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  • Douglas Towne

Inventive Contractors: Buros Construction Co.

Phenomenal growth occurred in Phoenix after World War II, causing influential residents to seek big city amenities. A modern playhouse was high on the list for the Phoenix Little Theatre Company. The city, prodded by Maie Bartlett Heard, Frank Snell, and Barry Goldwater, funded the construction of a new venue that launched the careers of Steven Spielberg, L. Ron Hubbard, and Nick Nolte. The winning contractor to build Phoenix's sparkling new amenity was Buros Construction Co.

The firm was a relative newcomer to Phoenix in 1951, but it would go on to construct many residential and commercial structures over the next two decades. Led by multitalented brothers, Herbert and Melvin Buros, the company also offered architectural and engineering services. Buros Construction ceased operation in the late 1960s as it morphed into a more lucrative industry: inventing high-tech machines for banks. The company's transformation is likely unparalleled in Arizona's construction history.

Buros Construction was founded in 1910 when Morris Jacob (M. J.) Buros started as a master carpenter and building contractor in Cleveland, Ohio. He was born in Priuki, Ukraine in 1885, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1899. M. J. married Minnie Rosenstein in 1911, and they had three children: Syril in 1912, Herbert in 1914, and Melvin in 1920. The Buros family moved to Tucson in 1944 and Phoenix the following year.

M. J. Buros advertised as a contractor who specialized in "storefronts" in the Republic in August 1945. By the following month, his advertisement included reference to Herbert and Melvin: “Modern New Homes. Plans – Financing – Service. Buros & Sons, Reg. Builders and Contractors.”

Herbert was a graduate of Ohio State and a registered civil engineer. Melvin graduated from Case Western Reserve with an architecture degree. “Herb was quiet and ran the office, while Melvin had a dynamic personality and did the marketing,” says Lou Goldberg, their 84-year-old nephew-in-law.

Their first projects were custom Ranch-style homes in the North Encanto Historic District. These residences included those for M.J. and Minnie Buros at 1518 W. Earl Drive, Herbert and Lee Buros at 1534 W. Earl Drive, and Melvin and Arlene Buros at 2936 N. 16th Drive.

In 1947, Buros Construction built and managed an eight-unit apartment complex at Third Avenue and Latham Street in what is now the Roosevelt Historic District. The following year, the company built a 20-unit apartment building on 12th Avenue and Washington Street.

In 1949, Buros Construction won bids on two school projects: cafeterias and classroom additions at Washington Elementary School at Northern and 27th avenues, and Sunnyslope School at Third Street and Vogel Avenue. “This was the last government project they bid on, since the jobs lacked flexibility and there was too much politics,” Goldberg says.

By the time M.J. Buros died in 1953, the company was working on a $400,000 contract to upgrade and expand the F.W. Woolworth Co. building at First and Washington streets in Phoenix. The secret to their success was giving the customer more than they expected. “Melvin learned this from his father,” Goldberg says. “If a customer wanted something extra, he included provisions in his bid for some changes at no additional charge. When Melvin constructed a bank in Superior, he even made sure funds were available to build a community swimming pool there.”

The company completed an extensive remodel for the S.H. Kress Co. store at 22 West Washington Street in 1955. "The Kress store did not miss one single day of normal business during the entire rebuilding program," Buros Construction noted in their Republic ad.

This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, May/June 2020 issue, Vol. 9, No.3.

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