BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: Sandy Mendelson not ready to stop dealing

A familiar entrance for downtown shoppers over the years. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

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A familiar entrance for downtown shoppers over the years. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Sandy Mendelson, a downtown Dayton dealer of surplus good for decades, is still in the game.

He may be 74, but Mendelson says he has no plans to retire or to sell his business properties off East First Street across from Fifth Third Field despite rumors of him selling everything.

Mendelson said he has no offer on the table for any of his properties, but “if someone wants to come to talk with me, I’ll talk,” he added.

His business remains a downtown magnet. Visit the surplus goods warehouse on any day, and you’ll see shoppers roaming aisles of old motors, stand-up pianos, cereal boxes, electronics equipment, hospital stretchers, and nearly anything else you can imagine — including body bags. (“It’s a dying business,” Mendelson quipped.)

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“Dayton could use a thousand more just like him,” said Phil Parker, president and chief executive of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, a longtime friend of Mendelson.

In 2007, Mendelson announced a plan to retire and turn the company over to his children. But that plan fell apart — and he emphasizes now that he is not announcing a retirement or any definite plans.

“I feel good,” he said. “I like working. I worked six days this week. I’ll work six days, I think, maybe next week.”

He and his son, Harlan, own and operate the Top of the Market banquet center on Second Street. That’s doing “phenomenal,” he said.

Stories about Mendelson are endless — and some verge on the status of legend, said Dayton developer Jason Woodard.

With Columbus developer Crawford Hoying, Woodard bought a Mendelson property — a former Delco factory — immediately to the west of Fifth Third Field to create what today are the very popular 133-unit Delco Lofts. Woodard said Mendelson may have been at the building during construction more than anyone else, “checking to make sure the project was advancing at an acceptable rate.”

“It is true he is always dealing, but I can say that what I have witnessed is a true passion for making Dayton a better place,” Woodard said. “I am sure he has frustrated leadership over the years because he challenges people and always asks what can be rather than what can’t be.”

Woodard described Mendelson as “one of the most vocal supporters of the Water Street project and team, attending nearly every event, and telling anyone who will listen how great the project is for Dayton.”

Parker said Mendelson “just loves business.”

“Sandy has been a die-hard believer in downtown,” Parker said.

Mendelson’s family has been buying and selling surplus retail goods for 55 years. His father, Harry Mendelson, founded Mendelson’s Electronics in 1960 on Linden Avenue in Dayton, where he sold surplus electronic parts.

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When his father died in 1963 in his early 50s, his wife, Ida, inherited the business, which wasn’t doing well at the time. In time, the younger Mendelson became involved, moving the business to the current eight-story warehouse in 1981.

“I feel excited that when I was young and stupid, I didn’t make the wrong decision,” Mendelson said with a smile. “I bought the building 40 years ago from Mrs. K. (Virginia Kettering), and I told her I would keep her husband’s office. We did.”

These days, he has branched into Internet and Ebay sales and says that while there are challenges, business is generally doing well. Of about 30 employees total, about 10 are focused on Internet sales. (“The whole world is on Ebay,” he said.)

Said Mendelson: “Mom and pop (shops) built this country.”

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