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Published: Sunday, 3/2/2003

Homemaker helped run White Huts

Sarah Nusbaum, who helped her husband and brothers in the family's well-known White Hut restaurants, a pioneering local chain, died yesterday in the Swanton Health Care and Retirement Center. She was 88.

The cause of death was not known, but she was in failing health the last six months, her son, Melvin, said.

Mrs. Nusbaum's brother, Sam Fine, opened the first White Hut restaurant in 1936 at Collingwood Boulevard and Detroit Avenue. Other White Huts followed and, in the early years, each family member - siblings and in-laws - took charge of a store.

When her husband, Louis, returned from World War II military service, the couple operated the White Hut at Monroe Street and Central Avenue.

“All the relatives were the bosses,” her son said. “She enjoyed being around my dad, and they were a very close family. It got to be a big business. There was no competition then. There was no Wendy's.”

Her daughter-in-law, Jackie Nusbaum, added: “It was unique in Toledo in those years. They all made it grow. They all made it what it was.”

White Huts became known for their curb service and as a gathering spot for teens. By the late 1950s, the business had a central commissary, processed its own meat, baked its own buns.

“They were really trend setters. They cut out the middle man, and everyone got very good quality food,” her daughter-in-law said. “All the grandchildren had their first solid food at the White Hut.”

Centralized management came with growth. Her husband took charge of personnel. She became a homemaker and, later, helped care for her husband, who had heart problems.

The couple had married in October, 1932. Her husband died April 14, 1970.

Mrs. Nusbaum was reared in North Toledo and was a graduate of Woodward High School. When her husband went to war, she took a job in a dress shop.

“She was very independent,” her daughter-in-law said. “She never wanted anybody to be responsible for her. She made her own decisions as long as she could.”

Instead of travel or hobbies, Mrs. Nusbaum spent her free hours with family.

“She was really an outstanding mother and grandmother,” her son said.

She was a member of Congregation Etz Chayim and was a former member of its Sisterhood.

Surviving are her son, Melvin G. Nusbaum; three grandchildren, and two great-granddaughters.

Services will be at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Robert H. Wick/Wisniewski Mortuary. Afterward and through tomorrow evening, the family will receive friends in the Sylvania Township home of Melvin and Jackie Nusbaum.

The family requests tributes to the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, or a charity of the donor's choice.

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