Eli Saad was born in Beirut around 1884. Members of the Saad family always called themselves Syrian, rather than Lebanese, because when Eli was born, the Ottoman Empire had designated Beirut as part of Greater Syria.
In 1909, 15-year-old Eli arrived nearly penniless in Spokane. His older brothers Paul and John had started the Saad Bros. Shoe Repair, Pool Room and Cigars in 1906. Eli joined the business and they moved to the Unique Building on the northeast corner of Main Ave. and Wall St. in 1910. In those early days, there was usually a barbershop in the building to capitalize on men waiting for Saad’s “quick shoe repair.”
The store sold new shoes and had varying specialties as members of the Saad family moved, closed or opened new stores around Spokane and, later, Seattle. The Main Avenue store expanded across Wall to the northwest corner. Eli Saad took over local management in 1921 and went on to build a new brick colonial home in 1935 at 504 E. 14th Ave., which the local newspaper described as “pretentious” during the Depression.
In 1966, the 702 W. Main store was destroyed by a fire that started in the basement. While attacking the fire, a backdraft knocked back several firefighters, and firefighter Leroy Mackey didn’t make it out.
The Saads rebuilt the three-story building. The Saad family opened stores at the NorthTown and U-City malls. Paul’s son Jack Saad, who took over the stores in 1949, sold the chain in 1986 to Larry Alfano, who had a shoe repair store in Shadle Center.
The downtown store, in operation in various forms since 1906, closed in 2012. Two longtime employees, Bill Ogle Jr. and Ruth Carter, who had been with Saad for decades, passed away and Alfano closed the shop.
Paul died in 1957. Eli retired in 1957 and died in 1965. John died in 1973. Jack died in 2011. In 2013, Saad’s Shoe Service moved from NorthTown to 4407 N. Division St.
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