The scent is rich, unmistakable and evocative of Scottsdale’s past – an aromatic salute to horses, cowboys and Old West craftsmanship.
Like a warm handshake, the smell of fresh-worked leather greets all who visit the Saba family’s two western wear stores in Old Town Scottsdale.
Family patriarch David Saba Sr. opened his first Scottsdale store in 1947 when the population nudged 2,000 and it was a short walk from Main Street to cattle pens and alfalfa fields. Saba’s son, Richard, and his wife Marion still own the stores. They remain a living bridge between those agrarian roots and Scottsdale’s modern-day sophistication.
That deep connection and commitment to community make the Sabas an ideal choice to be honorary chairs of Scottsdale Celebrate ’68. Activities surrounding Celebrate ’68 take place in October and mark the 50th anniversary of Scottsdale City Hall and the Civic Center Library.
“Richard and I are both honored to be involved in this milestone celebration of Scottsdale’s history,” Marion said. “We’ve always felt it was important to give back to our community.”
"Foresight and guts"
Like Scottsdale, the Saba family legacy is one of risk-taking and perseverance.
David Saba Sr. was a Lebanese immigrant who opened a small Chandler clothing store in 1927. It was the height of the Depression. Most of his customers were cotton pickers who would come in on pay day to buy work clothes for $1.
In those days, Saba had an arrangement to trade jeans to a local farmer in exchange for a lamb. The lamb would feed Saba’s family for a week.
Even in those hardscrabble times, David Saba Sr. maintained a belief in the future. He opened his Scottsdale store because he felt there was tremendous potential for growth, said Marion.
“He had a lot of foresight and guts,” she said. “There was nothing but dusty dirt roads here in 1947.”
Today, the Sabas are celebrating 91 years as an Arizona business and an equally impressive history of community service.
Richard began managing the Main Street Scottsdale store after graduating from Arizona State University. He also joined the Scottsdale Jaycees, served as Parada Rodeo chairman and as president of the Downtown Merchants Association.
Richard would go on to serve on the city’s Design Review Board, as patron of the Scottsdale Charros and on the board of the Chamber of Commerce. Today, Richard continues to serve on the board of the Scottsdale Museum of the West.
Marion has also built a legacy of service. She was a member of the Jaycees auxiliary group, president of the Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped and a founding board member of the Scottsdale Prevention Institute.
She’s also served on the city’s Human Services Commission and Housing Board and led several events for the Scottsdale Historical Society.
A living legacy
“The Sabas have not only contributed greatly to Scottsdale’s history, they have also spent countless hours assisting our community,” said Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. “They are part of the foundation that makes Scottsdale special and I am delighted they agreed to serve as honorary chairs for Celebrate ’68. Their participation is especially fitting.”
Today, the Sabas operate four stores in the Valley. Two of them are in Old Town Scottsdale, just a block away from each other.
The original store at 7254 E. Main St. was built in 1921 and is one of Scottsdale’s oldest buildings. It was home to a drug store before the Sabas set up shop in 1947.
Their other store is at 3965 N. Brown Avenue. When you walk through the doors the magic is also there – the timeless fragrance of leather amid rows of boots, wide belts and cowboy hats.
With the opening of a stylish City Hall and library in 1968, Scottsdale turned a page. It was becoming a modern city. But it never lost a heritage built around horses, farm fields and people tied to the land.
A trip to Sabas is proof of that.