The brothers Samuel and Boruch Gersonshon, their sister-in-law, Miriam Gersonshon, and many nieces and nephews, immigrated to Pittsburgh from Biala, Poland at different times before 1920. After immigrating, their family name was shortened to Gerson.
Miriam Gerson and her late husband, Avrum Dovid, had at least seven children, Harry, Sam, Anna, Hymie, Moishe, Molly and Walter. Harry Gerson immigrated to Pittsburgh first, followed by his mother and siblings. His father died when the children were young.
Harry Gerson owned a tailoring shop on East Carson Street on the South Side by the early 1920s. Later, he and his brother Sam Gerson founded Gerson Brothers, an alterations and dry cleaning business.
The business eventually occupied 2016 East Carson Street.
By 1947, Gerson Brothers employed six to eight people in their South Side shop, including the two brothers. In the 1950s, they hired a young Italian immigrant named Gino De Iuliis. After learning the business, De Iuliis opened the New Oakland Tailor at 234 Meyran Street. As demand for tailoring declined, Gerson Brothers became primarily a dry-cleaning business.
As a symbol of professional pride, Harry Gerson kept a photograph of the The Garment Worker, a statue in the New York City garment district of a tailor working at his sewing machine. The brothers kept a Jewish National Fund charity box on their counter.
In 1922, Harry Gerson (c.1900-1975) married Ethel Cohen (c.1904-1971), an immigrant from Manchester, England. They had two children, Doris and Alan. Doris Gerson married Isidore Schweitzer in 1946. Alan Gerson married Anne Rosenberg in 1956.
After living at various addresses throughout the Hill District and Oakland during their early years in Pittsburgh, the Gerson family gradually clustered along a single block in Greenfield. By 1940, Harry and Ethel Gerson lived at 915 Kennebec Street. Sam Gerson lived across the street at 932 Kennebec with his brother and sister-in-law Hyman and Sarah Gerson, and his younger brother Walter Gerson. Their younger sister Molly Gerson Greenspan lived up the block at 921 Kennebec with her husband Julius Greenspan.
Alan Gerson (c.1931-2001) served with the U.S. Army in Korea during the 1950s and returned to join Gerson Brothers, which he ran after his father and uncle died in the 1970s. In 1996, he sold the business and retired.
Alan Gerson was an avid lover of good food and fine wine, according to his son-in-law Rich Amster. “Gourmand is a big word and carries with it a stereotyped image that does not fit here,” Amster wrote in the Jewish Chronicle after Alan Gerson died in August 2001. “There was no artificial formality, no stuffiness, no snobbishness associated with his deep involvement with cuisine. His style was comfort. He had a high degree of respect for tradition, history and ingredient, and most importantly, his style included an abundance of joy and generosity. These are the things that separate the stereotype from the man.”