Posts Tagged ‘old store signs New York City’

Ghost signs of New York’s small business past

December 24, 2018

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!]

A mysterious store sign reappears in Flatiron

April 23, 2018

The upside of new construction is that old bits and pieces of the city come back into view.

At 1165 Broadway, a landmarked 1867 building (below, in 1900) currently being transformed into coop, a shadowy color sign has reappeared.

“Smith’s” the sign says. The logo next to it reads “Guaranteed never to rip” and includes an image of the biblical Samson and a lion. A smaller tagline reads “wear like Samsons . . . made?” That fourth word is hard to figure out.

So what was Smith’s selling? The phrase “guaranteed never to rip” was used in ads for cheap suits decades ago. But the mention of Samson, known not for cheap suits but his ability to rip a lion in half, makes this ad a mystery.

[Second image: NYPL]

Vintage signs from a rough around the edges city

May 30, 2016

Some of these 1970s and 1980s–era signs are losing the battle with the elements, like this hand-painted original for Utica Avenue Electronics (VCRs!) in Crown Heights.

Signsuticaaveelectronics

Others advertise small businesses in a contemporary city that can be cruel to struggling mom and pop shops.

Perhaps that’s why Continental Shoe Repairs on Broadway and Barclay Street is no longer open.

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The sign for Ashland Pharmacy, in Fort Greene, notes that they accept the union plan.

Which union plan? In an older New York, when health insurance wasn’t quite so complicated, the distinction may not have mattered.

Signsashlandpharmacy

City Water Meter Repair Co., Inc. is the only water meter repair shop I’ve ever seen.

Based on the condition of the sign (N.Y. City!), it looks like they’ve been around since the East Village’s heyday as a slumlord neighborhood.

Signscitywatermeterrepaircoinc

You have to love Fort Grene’s Luv-n-Oven Pizza: the rhyming name, the old-school white, green, and red sign, the fact that gyros and hamburgers are on the menu.

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A classic greasy New York corner pizza place that is making me hungry just looking at it.

Manhattan store signs that explode with color

September 12, 2013

Blue, green, red, yellow, pink—a walk down an old-school city street bathes you in bursting color and light. It makes New York feel magical.

Venierossign

Just looking at the Veniero’s Pasticceria sign (119 years on East 11th Street!) kicks in a cannoli craving.

Pasticceria is a beautiful, lyrical word, no?

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Russ & Daughters Appetizers, on East Houston, is a feast for the eyes inside as well.

This slightly derelict clothing-store sign on Orchard Street doesn’t pop with color, but the light blue and red on the left are the kinds of 1960s kitschy hues you rarely see anymore.

Highstyleshirtsign

The High Style Shirt Company is long-gone; an art gallery moved into the space and uncovered the vintage signage. Luckily they kept it up!

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The Clover Delicatessen glows in emerald and pink on Second Avenue at 34th Street. It’s been around since the 1940s.

The city’s oldest hardware stores (and signs)

May 25, 2011

Ever notice that hardware and paint supply stores in New York tend to be independent, family-named shops dating back generations?

How do they beat back bigger chains—do they own the buildings they’re in and therefore are immune to drastic rent hikes? Lure in customers with hard-to-find parts made for the city’s old buildings?

The number of independent drugstores, bookstores, and other shops keep dwindling, but these guys manage to stick around. Warshaw Hardware, on Third Avenue and 20th Street, has been holding court since before the Great Depression.


Vercesi Hardware, on 23rd Street near Lexington Avenue, got its start when Woodrow Wilson was running the country.


S. Wolf Paints and Wallpaper, on Ninth Avenue in the 50s, is the granddaddy of them all, opening in 1869—just a few years after the end of the Civil War!

Shuttered on a recent weekday, S. Wolf still seems to be in business though—they have a Yelp page after all.