Despite the drastic changes in urban development throughout all of Chandler in the last nine decades, there are some families who hold its Western history close to their heart—and their business.
The year was 1927 when David Saba Sr., an immigrant from Lebanon, strolled into town and rooted himself in the still new city. His dream: the determination to operate the first Western apparel store in the quaint, desert town.
The excitement of sustaining the store wavered a bit for the next four years due to the harsh depression. But Saba continued his resolve to provide the community with top-notch Western apparel—plus a safe place to secure their mode of transportation at that time: their beloved steeds.
Fast forward to 1954, when David Sr. passed the ropes to son David Jr. and his wife, Joan. It seems almost surreal today, 90 years later, how Joan paints the picture of the town and the store, as if straight out of a motion picture.
“It was not unusual to allow a customer to buy something and promise to pay later. Most people would come in and pay when they said they would. Their word was good and we trusted them. There was no such thing as Master Card or Visa,” Joan said.
The idea of spreading the Saba’s culture to other towns became possible in 1948 when an opportunity arose to venture into Scottsdale. At that time, there was no other store of its kind.
One of the greatest advantages for the original Saba’s in Chandler, according to Joan, was the opportunity to expand the size of their store by moving into the old J.C. Penney location off Boston Street in 1958. Today, Saba’s operates eight locations all over the Valley.
One might wonder what makes this local business thrive despite the various challenges over the years, watching fellow businesses surrounding them come and go.
“Our ‘secret sauce’ to success is simple: family and community involvement, loyal employees, extensive inventory—and we take care of our customers to the point where we make lifelong friends,” Davey Saba, David Jr.’s son notes.
“I trust my staff wholeheartedly to do a good job.”
Davey, who is now director of the Chandler store, reminisces on his own love affair with the store that sprouted from an early age.
“When I was eight years old we had a midnight sale at the store, and I got to stay up late and help out in my pajamas. It was a fun time.”
The Saba’s retail operation coursed through his veins. As he continued to mature, Davey had an office at the store by the time he was 14. Lending a helping hand was no rarity for all family members, young and old.
“We had a fire sale in ‘72 and I was a freshman at Chandler High at the time. The secretary called my name over the loudspeaker and instructed me to leave school immediately, and walk to the store because I was needed,” Davey said.
Davey, who has been an authentic cowboy from the start, has always been an active member of the community. In his early years he was a member of Future Farmers of America, Rotary International and Arizona National Livestock Show, while simultaneously raising cattle, branding and taking part in the cattle auctions.
“I’m a real cowboy, not just a storekeep,” Davey said.
Although he has hung up his saddle in order to run the Chandler store and seek further community involvement through the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership, the Chandler Chamber and his realty business among other projects, he insists he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Today, the Saba’s enterprise is mainly run by David Jr. and David Jr.’s younger brother Richard, Davey and his two older cousins, Roger Jr. and Mark.
With the century-anniversary mark nearing and the store celebrating nine decades as one of the city’s best-recognized pillars of success, Saba’s—the store and the family—show no sign of slowing.
As to the future, Davey affirms that the family has no intentions of opening another store beyond the current eight, saying:
“We are happy and comfortable with the status of our stores. We will continue to expand our vast selection and compete with the current trends to stay relevant.
“As far as where Saba’s will be in another 90 years? All I know is that I’ll be retired and it’ll be left in good hands.”