April 2, 2020

House of David Store Is a Family Affair

Odelia Gabay in the family store. Photo by Ryan Torok.

House of David: Gabay Jewish Books & Gifts in Valley Village is very much a family affair. Plastic bins burst with children’s yarmulkes decorated with images of Mickey Mouse, Minions and school buses. The store was purchased by the late Moshe Gabay in the 1990s, and today his Moroccan American daughter, Odelia Gabay, says, “We have a zillion different kippahs.” 

“He was kind, generous and humble,” Gabay says of her father, who died five years ago and also went by Maurice or Mauricio. “He was small in size but very big in life.”

Following his death, Gabay quit her teaching job at an Orthodox all-girls school to work at House of David full time. Like her late father, the 28-year-old is attempting to provide Jewish experiences through the sale of Judaica to Jews from all walks of life at a time when brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to compete with the exploding growth of online retailers like Amazon.

The store recently held a sidewalk sale, featuring children’s toys, ArtScroll texts and Jewish gifts marked down for Hanukkah. Inside the store, the shelves display a variety of playful, pretty and practical inventory, including a Judah the Maccabee robot toy; a kosher Shabbat lamp with a twistable shade; Yemenite shofars; and mezuzot sold with glass cylinders for holding shattered pieces of the ceremonial broken glass from Jewish weddings. Beside the counter, artist-designed ketubot were arranged on a rack for customers to browse through.  

“I grew up here and I love continuing what my father did. It keeps his memory alive.” — Odelia Gabay 

Operating since 1956, House of David is located in a predominately Jewish area of the San Fernando Valley. The store has historically attracted those who live in locations where they do not have easy access to Jewish products, whether El Salvador, South Korea or even Palm Springs, Gabay said. “People would come from places where there wasn’t any Jewish stuff around them,” she said.

While the store continues to attract those seeking Jewish items for life cycle events, holidays or enhancing their respective Jewish journeys, the store is struggling, employee Howard Schwartz said. 

“The internet has changed a lot of things,” Schwartz said. His late father was a cantor who also worked at the store for 15 years before his death in 2017.

Due to the changing nature of the retail business, some of House of David’s stock can now be found online. The business also has WhatsApp and Instagram accounts, allowing the store’s staff to share photos of their products with the public and for shoppers to photograph items they are looking for and send them to the store’s employees.

Meanwhile, Gabay does what she can to find customers what they need and give them the type of attentive experience online retailers cannot provide. “I grew up here and I love continuing what my father did,” she said. “It keeps his memory alive.”