A piece of the cut-rate Lower East Side remains on Orchard Street

Hidden behind scaffolding and weathered by the elements, the sign is not easy to see. But when you do make it out, you’ll feel like a time machine has delivered you back to the 1920s Lower East Side—when Orchard Street meant cut-rate shopping, not pricy cocktails.

“Ben Freedman Gent’s Furnishings” (such an old-timey way to describe clothes and hats!) got its start on Orchard Street in 1927, when Mayor Jimmy Walker was partying at Manhattan speakeasies and the Woolworth Building qualified as the city’s tallest skyscraper.

The sign may be faded, but the business is still going. Sounding feisty, Freedman was quoted in a 1977 Daily News story about the poor prospects of Orchard Street. “Oh it’s changed for sure, so what?” he told a reporter, who added that Ben had been at his store peddling bargains for 50 years. “It’s still a great street.”

The Lo-Down has more on Ben’s business.

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10 Responses to “A piece of the cut-rate Lower East Side remains on Orchard Street”

  1. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    Years ago my mother took me there to get a suit, I recall the racks and racks of men’s jackets and pants. After trying a few jackets I had to pee; easily went to the bathroom then couldn’t get the door opened –at the age of 10 or 11 I had easily overlooked I had snap clicker I had shut. After crying and pounding on the door, with voices shouting back at me, I followed the voice’s instruction and very easily clicked the door. About 4 or 5 men, with measuring tape on their necks, laughed and greeted me, as I fell tear eyed against my mother… That old memory is in me forever.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      This is the kind of story that doesn’t seem like a big deal to an adult, but as a kid, it’s mortifying! I would like to have seen these store salesmen with their measuring tape around their necks.

    • Tom B Says:

      I was locked in a bathroom at an early age. It seemed like forever to be rescued. I also cried.

  2. greg chown Says:

    A few years back, we were exploring the Lower East Side and a young man was sitting outside the clothing store he worked at. A young woman walked by and he called out (in a New York/Hip Hop accent)
    “Yo, girl! You must be from Tennessee…
    ‘Cause you the only ten I see”.

  3. countrypaul Says:

    The Lo-Down article is very interesting, but dates to 2015. I wonder if and how kind the intervening years have been to the store and the area in general.

    • Greg Says:

      Was wondering the same. Google streeview indicates it was open as recently as two years ago, but the 8/21 shot has it closed.

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        I was actually down there about a month ago and it was open, I believe, because all the lights were on. But the photos I took then came out badly, so I used a photo from earlier in the fall taken on a weekend. So I think they’re still in business!

      • Greg Says:

        Great to hear!

  4. Shankar Subramanian Says:

    What a throwback !!

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