Joseph A. Mearow was born in 1870 on a Minnesota farm to a family with 14 children. He settled in Spokane in 1903 to do real estate, then started Bell Furniture in 1912.
As downtown workers moved to the burgeoning Spokane suburbs, Mearow sold them furniture. He bought the former Richmond Hotel at 228 W. Sprague Ave. and the Bickett building at 225 W. Riverside Ave., connected the back-to-back structures and called it the Mearow Block.
Mearow retired in 1939 and sold the business to Sidney and Leon Wurzburg. The brothers had moved to Spokane after their dry goods store in Marcus, Wash., was covered by Lake Roosevelt behind the new Grand Coulee Dam in 1941. With brother-in-law John C. Clark, the Wurzburgs expanded Bell’s operations and moved the main showroom down a block, to 319 Riverside Ave., a few years later.
The Mearow Block also gave a start to Sylvan Dreifus, who opened Sylvan Furniture there in 1945.
In 1962, three men broke into Bell Furniture from a neighboring building. It was after midnight and they crashed through a fire access door and pounded on the door of the store’s vault. Failing to get through, they attacked an adjacent wall, digging through 22 inches of brick before making off with between $1,200 and $1,500, according to Leon Wurzburg. The robbers were never caught. Bell Furniture went out of business in 1987.
Mearow died in 1954. Sidney and Leon Wurzburg died in 1985 and 1987, respectively.
The furniture chain Scan Design bought the building and opened the Dania store. Sylvan furniture moved from the Mearow Block to North Division in 2003 and closed in 2007.
– Jesse Tinsley
1941: The south (Sprague Avenue) side of the Mearow Block.
Present day: The Mearow Block looks much the same.