ST. PAUL, MN - Jack "Tiger Jack" Rosenbloom lived his ninety-four years exactly the way he wanted. While sources may differ on specific details of his story, one thing is certain—he accomplished everything he set out to do. In the 1930s, Rosenbloom boarded a freight train bound for St. Paul with a dream of a new life. He achieved his goals through frugal living, a willingness to work hard, and steadfast faith.
Rosenbloom was born in Danville, Virginia, on April 10, 1907. His mother died when he was young. After her passing Rosenbloom lived with various relatives before eventually settling in with his aunt in New York City. It was there he developed the work ethic that would last for the rest of his life.
He and his friends believed joining the boxing circuit was the easiest way to earn money. Rosenbloom first considered boxing in New York, but he felt too many talented fighters were there for him to be successful. He decided to move to Minnesota. Despite knowing little about life in the state, he hopped on a freight train shortly after he'd committed to moving.
Rosenbloom arrived in St. Paul in 1936 with little more than the clothes he wore and dreams of becoming a fighter. His first stop was at the local Mission to get something to eat and find a place to stay until he got on his feet. Then, although having never boxed—at least professionally, he set out to join the local boxing scene. Hard work made him a good fighter. His tenacity in the ring earned him the nickname "Tiger."
When Rosenbloom had saved some money, he rented a small 8' by 10' shack downtown and began selling an eclectic mix of items to customers. He sold firewood, hickory chips, candy, soda, Christmas cards, and more from within the tiny space. Rosenbloom worked in the store during the day and boxed at night for two to three dollars a fight.
In 1946 he married Nurceal Dillon, the love of his life. Together, they had nine children.
Three years later, he purchased the shack and moved it to the Rondo neighborhood. Rosenbloom continued selling anything and everything he could find to make money. At Tiger Jack's Shack, as long as the item wasn't illegal or non-harmful (i.e., no alcohol or cigarettes), it could be found.
When Rondo was bulldozed to make room for Interstate 94, Rosenbloom's business became one of the last vestiges of the former community. It was a beacon of the past, a small corner store in a world moving toward big-box retailers, franchises, and large corporations.
His competitors did not bother Rosenbloom. He was sure his customers would find something they couldn't get anywhere else in his store. Anyway, if he didn't have it for them, he'd find it—and sell it.
Tragedy struck in 1955. Rosenbloom's four-year-old daughter Mona accidentally bumped into a hot plate while playing at home. Her clothes started on fire, eventually leading to burns on over seventy percent of her body. She passed away on February 5, 1955.
Rosenbloom kept her picture near him for the rest of his life. It became a bookmark in his most prized possession – his bible. Opening the good book, kissing her picture, and beginning to read became part of his daily ritual.
The proprietor of the small shack at 369 N. Dale became something of a local celebrity. Everyone knew about him. Stories abounded of the man who sat outside his store greeting passersby. Rosenbloom believed in the power of a smile and wave and thought if such a small gesture could make someone's day better, it was his job to do it.
He helped foster a community on the corner God gave him, one as diverse as his store's inventory. His shack was something to everybody, a place where politicians, immigrants, homeless people, and more came together for a smile and a story from "Tiger Jack."
Retail sales didn't bring in a lot of money, but Jack's hard work enabled him to pay off his home mortgage and put his children through college. They did it without any assistance or subsidies. Jack and Nurceal Rosenbloom created a good life for themselves and their family while still understanding the importance of doing more with less.
In April 2001, the section of N. Dale Street in front of his shop was renamed 'Mr. and Mrs. Tiger Jack Street' to honor Jack and Nurceal.
Ninety-four-year-old "Tiger Jack" Rosenbloom passed away on August 5, 2001, on what would've been his beloved daughter Mona's fifty-first birthday. His family believed that she was on the other side waiting for him. He'd live his incredible life to the fullest, and having accomplished all he'd hoped to achieve, he was ready to go.
Rosenbloom didn't leave a significant physical impact on the city. Still, he is fondly remembered as one of us, a kind, decent man who believed in the importance of personal relationships. Years after his death, the story of "Tiger Jack" is still being told.
- "Almanac | Tiger Jack's Shack | Season 2002 | Episode 7." PBS.org. Accessed July 17, 2021. https://www.pbs.org/video/tiger-jacks-shack-851/.
- Feidt, Annie. "Family and Friends Remember Former St. Paul Boxer and Business Man Tiger Jack Rosenbloom." MPR Archive. August 6, 2001. https://archive.mpr.org/stories/2001/08/06/family-and-friends-remember-former-st-paul-boxer-and-business-man-tiger-jack.
- Hazard, Mike. "Tiger Jack." YouTube. November 17, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt-ENJ4_qSQ.
- Medrano Leslie, Lourdes. "Remembering Tiger Jack Rosenbloom: A time to wave goodbye." Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 7, 2001, 13.
- PBS. "The Wrap | Tiger Jack." PBS.org. July 7, 2016. https://www.pbs.org/video/almanac-wrap-tiger-jack/.
- Sorensen, Tom. "Tiger Jack keeps on running his shed and staying one step ahead." Minneapolis Star, March 11, 1978, 17.
- Stone, Debra. "Talk is Free in Tiger's Den." The Minneapolis Star, March 15, 1977, 23.
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