The blazing colors and old-school design of two Manhattan store signs

It’s a special thrill to come across a vintage New York City store sign that’s never caught your eye before. The design, the typeface, the colors—it all hits you at once, making you feel like you’ve found a magical spot in Gotham where mom-and-pop shops aren’t the exception and time stands still.

That’s the feeling I had after happening upon these two time machine signs a while back, one on the Lower East Side and the other on the opposite end of Manhattan in East Harlem.

On Essex Street is the signage for fourth generation-run M. Schames & Son Paints. I don’t know how old the sign is, but M. Schames got its start in 1927, according to the company Facebook page. The business appears to have moved to 90 Delancey Street.

The sign for Casa Latina, on East 116th Street, is another portal to the New York of the 1950s or 1960s, when Italian Harlem transformed into Spanish Harlem and salsa music came into its own.

Family owned and operated for over 50 years, the shop sells Latin music, instruments, and collectibles, per their Facebook page. Actually, make that sold. According to, Casa Latina is no longer in business. At least the wonderful sign is still there.

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9 Responses to “The blazing colors and old-school design of two Manhattan store signs”

  1. andrewalpern Says:

    Old signs are wonderful. Especially the really old ones that come to light on the side of a building when the adjoining building is torn down. And the outlines of long-gone even-older buildings.

    Mistakes on signs are great too. Dowtown? As in Wall Street?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I’m always charmed by faded ads on buildings…especially when a couple of vintage ads from different eras blend together, palimpsest-like.

  2. velovixen Says:

    Andrew–Could “Dowtown” have been an intentional Freudian slip?

    I love old signage, too. When buildings are torn down, sometimes I miss the sign as much as I miss the building.

  3. JILL GILL Says:

    Thanks for your sharp eyes and insights. Here’s to a better 2023.

  4. seanglenn47 Says:

    Unfortunately, I have seen more old-record stores go out of business in the last ten years than even during the days of the rise of CDs. Most of the newer generations would prefer to just stream in a song from Spotify or Tidal, rather than play records on a stereo turntable. I was even almost of this. After two moves over 25 years, I kept collecting vinyl LP records at mainly garage sales, or even finding them on the sidewalk as trash. When I moved in with my girlfriend, all I had left was all these records, probably about a hundred, and the Pioneer turntable. When I had left my old girfriend in 1995, I let her keep the Technics equalizer and speakers so she could play the AM/FM radio in stereo. So, I was going to throw the records and turntable out, but my girlfriend insisted on bringing them to our new apartment, buying the missing components, and setting it all up. It’s a blast, and we keep buying new records at thrift stores, record stores, and bookstores we encounter in our travels.
    The last really big record store to close was Colony Records at 48th Street & Broadway, after 64 years in business, about ten years ago, when the landlord decided to quintuple to rent to $5 million per month.
    Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

    • seanglenn47 Says:

      And Colony Records had a really great store sign as well!!! It was huge and spanned Broadway to around the corner on 48th Street.

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        I miss Colony. I used to stop off there walking home from work, entranced by the records and sheet music.

  5. Rafael Landrau Says:

    Had grown up in that area, bought my 1st Salsa records there in the Early 70s and purchased my concert tickets there. Especially My Latin NY Magazine that followed me into the military. Great peace of Spanish Harlem (My Barrio) and a big part of my Life in New York City.

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