1920-2017: Longtime Austin restaurant supplier Sam Shanblum dies at age 96

Sam Shanblum died after a short illness Sunday morning. He was 96.

The longtime Austin restaurant supplier knew all the old lions of the city’s eatery game, having opened up shop downtown in 1946. He retired in 1985. Among his regular customers were Cisco’s Bakery — his regular twice-a-day hangout — the Nighthawk, El Patio, La Tapatia, Threadgill’s, the Chicken Shack and Fonda San Miguel.

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Sam and Bertha Shanblum, taken in the Northwest Austin home in 2016. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

Given a chance, he told tremendous tales about Old Austin businesses and characters, such this one about the Hoffbrau, the unreconstructed steak spot on West Sixth Street.

The owners of Hoffbrau habitually took off two weeks each fall to go hunting. Once during this regular break, they brought their iron griddle — where everything was fried — into Sam’s shop to be cleaned.

“We got two or three layers of accumulation off of it,” Sam said. “Later, customers said: ‘Hey, the steaks just don’t taste the same for some reason.’ ‘Yeah, we got the grill cleaned.’”

He is survived by his wife, Bertha Shanblum, who pursued her own long career as an assistant to a University of Texas academic psychologist, Ira Iscoe, as well as by their daughters, Lynda and Laurie.

The elder Shanblums grew up in Fort Worth and their families had immigrated in previous generations from Eastern Europe.


Bertha and Sam Shanblum on their wedding day in 1947.

A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 14 at Congregation Beth Israel , 3901 Shoal Creek Drive.

Here’s the obituary.

UPDATE: The original headline for this post contained the wrong death year.

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