The mystery of a Lower East Side old store sign

The Chinese Hispanic Grocery at Eldridge and Broome Streets has a crisp new canvas awning with the bodega’s name on it, an apparent homage to this corner where Chinatown meets the Hispanic Lower East Side.

The new sign recently replaced a torn and tattered one that no longer hid an even older sign, which seems to read “Schonbrun Orient.”

An eagle eyed Ephemeral reader took the photos of the sign behind the sign a few months ago. Schonbrun is a Jewish name, a reminder of the Jewish Lower East Side of at least a half century ago.

But Orient—what kind of shop could this have been? The current owner of the bodega thought it might be a restaurant, but he wasn’t sure. A quick scan of newspaper archives didn’t turn up a clue.

[Photos courtesy of R.G.]

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16 Responses to “The mystery of a Lower East Side old store sign”

  1. Ann Neilson Says:

    Quite the mystery! I tried my own search and haven’t come up with a single thing. It goes to show how vital preserving memory by word of mouth can be. Great article, very interesting!

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks! A reader on Twitter noted that “Orient” is in quotes and could be a tobacco brand. I will look around….

  3. Greg Says:

    Until quite recently “Orient” was used to refer to the middle east. That might clarify the connection, perhaps.

  4. John Cooper Says:

    On closer inspection of the sign to the right I believe there is an initial A. before Schonbrun.

  5. juliaeditrix Says:

    It’s possible it’s the Schonbrun store on the east side vs elsewhere in the city? (Is there another Schonbrun’s?)

  6. Joe Ciolino Says:

    Best way to solve this is to stroll down to the library and check old telephone directories for that address, maybe starting around 1920 (?)

    Otherwise the census.

  7. David H Lippman Says:

    The tax records might have the answer. Also, the City has a photo file of buildings taken in 1940 for archival record purposes.

  8. Paul Eversman Says:

    Jewish owned shop catering to the Asian community?

  9. EB Says:

    I had no luck finding the name of the store, but NYC’s City Register (for 130 Eldridge, block # 00414, lot # 0032) reveals a $25,000 mortgage in 1968 by Abraham Schonbrun. Then a 1970 deed makes reference to an older mortgage from July 16, 1959, which in 1969 was foreclosed due to unpaid taxes and utilities, and sold at auction for $1,000.

  10. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Ah, so that’s our A. Schonbrun, 50 years ago. Now, I’ll still puzzled by “Orient.” Thank you so much for sharing your find!

  11. Ty Says:

    I found the a fews things about this place but haven’t been able to tie the name to the building before 1959.

    Abraham Schonbrun took out a mortgage on it in 1959 for $37,000 and in 1968 for $25,000. That’s all I could find with that name.

    Schonbrun is an unusual name and I found only a few, one was born 1897 and died 1987 in Brooklyn so that might be him.

    The building was foreclosed in 1997 and taken over by the city in anticipation of all those vaping millennials.

    This place was a German lager house and bakery in the 1880s, It was occupied in 1897 by a guy named Harry Adams who gave his business as “feathers.” It sold seltzer, it was a barber shop in 1902 and it was a cigar factory and store for a while.

    In 1907 it was a Yiddish vaudeville or “art” house run by a family called Agid that served huge schooners of beer and bad entertainment to the patrons. There was no radio and most people couldn’t read so there was at least one of these places on every block run all run by a few families. The police were often called to break up fights.

  12. Ty Says:

    I repeated and added some of the mortgage info before I realized it had been posted. Maybe the name stems from the Yiddish theater. “Orient” evoked exotic early in the 20th century.

  13. John Cooper Says:

    Note the second quotation mark is at the bottom of the line.

  14. EVG Etc.: Preserving affordable housing; campaigning against new bars ⋆ New York city blog Says:

    […] Mystery signage at the Chinese Hispanic Grocery at Eldridge and Broome Streets (Ephemeral New York) […]

  15. Abby Says:

    With the great homogenization of our world, it’s especially poinant to see images of places long gone, and nearly forgotten. Thank you.

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