Lessons About COVID-19 Learned from My 90-Year-Old Dad

Michael’s father, left, and uncle outside the family business.

By Michael Grossman, Kensington Furniture

The following reflection is reposted with permission from BrandSource member Michael Grossman, President of Kensington Furniture.

This past January my dad turned 90. It’s fair to say he’s seen plenty.

He was 14 when we invaded Normandy, infamously known as D-Day. One year later we bombed Hiroshima, World War II ended, and concentration camps were liberated.

At 25, my dad began working at Kensington Furniture, our family business, then located on the corner of Kentucky and Atlantic Avenues in Atlantic City.

Kensington was a magnificent seven-story building, serving generations of families, and one of the hundreds of local family businesses operating in and around Atlantic City.

My dad was 33 on Nov. 22, 1963, the day Kennedy was shot. He decided to close the store that day.

The next summer, just a few blocks from the store, the 1964 Democratic Convention was held at Boardwalk Hall and marked the dethroning of Atlantic City as America’s playground. People were boarding plans to go on vacation, and Atlantic City became a has-been.

In 1967, at 37 years old, my dad and his brother were pioneers who moved Kensington to the open space of Tilton Road in Northfield, N.J.

He was 43 in 1973 when Northfield became more of a shopping destination with the opening of Sears at the Shore Mall.

In 1978, my dad was the Master of Ceremonies for Frank Sinatra’s concert at Boardwalk Hall to benefit the Atlantic City Medical Center.

That same year, with casino gaming legalized in Atlantic City, Resorts Casino opened its doors when my dad was 48. Atlantic City and our region were finally feeling revitalized.

In 1984, I joined my dad and uncle in the family business, and a few months later Donald Trump opened Trump Plaza. By the end of the decade, Atlantic City was once again one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S.

Author Michael Grossman in his New Jersey megastore.

My dad was 71 on Sept. 11th, 2001. He closed the store that day.

At 75 my dad retired and we closed the store. It remained closed for four years.

We reopened Kensington Furniture in June of 2009, with my dad as our spiritual leader.

As an 86-year-old in 2016, he showed us how to fight on when four casinos closed, thousands of locals lost their jobs, and our regional economy was devastated. He’d lived through this before.

Michael’s dad, third-generation owner Stanley Grossman.

Today, at 90 years old, COVID-19 is a unique event for my dad. Like so many of us, he’s worried about his family, this community that he loves and our country. That’s what 90-year-old Jewish dads do — they worry. But they also remind us that we are fighters.

He’s experienced firsthand the adversity our region has seen over the last 90 years. He has also seen how we always overcome these hardships. My dad knows we are a strong community, one that has lived through the death and rebirth of Atlantic City multiple times.

We are tough Jersey folk.

My dad says to take it one day at a time, solve one problem at a time, stay safe, and before we know it, we will all be back.

He’s seen a lot in his 90 years, and he knows we’re stronger than COVID-19.

His and our prayers are with our community, our country and the world during this unprecedented time.

Fourth-generation owner and BrandSource member Michael Grossman is President of Kensington Furniture & Mattress, a 108-year-old business with a sprawling superstore in Northfield, N.J.