In the 1890's, Aaron Gardenswartz, great grandfather of Jerry Gardenswartz, and two of his brothers, emigrated from Poland. Aaron was a cattleman who did business between Bayfield and Denver.
His son Morris was approximately 7 years old when the brothers emigrated. Morris also became a cattleman. Morris married the eldest daughter of the Cook family, which is where the sporting goods connection begins. There were two stores in the Cook family, Dave Cook Sporting Goods and Max Cook Sporting Goods, both in Denver. The Gart Brothers eventually bought out Dave Cook's store.
Morris had 3 sons, Sam, Harold, and Lester. According to Art Gardenswartz, son of Harold, Aaron's last words when he died in California were, "Give me a drink of water from the San Juan Basin."
Lester graduated from Durango high school in 1925, married Hazel in 1927, and in 1928, he and his brother Sam opened Gardenswartz Sporting Goods.
This store was located where the Main Mall stands today. The fire that destroyed half of the 800 block of Main Ave. in 1974 also took the store. The store was then relocated to 863 Main Ave., where it is still in operation today.
Rumor has it that Sam's wife Pearl found out that Lester and Hazel purchased a brand new refrigerator and got mad. This led to a falling out, with Sam and Pearl relocating to Alamosa and opening a sporting goods store there in 1930.
Morris's other son Harold and grandson Art started a chain of sporting goods stores in New Mexico which they later sold to the Big 5 chain. Art currently is operating Sportz Outdoor in Albuquerque.
In 1996, Gardenswartz Outdoors was opened on the corner of Main Ave. & 8th St. This retail store specializes in backpacking, mountaineering equipment, and clothing.
For over 70 years, the Gardenswartz name has been a focal point in supplying sporting goods in the Four Corners area. Under Richard's leadership, both stores will continue the traditions begun by Sam & Lester Gardenswartz.