When city businesses advertised on matchbooks

It was cheap and easy advertising back in another New York, when everybody smoked everywhere—restaurants, bars, parks.

And though the businesses on these vintage matchbook covers are long gone, they were going strong when the covers were printed between the 1920s and 1940s.

Roulston’s was a grocery store chain headquartered in factory building near the Gowanus Canal.

Pete Hamill wrote of his father’s job there in 1994’s A Drinking Life:

“You should be very proud of your daddy, my mother said. He only finished eighth grade and he is working as a clerk. The reason is his beautiful handwriting.

“He was working at the main office of a Brooklyn grocery chain called Thomas Roulston & Sons and brought home nineteen dollars a week.”

Astor Coffee—I was hoping it was an old-school coffee house on Astor Place, perhaps where the Starbucks is now.

Instead, it was the house blend at the gorgeous and grandiose Astor Hotel, late of Times Square, a lovely place to hang in the 1920s.

The coffee was so popular they sold it at retail establishments around the city.

I couldn’t find anything about the Flatiron Cafeteria; I imagine it was just another spot in Depression-era New York to get a cheap cup of coffee and sandwich.

But I love the matchbook cover—and of course, the old-school phone number.

Today, 164 Fifth Avenue is an Eileen Fisher clothing store.

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5 Responses to “When city businesses advertised on matchbooks”

  1. When city businesses advertised on matchbooks | New York Blogs Says:

    […] http://upcoming.current.com/nyblogs?format=rss […]

  2. everettsville Says:

    Got to this page via a link from VNY.

    I’ve found a 1929 photo of Flatiron Cafeteria on nypl.org

    Here’s the link:

    …and if you use the zoom tool you can see 164 peeking in just from the right of the frame (the photo is actually of 162). The letters “FLAT” and “LUN” are visible.

  3. Rev. E.M. Camarena Says:

    Marvelous! I sold matchbooks with ads for a while in the mid 70s. When I became a writer I sold a screenplay that had a twist which hung on what side of the matchbook the striker was on…

  4. The “bobbed-hair bandit” on the run in Brooklyn | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] first robbery was at a Roulston’s, a grocery chain in Park Slope. On the evening of January 5, the two drove to the store on Seventh […]

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