William Davis sold produce by horse and wagon as a boy in Greensburg, Pa., before opening a small grocery store in Jeannette, Pa., in 1922. He ran the business for many years before opening a store on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Greensburg.
William Davis later married Sarah Goldstein. She had been born in England while her parents were emigrating to the United States and arrived in Western Pennsylvania as an infant.
They had four children. Their oldest, Robert H. Davis (c.1911-), was a track star at Jeannette High School and the University of Pittsburgh. He enlisted the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Five days after graduating from college, in 1943, he reported for duty, joining the U.S. Naval amphibious force in Europe. His tour of duty included the invasion of Normandy.
“I came back and kissed the ground of this country and was happy I lived,” Davis said in an interview for an oral history project focusing on the Jewish community of Westmoreland County conducted during 1991 and 1992. “I witnessed over there the many frustrations, and the terrible, terrible things that happened in Europe during the Hitler days, that the world allowed at that time, which, please God!, should never be allowed with anybody’s religion, with any minority of people. No matter what the color of their skin.”
Upon returning from the war, Davis went to work for his father and eventually became president of Davis Supermarkets Inc. a position he held for nearly 50 years. Under his direction, the business opened a second location in Greensburg in 1958 and expanded it the following year. After a fire severely damaged the $375,000 complex in 1962, Davis opened a 33,000 square foot branch in 1963 at 730 East Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg.
Davis won numerous awards during his long career, including Brand Names’ Outstanding Food Retailer-of-the-Year in 1966 and the seventh annual Humanitarian Award from the Westmoreland County Conference for Economic Opportunity in 1977. He also served for many years on the Central Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce.
While operating an elevator to help pay for college, Davis met Phyllis Levine. They married after the war and had four children. The family attended Congregation Emanu-El Israel of Westmoreland County, which named Davis its first Man of the Year in 1979.