Milestone for legacy Chandler family - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Milestone for legacy Chandler family

March 12th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Milestone for legacy Chandler family

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Long-time Chandler resident Joan Saba got a special surprise on March 6 after spending most of the last year isolated from friends and family.
She and her twin sister, Jean, were greeted with a parade of cars that drove by her home to wish the sisters Happy 90th Birthday.
Presents and flowers were dropped off outside the family’s home as a long line of friends quickly stopped to greet the Saba sisters from a safe distance.
It was an unbelievable sight, Joan said, and it was all planned without the sisters ever catching on to the surprise her family had arranged.
“This was over the top,” Joan said. “I’ve never been so fooled in my life.”
To augment the number of well-wishers, Chandler Chamber of Commerce Terri Kimble put out the word to members to join the parade.
“Joan Saba sits on our Chamber board as well as our foundation board and remains active through virtual means,” Kimble said. “They both are just delightful, outstanding women. They are truly delightful and have been an important part of Chandler for many years.”
Joan said it is a true blessing to reach such a momentous milestone in life that she is thankful she got to spend most of her life in a city she genuinely loves.
The Saba family has deep roots in Chandler that date back to the city’s formative years during the 1920s.
Joan carved out her own path and has been instrumental in modernizing the city’s landscape over the last couple decades.
Chandler has always been full of so many genial characters, Joan noted, and it’s an easy place to make lots of good friends.
That’s why the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly rough on a social butterfly like Joan, who thrives on the company of others and enjoys a nice stroll around Chandler.
“We love being with people. We love doing things,” she said. “It’s not been fun, but we’re not alone.”
Joan first moved to Chandler in 1954, when the city’s population was miniscule compared to today and the city limits barely stretched beyond Arizona Avenue.
“The downtown square was about all there was when we first moved here,” Joan recalled.
Not long after she arrived, she was matched up with David Saba Jr., whose family founded one of Chandler’s most prominent department stores in 1927.
An immigrant from Lebanon, David Saba Sr. came to the United States in the 1910s and started off selling groceries in mining towns throughout Arizona.
The senior Saba eventually opened his Chandler store on Boston Street and started specializing in Western-style clothes and cotton-picking sacks for the local farmers.
Cotton was king in Chandler at this time and most of the city’s landscape was littered with family farms that stretched down to Riggs Road.
Despite the large farming market, the Saba store endured some years of turmoil during the Great Depression and World War II before finding its footing as the economy started to thrive in the 1950s.
“On Saturdays, the cotton pickers got paid and they were paid in dollar bills,” the Sabas recalled in an oral history. “That was what they spent at the Chandler store. So, there were a lot of dollar bills to be counted.”
The Sabas went on to open several more clothing stores throughout the Valley — some of which have since closed.
David Saba Jr. was given the responsibility of running the family’s Chandler store in the 1950s.
Since Joan had helped her parents manage a retail store back in Oregon, she jumped at the chance to assist her husband in taking over the family business.
“It was second-nature to help with the store,” she remembered.
Saba’s Western Wear has remained a popular staple in Chandler for decades and Joan’s son has gone on to take over running it in recent years.
The store celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2017 and continues to offer a variety of boots, jeans, cowboy hats, belts and other apparel traditionally used by cowboys and ranchers.
Outside of retail, Joan’s involved herself in various causes that attempted to make Chandler a more prosperous, booming place for residents and new businesses.
She is the founding president of the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership and has spent years helping the city revitalize its historic neighborhoods.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Joan was part of various groups that helped to redevelop deteriorating parts of Chandler and attract new businesses to fill vacant stores downtown.
Joan said it has been exciting to witness the downtown landscape’s evolution over the years into a pedestrian-friendly, vibrant economic hub.
“If it wasn’t for COVID, I think it would be even more exciting right now,” she noted.
In her spare time, Joan has been an active board member for the Salvation Army, Chandler Service Club, and the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.
She was notably instrumental in developing the Chamber’s scholarship program for local students looking to gain access into higher education.
In 2018, her contributions to Chandler were acknowledged with a “Woman of the Year” award from Positive Paths, an East Valley organization that provides mentoring programs for ambitious women.
Joan thinks her volunteerism has significantly enriched her decades in Chandler and encourages everyone to get more involved with trying to uplift their neighborhoods.
It’s worth the effort, she said, and the friendships one can form along the way make the work all the more worthwhile.
“You meet people that are anxious to contribute and be part of the community,” Saba emphasized. “You make friends with people who are very nice and giving.”