Tough and tenacious in business, visionary about the marketplace, fiercely devoted to family and close friends, passionate about horses, a man of quiet generosity—all of these describe the different sides of Max M. Farash. Athletic, caring, the bedrock of the family: this is how Marian Farash was known.
School, and Always Work
Max Farash was no more than five when he arrived in America, with his mother, from an area of European Turkey that is now Macedonia. He was the youngest of eight children, two of whom—along with his father—had died by the time he came to the U.S. and settled in Rochester. Like his brothers, and like many others in Rochester’s Clifford-Portland avenues neighborhood, Farash understood from an early age the importance of hard work. He was in school when he began helping his family by working as a paperboy and delivering groceries. At one point he was offered fourteen peanut machines to position around town—to be paid for out of his profits—and, even then, he could “read” the market. Pistachios, he saw, were bigger money-makers than peanuts. And so he switched.
From Air Conditioning to Home Building
After leaving Franklin High School in Rochester, Farash worked as a tailor at Bond Clothing and then as a machinery operator at Eastman Kodak Company. Perhaps it was inevitable that he would become his own boss and an entrepreneur. In 1937, he and a collaborator started a commercial refrigeration and air-conditioning business called Genesee Sales & Service—“delivering service and value—that was the backbone of our business,” he later told an interviewer.
He and Marian, a Rochester native, high school classmate, and resident of the same neighborhood around Portland and Clifford avenues, were married in 1941. When they went to buy a house, he discovered that he could build one for $4,000—half of what builders had quoted him. So he built two, and the second one sold quickly. That launched him into the real estate business, as he and partner Alfred Amico began to build small single-family homes. Soon, the “tail was wagging the dog,” as Farash said; home building became the company’s main business. (In 1959 Farash and Amico parted ways, as friends, even as Farash expanded the company.)
A long-time friend calls Farash a “three-dimensional” thinker who not only saw the business opportunities directly before him but could also imagine what might lie on the far horizon. “In the entrepreneurial manner,” Farash himself said, “we build for the market rather than wait for it.” In the 1950s, he saw a robust market in apartment rentals and began to develop rental properties in Rochester and the suburbs. In the 1960s, he correctly foresaw the growth of communities in the Victor-Canandaigua corridor, and again invested appropriately.
A Rochester colleague described Farash as a man “thoroughly immersed in his business, but not overwhelmed by it.” With a steel-trap memory for numbers and costs, he could intuitively and pragmatically forecast trends. For example, Farash almost completely stopped building new apartments and condominiums by the mid-1970s as the market slowed, unlike other developers who plowed ahead in a saturated market.
A “restless and creative talent,” Farash did not limit himself to residential housing. In the late 1970s, civic leaders convinced him that Rochester’s downtown needed help from the private sector. He began to invest in downtown office space, eventually adding 1.5 million square feet to the Farash portfolio. Properties purchased over the years included the Ebenezer Watts building; the former Edwards department store buildings and the H. L. Green Co. building on East Main Street, which were then converted into Gateway Centre (later donated to Monroe County); the Times Square Building at Exchange Boulevard and Broad Street; the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Station on Court Street; and the original building for the Eastman Dental Dispensary. He built Corporate Place on East Avenue, now the home of the Farash Foundation.
By 2010, the corporation included approximately 3,730 rental units in the Rochester area and 1,000 in Florida, as well as 295,000 square feet of commercial space, among other assets, and was said to be the largest real estate firm in Western New York.
While Farash’s success clearly stemmed from his own entrepreneurial drive and acumen, he and Marian also knew how much they owed to their community. During his lifetime, he made a number of significant gifts to local organizations; he also quietly funded the college education of a few outstanding students. (Neither Max nor Marian attended college, but they were strong proponents of higher education as a means to success.) He served on many boards: Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, University of Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester Museum and Science Center, Monroe County Water Authority, Rochester Downtown Development Corporation, Industrial Management Council, Lasell College (Newton, Mass.), and Alfred University among them.
He also served on the advisory board of the Wharton School master’s program in real estate, chaired the house committee of B’rith Kodesh, was an honorary trustee of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, and sat on the boards of Eastman Dental Center, Hillside Children’s Center, Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and Jewish Community Center.
His civic awards were many: the 1980 Chamber of Commerce Civic Medal to recognize his commitment to rebuilding downtown and other contributions to the community; the 1986 Herbert W. VandenBrul Entrepreneurial Award from Rochester Institute of Technology; in 1990, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation; in 2004, election to the Rochester Business Hall of Fame; and in 2006, the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business David T. Kearns Medal of Distinction. The list goes on.
Marian supported her husband in every endeavor throughout his career. She overcame her shyness to become the perfect host for his business associates. In addition to support their joint charitable initiatives, she became a founding member of the National Kidney Foundation of Upstate New York, and in 1988 was awarded the foundation’s Gift of Life Gala Award.
Quietly generous during their lifetimes, the Farashes in their later years gave serious thought to how they might best make long-term, meaningful contributions to their spiritual and civic communities. In the 1980s, the Farashes decided to give back to their communities, after their deaths, through the establishment of the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation.
Marian M. Farash, described in her obituary as “the heart, soul and glue of the family,” died July 14, 2007 at the age of 89. Max M. Farash died Feb. 28, 2010 at the age of 95.