Posts Tagged ‘Old store signs’

The man behind a faded store sign at 52nd Street

April 12, 2021

In 1960, East Side resident Louis Mattia opened his antique light fixtures business in a small tenement space at 980 Second Avenue. Back then, Manhattan’s design district—in the East 50s along First and Second Avenues—was at its peak.

Showrooms and decorative arts concerns still operate here. But the neighborhood doesn’t resemble the one Mattia likely knew, when the Stuyvesant-educated machinist who worked nights restoring and rewiring lamps decided to open his own store and make his love of lamps his livelihood, according to 1972 Daily News article.

“Whenever Louis Mattia sees an old sconce or candlestick, a discarded table leg, a broken chandelier, or a 50-year-old bubble gum machine, he immediately envisions the lovely light it will shed as a lamp and proceeds to make it,” wrote the News.

“Louis, who is not only a clever artisan but an imaginative artist, looks upon a lamp with the same affection with which a father looks at his child.”

For 35 years, Mattia (above, in a photo from the News story) ran his store, giving it up in 1995. He passed away in 2004 at age 87, according to a death notice in the New York Times.

Mattia may be gone and East Midtown transformed. But for several years now, the beautiful, hand-painted sign for the former lamp store remains on the facade.

“Louis Mattia” the sign reads in large faded gold letters, along with the PL (for Plaza) phone number. It’s a gentle reminder of the man who the Daily News called “buoyant with enormous joy in his art and craft,” the kind of artist and craftsman Manhattan doesn’t seem to have much room for anymore.

[Second image: New York Daily News]

Four ghost store signs in the Village and Brooklyn

July 7, 2016

In a city that changes as rapidly as Gotham, ghost signs abound. You know these phantom signs, left behind by a building’s previous tenant and never replaced by the new one—if there even is a new tenant.


That seems to be the case with this wonderfully preserved Meier & Oelhaf Marine Repair sign on Christopher and Weehawken Streets. The company occupied 177 Christopher from 1920 to 1984.

It’s been an empty and eerie presence for 30 years, a clue to Christopher Street’s maritime past. Maybe it won’t be unoccupied for long; a different sign says the ground floor is for rent.


Around the corner on a lonely stretch of West Street, this coffee sign remains high above two empty, rundown storefronts—one of which was presumably a lively coffee shop not long ago.


A store solely devoted to school supplies? The old-school signage can be seen behind the new awning for the Pure Perfection Beauty Salon on Utica Avenue in Crown Heights.

You don’t come across these too often anymore, a store name spelled out in tile amid a geometric design at the entrance. But it’s a charming old-timey New York thing.


The people who ran Hecht’s, once at 363 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, must have agreed. The antique store there now, Sterling Place, luckily didn’t do away with it.

What remains of vintage city store signs

April 16, 2012

They’ve mostly been painted over or blocked out of sight by newer, flashier signs. But these artifacts from an older New York refuse to be silenced.

On Broadway and 181st Street is a big corner bodega called Smile Deli. But lurking underneath the green awning is the 1970s-esque 181st Street Food Market sign, with its old-school 7-Up logo.

I have no idea how far back this sign for a Hebrew bookstore goes. It looks like the place, on Ludlow Street, was abandoned, the sign left to deteriorate.

The Hello Deli on West 53rd Street, made famous by David Letterman who tapes his show around the corner, had a previous incarnation as the Preview Sandwich Shop. I love the 1960s typeface.

Above the sign for Bite, at 211 East 14th Street, is the faded lettering for what looks like a locksmith or hardware store. “We make keys names plates and mail boxes” it tells us. But there’s no name or other clue to its history.

A ghost of a coffee shop on 21st Street

April 16, 2010

The city needs more coffee shops—the old-fashioned, swivel-stool, formica-counter places that stayed open all night and let you linger for hours without ever informing you about where you coffee was grown and if it was fair trade.

I bet this place, on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, was that kind. The owners of the deli that now occupies the spot just took their current sign down for some reason, revealing the old-school coffee shop sign behind it.

This should be their permanent sign, no?

More signs that have seen better days

June 1, 2009

Dirt, dust, missing or crooked letters—these old yet charming store signs continue to hang on and get their message across.

Heather’s Treasures (free lay-a-way!) is on East 23rd Street:


Best Housekeeping has been on Avenue A since 1924 (no idea about the age of the sign, however):


Eddie’s Wholesales has stationary goods and paper goods:


Now this sounds like a real old German beauty shop, in Yorkville, of course:


Three ways to say Deli in New York

December 11, 2008

Delicatessen signs are all over the city, some more distinctive that others. This mosiac storefront in Greenpoint has a medieval kind of touch:


I don’t know how long this vertical sign has been affixed to this Jane Street building, but the store below it hasn’t been a deli for years.












A Harlem neighborhood deli sign that has seen better days. Why Golden Gate?


Old-school signs in the Garment District

November 3, 2008

The West 30s and 40s are a gold mine of faded and forgotten store signage. “Petite Button” is still open for business off of Sixth Avenue, selling buttons and buckles:

This sign, for the long-shuttered “All Wool Clothes” on Eighth Avenue, only became visible when a contemporary store went out of business and took that sign with them. The typeface looks very 1940s:

The sign behind the sign

October 3, 2008

New York is a city of layers, with the remnants of older store signs visible beneath the current one, like on Minetta Street, where The Fat Black Pussycat gave way to a modern Mexican restaurant called Panchito’s:

Stuyvesant Deli, on 14th Street in the East Village, has an old 70s-style sign, plus two newer ones:

On 125th Street, behind an ordinary nail salon, are the faded remains of a record/cassette shop. Looks like it says Spivey:

Signs that have seen better days

July 21, 2008

They’ve weathered the elements year in and year out, dutifully attracting customers while snazzy new signs go up all around them. Let’s celebrate some of New York’s peeling, fading, rusting mid-century store emblems.

Maurice Stewart is on Fulton Street in Brooklyn:

Phil’s Stationery offers “Zerox” copies in Midtown:

Sunset Park’s Good Foo. There’s something poetic about this one: