Discount store Korvettes lives on in the subway

Remember the faded and forgotten Gimbels sign inside the 33rd Street PATH station? Turns out another relic of New York’s department store past is hidden away there as well.


Inside a closed-off construction area along a walkway connecting the PATH to the Herald Square subway station is this sign for the underground entrance to Korvettes.


What was Korvettes? New Yorkers who lived in the metro area anytime between the 1950s and the early 1980s know: it was a popular discount retailer with several locations in the city, including one at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street (top photo).


Korvettes went bust in 1980—but this Reagan-era sign was never taken down, even as new retailers moved into its former site, now called the Herald Center.

saks34thstreet1920sThe Herald Center has quite a retailing history. Before Korvettes moved there in the 1960s and the building was sheathed behind a Brutalist facade, it was a lovely Beaux-Arts building constructed in 1902 for Saks’s Herald Square store (left).

(Part of the old Saks facade came back into view last year during construction—a sweet site to behold.)

Korvettes had a strong run—I’d put it above Crazy Eddie but below its Herald Square neighbors like Gimbels and Abraham & Straus in the rankings of defunct city department stores.

This 1970s TV commercial will take you back to the days when Korvettes was big. Thanks to ENY reader B.R. for alerting me to the sign!

[Top photo: John J. Meola/Wikipedia; second photo: Alamy; third photo: Getty Images; fifth image: Staten Island Advance, 1971]

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15 Responses to “Discount store Korvettes lives on in the subway”

  1. Laura Says:

    My family used to love Korvettes, and we shopped at the Scarsdale location (near the Yonkers border on Central Ave) throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

    When one needed a quality winter coat or good clothing at working class prices, then one would go to Korvettes or Sears.

    • pinball29 Says:

      Our family also shopped at the Central Ave Korvettes. We were pretty poor at the time, and a trip to Korvettes for new school clothes was a huge deal for us. It was in the same league as Alexanders…..solid middle class products in basic, clean stores that lower income families could afford. Those days are long gone.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Or Mays:

  3. dg27 Says:

    I remember there being an urban legend that the name meant “Korean War Veterans.”

    • Edward Says:

      The name actually came from the WW II-era navy cruiser. I believe a few war vets did indeed start Korvettes on Long Island or thereabouts in the early late 1940s.

      • Punto Says:

        The lore in my family, when we lived near the E. J. Korvettes in West Hempstead, was that it stood for Eleven (or maybe eight) Jewish Korean Veterans. Never heard a source for this but it sounded plausible back then.

    • Edward Says:

      Punto: Korvettes was started in Midtown in 1948, two years before the Korean War even started. There’s a book published in 1981 titled “More Than They Bargained For: The Rise and Fall of Korvettes” that gives a decent account of the history of the chain.

      • Peter Hirsch Says:


        Thanks for clearing this up. I wish the facts were as interesting and amusing as the inherited lore, but that is not your fault. I will try to scour up a copy of the Korvette’s history. It was so much a part of my youth on LI in the 50’s & 60’s and my subsequent years in the city, that it will be a welcome meander down memory lane.

  4. Kenny Says:

    Best price and selection for lps. Another location was in Carle Place s/w corner of Glen Cove Road and Westbury Ave. Another short lived shop was set up in Hicksville’s Broadway Mall where the Ikea is now.

  5. jshdoff Says:

    One of my first jobs was at the Hicksville location on Long Island, called the Broadway Mall now, but it was Mid-Island Plaze back then. I was a short-order cook in the cafeteria. Burgers, eggs, grilled cheese.

  6. chas Says:

    Eight, as I remember the legend went….my area store was out on Rockaway Tpke.

  7. Bo Rosny Says:

    I put some new photos on my blog – they give more of a sense of the entrance from the subway. Hopefully you or another reader will be able to take better pictures than I did.

  8. Bill Says:

    Is there any chance we can find out more about the empty retail area where the faded Korvettes sign is? It’s mentioned as a construction area, but for a while, it’s just been an empty storefront inside the passage connecting the PATH to the BDFM lines, with a sealed staircase going up into the building.

  9. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I haven’t been up that way in a while, but I’ll try to check it out. If anyone goes in and out of that PATH station, can you take a look and see what’s going on?

  10. Babiepiggie Says:

    I was just 16 years old when I had my first job (to pay for a school trip) at EJ Korvettes on 34th street.
    I went to the call for new employees before the store opened. I was picked out of a crowd & got hired as an “INFORMATION” girl. (I had that “MOD” look).
    My job was to stand in front of the escalators wearing an “INFORMATION” banner & directing customers to their desired departments.
    It was a fun job, especially for me, an unpopular high school student. The position lasted about a year (it was eliminated). I was then assigned to be be an elevator operator for the express elevator. My job there was to make sure the customers didn’t press the local floor buttons. Also announced the floors it did stop on & help customers. A fun job as well, got to know many of the employees as the elevator went to the basement where they checked out.
    After that position was eliminated, worked on the floor in juniors women’s clothing. Working at EJ Korvettes lasted for years into the days where I also had a full time job. Very fond memories…

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