While peddling through western Pennsylvania, Jacob Katz took a liking to Canonsburg. In 1911 the Polish immigrant settled there with his Russian wife, Fanny Horvitz.
They opened a hardware store in a narrow building on East Pike Street. A sign in the window proclaimed, “We have it, if you can find it!” Speaking Polish, Slavic and Russian, Jacob Katz was a popular fixture among the immigrants of Canonsburg.
Shortly after Jacob Katz died in 1936, his sons Harry, Bill, Al and Dave moved the business to a bigger building across the street. With the motto “Watch us grow,” Katz Brothers Hardware annexed neighboring buildings through the years and became a local institution. During the 1960s, Canonsburg native Bobby Vinton bought 100 bathtub stoppers from Katz Brothers. He sent them to disc jockeys, along with records he hoped they’d “plug.” The store closed in 1988, when the Washington County Redevelopment Authority purchased the property to accommodate a borough redevelopment initiative.
Al and Bill stayed at the store until it closed, while Harry and Dave went into other professions. At the store, Harry Katz learned about the pest control business from their chemical supplier Fred Pollock, who operated East Liberty Chemical Company, or ELCO, on South Aiken Avenue. Katz bought ELCO in 1946, moving it to 2039 Fifth Avenue in Uptown, and later to Sharpsburg. He became known as “Killer Katz.”
Harry Katz helped found the Parkway Jewish Center in 1955 and chaired the Hebrew Free Loan Association for 20 years. In the 1980s and 1990s, he led a campaign to preserve a colonial-era log cabin schoolhouse in Canonsburg. He saved the building three times — first from termites, then from disrepair and, finally, from relocation.