Ghost signs of New York’s small business past

All the turnover lately among the small shops of New York City has one upside: Store signs from decades ago that had been long buried come back into view—like these two signs spotted by Ephemeral New York readers.

The first is at 7105 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst. Up until recently, it was covered by a sign containing Chinese letters, a reflection of the influx of Chinese immigrants in this corner of Brooklyn.

But when that sign came down, this understated one for Charlie & Brothers Fish Market emerged. The building dates back to the 1930s, and the sign looks like it could be that old too.

Apparently the store had been a fish market until the 1990s under a different name, Mola. Who was Charlie?

Just as mysterious is this sign on Seventh Avenue and 56th Street, for an establishment called Wilson’s.

The small store is surrounded by the usual Midtown jumble of tourist spots, cafes, and electronics shops. The entire building has construction scaffolding around it, so it probably won’t be with us much longer. What remains of Wilson’s is destined to be bulldozed with the larger building it’s part of.

[Thanks to Eric V. and Amy S. for these photos!]

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12 Responses to “Ghost signs of New York’s small business past”

  1. David H Lippman Says:

    You can find these all over New York City. It’s kind of a game, but sad and fun at the same time.

  2. Lady G. Says:

    Love it! I did a little digging for Wilson’s. I found this on google books. It may have been like a 19th century ‘storefront’ Presbyterian church property for a Dr. Wilson.'s%20Seventh%20Avenue%20and%2056th%20Street&f=false

  3. Lady G. Says:

    ugh, sorry for that ugly link. I always forget to shorten it!

    Wilson’s –

  4. Bob Says:

    Wilson’s was at 7th Avenue and 54th Street.

    The 1940 NYC tax photo shows a dry cleaner named “Wilson’s Cleaners” was at this site, with different and IMO better signage.;qvq=w4s:/where/7%20Avenue;sort:borough,block,lot,zip_code;lc:NYCMA~5~5&embedded=true&sort=borough%2Cblock%2Clot%2Czip_code&mi=50&trs=814&cic=NYCMA%7E5%7E5&widgetFormat=javascript&widgetType=detail&controls=1&nsip=1

  5. Bob Says:

    The photo was on this blog:

    “Woody Allen’s 1984 movie Broadway Danny Rose is a great film for looking at a vanished New York, the world of old vaudeville acts and second-story talent agents, a Times Square filled with starry-eyed ventriloquists, tap dancers, and players of the glass harp.

    “There’s also a scene at the end where Woody Allen goes running up 7th Avenue, from 54th to 55th, chasing after Mia Farrow. We see the whole block, from Oyster Bar to Carnegie Deli. […]

    “Wilson’s Cleaners and Ballantine Hairstylists became a Gift Shop and Electronics store.”

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Awesome detective work Bob; another reader on Facebook also found that tax photo. And Lady G, the Wilson from the 1860s book link you posted is positively eerie. I have to think it was a different Wilson, but who knows if there’s a long-lost connection?

  7. Chip Says:

    Any ideas of what “IND” in the Fish Market sign stood for? (it’s not the IND lines).

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