Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Jesse Abrams

Jesse Abrams, a 'trailblazer' in Midtown business, dies at 89

Jesse Abrams, 89, was a Gibbs alumnus and WWII veteran.

Jesse Abrams, 89, was a Gibbs alumnus and WWII veteran.

ST. PETERSBURG — From the front yard, the aqua blue home on 25th Street S looks like others on the block, cozy and well-kept. A huge living room window afforded Jesse Abrams the view he needed from a cloth recliner with electric controls, which he worked like the captain's chair on the Starship Enterprise.

With papers for his salvage yard and an amplified phone in his lap he could conduct business and watch the street.

To the right of the window flickered two television screens, one feeding several simultaneous images from a security camera to cover a fenced-in back yard that stretches a city block.

Mr. Abrams had founded several successful businesses. He owned a body shop, a fuel company, a barbecue restaurant and other ventures. He helped form the ownership group for Blue Star Cab, a survival lifeline in the 1950s and 1960s that ferried working mothers to jobs, the grocery store and day care centers for a flat rate.

Mr. Abrams, a well-known entrepreneur in St. Petersburg's black community, died Friday at Bay Pines VA Medical Center as a result of diabetes, his family said. He was 89.

Goliath Davis, the former St. Petersburg police chief and deputy mayor in charge of Midtown development, called Mr. Abrams "truly a trailblazer and a very early entrepreneur."

"I would say that he, like many other entrepreneurs early on, basically were shining examples of what we were trying to emulate with the Midtown initiative," Davis said.

Mr. Abrams was quiet, reserved and forceful, his friends and family members say. "I can't remember a time when his mind wasn't focused on what he wanted to do, how he wanted to change things and how he wanted things to go," said Virginia Abrams, a retired teacher and his wife since 1960.

The South Side Cab Co. he co-founded in 1950 met urgent transportation needs for working mothers. "It was one of the major sources of transportation for black folks in this area for a long time," said the Rev. Willie Miller, 69, a longtime friend. The company later changed its name to Blue Star.

"They went so far as to pick your child up," Miller said. "And if you weren't home, they'd hang onto your child until you got home."

Jesse Abrams was born in St. Petersburg. He graduated from Gibbs High, then served in the Navy for five years, the first three in the Pacific during World War II. The 2nd class petty officer participated in the Mariana Islands invasion and was awarded a Bronze Star.

After the war, the certified machinist and welder began to branch out. He founded Abrams New Deal at 1700 18th Ave. S. Over time, his businesses eventually included a fuel oil company; another cab company; a salvage yard; Steve's Bar-B-Que Pit; a carwash; and convenience stores.

He also tried to help other young men find work.

"He had apartments he put them in, let them stay," said Miller. "Then bring them over (to his home), and let them do some work and still pay them while they're living in an apartment free."

For years he allowed a group of men to congregate at Central Avenue and 11th Street in the hopes of finding day labor jobs. When the men began stealing his tools and littering "break corner" with empty bottles, Mr. Abrams posted no-trespassing signs and ran them off.

In recent years, Mr. Abrams had zipped his motorized scooter around a backyard welding shop, where several massive grills he designed still sit.

In recent months, he was planning a barbecue and pool party for his church's youth program.

Then his health declined. Ever the realist, Mr. Abrams even penned his own obituary.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.


Jesse Abrams

Born: Jan. 2, 1924

Died: June 7, 2013

Survivors: wife, Virginia; daughters, Phyllis Scott and Darlene Stowers; son, Gary Watson; more than 40 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren.

Service: Visitation 4 to 7 p.m. Friday (family will receive friends from 6 p.m.); Smith Funeral Home, 1534 18th Ave. S. Funeral 10 a.m. Saturday; St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, 2920 26th Ave. S. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the children's fund at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church.

Jesse Abrams, a 'trailblazer' in Midtown business, dies at 89 06/11/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 11:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Days were lost': Why Puerto Rico is still suffering a month after Hurricane Maria


    MAUNABO, PUERTO RICO — Before Hurricane Maria tore through the rest of this island, it came to Mayor Jorge Márquez's home.

    A man wades through a flooded road, past a boat, in the Toa Ville community two days after the impact of Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Because of flooding, thousands of people are being evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti) CGPR130
  2. With college looming, Channel Drive band finds a way to keep on rocking

    Human Interest

    A year and a half.

    That's the time Channel Drive, a band made up of local high school students, had to organize concerts, create music, produce an album and perform in front of audiences before three-fourths of the group were to leave for college.

    One of Channel Drive’s favorite venues is the Brass Mug in North Tampa. Here, from left to right, Colby Williams, Jacob Fleming and Ricardo Ponte command the stage while Alex Carr handles drums.
  3. Florida unemployment rate drops despite huge loss of jobs

    Economic Development

    Florida lost a whopping 127,400 jobs last month as Hurricane Irma swept through, according to state figures released Friday.

    Florida's unemployment rate dropped from 4 percent in August to 3.8 percent in September. Pictured is 
Shantia Blackmon (left),from St. Petersburg, talking with Jocelyn Kelley from North Carolina at a Pinellas Schools County Job Fair in June. | [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Study: When you die, your brain knows you're dead


    Have you ever wondered what happens after you die?

    According to a new study from NYU, researchers say that a person's brain may function after their death. [iStockPhoto]

  5. Gradebook podcast: On HB 7069, with Palm Beach schools superintendent Robert Avossa


    After months of discussion, several Florida school districts filed suit against the Legislature over the contentious HB 7069, calling parts of it unconstitutional. At the same time, some of them also sought grant funding established in the same measure. The Palm Beach County school district did both. Superintendent …

    Palm Beach superintendent Robert Avossa