Detroiter Amos Comay (1915-1987) married Ethel Berez in 1936 and moved to Pittsburgh to join her family’s Fifth Avenue wholesale house, the F&B Paper Company. When her father, Louis Berez, retired in 1949, Comay and two brothers-in-law took over the business, which was then being called the F&B Woodenware Company.
Switching their focus again, the men opened a string of hardware franchises across the region and, in 1956, changed the name of their company to the Associated Hardware Supply Company. To accommodate their growing business, they moved the company from Fifth Avenue to Forbes Avenue, still in Uptown, and then to Centre Avenue in Shadyside, near the current location of the Giant Eagle Market District.
In 1955, Comay helped oversee construction of a $1 million warehouse at a former stone quarry on Saw Mill Run Boulevard. The building boasted two acres of floor space, making it one of the larger single story structures in the Pittsburgh area at the time. In September 1965, the warehouse was destroyed in a six-alarm fire. Starting about midnight, according to newspaper reports, more than 100 firemen spent three hours battling the blaze, which was propelled by the paints and aerosol cans in stock. Before rebuilding, Associated Hardware operated temporarily out of the Pittsburgh Hilton and later out of a former Ohringer Home Furniture Company warehouse in Braddock.
The hardware stores were moderately successful, according to Comay. “Some years we made a little money,” he told Forbes Magazine in 1984, when he was chairman of the company. “Others we lost a little. The stores were never consistently profitable, though we always believed that with enough effort and investment we could make them so.”
After finding success at its stores with promotional sales marketed with such names as Dollar-Ama and Dollar Days, Associated Hardware began focusing exclusively on promotions under the name Action Industries Inc. By the 1980s, Action Industries was among the largest companies in Pittsburgh, with more than 500 regional employees.
Comay was involved with several national Jewish institutions, including the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the United Jewish Appeal, the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee, the Council of Jewish Federations and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Locally, he served as vice president and treasurer of the United Jewish Federation and chaired the first Holocaust conference in Pittsburgh. Amos Comay was killed in an automobile accident in 1987. He left two children, Sholom and Deborah. Sholom Comay eventually became vice chairman of Action Industries.
Sholom Comay (1937-1991) graduated from Brandeis University and then from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He was a partner at the law firm of Kaufman & Harris from 1963 to 1975, when he joined Action Industries.
After helping establish the city housing court in 1967, he served as its first magistrate, trying some 6,000 cases over a three-year period. He was the chairman of the Pittsburgh Foundation and treasurer of the United Jewish Federation, among many other local organizations. At the time of his death, he was the president of the American Jewish Committee and was leading a major restructuring effort designed to focus the longstanding organization around a few issues. He married Estelle Fisher. They had two children, Laura Beth and Joseph Comay.