Bradenton couple celebrate 77th anniversary following illustrious business career

BRADENTON -- Norman and Vivian Hirshberg, childhood friends in McKeesport, Pa., were married Sunday morning March 14, 1938.

They promptly moved to Bradenton and never left. They celebrated their 77th anniversary from noon-3 p.m. Saturday with an estimated 50 family members at a home in the 4700 block of 22nd Avenue West in Bradenton.

"My grandparents were in for a huge surprise when they learned all of their children, all of their grandchildren and all of their great-grandchildren gathered to celebrate with

them this tremendous accomplishment of 77 years of marriage," said granddaughter Stacy Myrick, whose husband, Brian Myrick, took photos of the event.

The family celebrated with cupcakes, salad and small sandwiches. Family members filed by and spoke one-on-one with Norman, 98, and Vivian Hirshberg, 95.

"They're not big announcement people," said Brian Myrick. "They're sweet and humble. Always quiet. It always comes back to the simple fact that these two people throughout their life have created a huge family that's still close."

Some family members traveled great distances for the event.

One grandson flew in from Staten Island, N.Y.; two grandchildren flew in from Asheville, N.C.; and the Myricks flew in from Washington state.

After they married, the Hirshbergs bid goodbye to family and friends and headed south for their honeymoon destination and new home -- Bradenton.

Norman Hirshberg had already lived in what was then the small quaint town of Bradenton for a short time as a boy, attending Ballard Elementary. His parents were the only people the newly married couple knew in their new hometown as his mother's health required a warmer climate, and they chose the Friendly City.

The 21-year-old Norman Hirshberg got his first job in sales at Sears, and was quickly hired by Mr. Edgar Beall at the first location of the Beall's Department store in downtown Bradenton.

"With a family background in business, Norman's entrepreneurial spirit took hold and he headed out on his own with the good wishes of Mr. Edgar Beall," Stacy Myrick said.

Finding business success

Norman Hirshberg went on to be a highly successful businessman. He began two clothing businesses, two retail outlets and multiple boat-related ventures:

The Cotton Shop was a women's dress store with locations in downtown Bradenton, Cortez Plaza in Bradenton, Palmetto and Naples.

The Gift Shop in Punta Gorda.

Army Surplus, originally in downtown Bradenton, moved to the newly opened Cortez Plaza, where the name was changed to The Camp & Hike.

Camper's Outpost on Cortez Road was the location for selling pop-up campers and toppers. It went on to be the first location of Hirsh Sailing Yachts, which was a Morgan Sailboats dealer. The sailboat business took them to a location on U.S. 41 south of 57th Avenue where Hirsh Power Yachts was born.

The Regatta Point Marina in Palmetto and Hirsh Marina on Anna Maria Island also sprang from the entrepreneurial couple.

Norman and Vivian Hirshberg, however, say their proudest accomplishment is a large and loving family, four generations strong.

The couple's two sons, Ronald, 73, and Gary Hirshberg, 71, were involved in the businesses as they grew up and remain in yacht sales.

"It was great working with my dad," Gary Hirshberg said Sunday. "He was a very knowledgeable businessman. Not hard to work for but not real easy to work for at the same time. He taught my brother and I lot about business."

Running several businesses at the same time was a matter of capitalizing on opportunities as they presented themselves, he said.

"It's totally different today," said Gary Hirshberg. "It would be much more difficult because of competition. You didn't have Dick's Sporting Goods and stuff you have today."

Norman and Vivian Hirshberg also have a daughter, Darrell Ann of Orlando, 66; 11 grandchildren, Erica, Mark, Michael, Ryan, Todd and Christopher of Bradenton, Ashley of Palmetto, David of Fort Myers, Carrie and Craig of Asheville, N.C., and Stacy of Ellensburg, Wash.; and 11 great-grandchildren, Dustin, Joshua, Brooke, Victoria, Carley, Fin, Carson, Abigail, Morgan, Jake and Sara.