 horses at one time. The
Thoroughbred Racing Association honored Mangurian in 2002 with its
prestigious "award of merit." Democrat and Chronicle sports columnist
Bob Matthews wrote at the time that Mangurian's Mockingbird Farm
"ultimately became the most prominent horse farm in Florida."
Harry Jr. also headed a group in the early 1970s to try to bring a
professional football team to Tampa. His partner in the venture was
golf great Jack Nicklaus. The two had met during the 1968 U.S. Open
at Oak Hill Country Club.
By 1978, General Portland closed its eight remaining Mangurian's
stores in Florida. Locally, the Greece store closed six years later.
The enormous Monroe Avenue store ended its run, reluctantly, in 1988.
Mangurian said he was closing the shop only because he had no one
to whom to leave the business, which still had multi-million dollar
"I've never been through a divorce, but that's probably as traumatic
as this is going to be," a longtime Mangurian's official told reporter
Mary Lynne Vellinga in a 1988 Democrat and Chronicle story. His length
of service was not unusual, Vellinga noted. "All the salespeople are
men," she wrote. "Most have gray hair to match their long histories
The massive store was torn down in 1991, and a Rite Aid pharmacy and
Blockbuster Video were among the businesses put up in its place. Harry
Mangurian Jr. died in 2008 at age 82.
Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.