Arnold Frieman, the founder of Advance Electronics in Winnipeg and icon in the consumer technology retail business, passed away on April 5, 2019, peacefully and surrounded by family. He was 90.
Arnold is a Holocaust survivor who was studying in Budapest when he learned that Jewish people were being rounded up and sent out of the country. He went back home to save his family, but they had already been deported to Auschwitz. He bravely endured capture, forced labour, and a prisoner-of-war camp, but eventually and heroically escaped.
After being sent to Norway and receiving medical care, Arnold continued his studies with a focus on electronics. He was sent to fight in the Israeli War of Independence, where he was able to use his training in electronics in the Israeli Air Force. While there, he also amazingly learned that two of his sisters were still alive.
In 1951, he made his way to Winnipeg with "nothing but the clothes on his back," he recalled in an interview with CBC Manitoba back in 2011. While he knew four languages, none of them were English. He started his own business by purchasing car radios from wrecking yards and fixing them up to resell them, all while studying at university, thanks to the help of a new friend who gifted him with $1,000 to fund his education. It was in university as well that he met his dear wife of 58 years, Myra.
Arnold at the opening of the location on Portage Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Advance.mb.ca)
In 1961, Arnold bought a shop with two employees that sold car radios and the latest and greatest in technology at the time: televisions. He moved the retail store to a new location in 1966, where it still resides on Portage Avenue. Twelve years later, the shop, now known as Advance Electronics, had grown to become a multi-million dollar business with 170 employees. Today, Advance is the largest independently owned retail and professional electronics stores in Western Canada.
Advance has been a pillar of the city and province, as has Arnold and his wife. He received the Order of Manitoba in 2006, and an honourary doctorate from the University of Manitoba. In addition to running his business, the Hungary-born man was also a philanthropist who loved to give back to his community and causes that meant something to him. He volunteered for organizations like the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Jewish Community Council, and he and his wife supported close to 50 different organizations and institutions.
Today, Advance Electronics sells a wide breadth of consumer technology products across several core categories, including television and video, home audio, cellular, and automotive products. The retailer is Winnipeg's premiere MTS dealer, and handles AV integration as well. The Website notes that the retailer calls many of its customer "friends.
"It is our goal," reads the site, "to provide every customer with an experience where they can't help but recommend us to everyone they know."
Arnold is survived by Myra, their daughters and husbands, nine grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.
A funeral was held on Monday, April 8 at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. Memorial donations can be made to the Jewish National Fund or the Benji Leibl Special Needs Fund through the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.
Photo courtesy of the advance.mb.ca