Friday, September 6, 2019

Flashback Friday fashions

EVG reader Jason Solarek spotted this on Ninth Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue yesterday. The piece of box on the street reads: "Fashions from S Klein on the Square."

Not sure how this ended up here — given that the last S. Klein closed 41 years ago. Someone cleaning out a closet... or discarding a department store box collection?

S. Klein is well-known to longtime residents. Here's a thumbnail history via Forgotten New York:

Samuel Klein founded the discount chain S. Klein in 1906, with the flagship store at Union Square East and East 14th Street, and the business eventually grew as large as 19 stores in the metropolitan area before the inevitable decline. The Union Square flagship closed in 1975.

The last of the S. Klein stores closed in 1978.

Today, the Zeckendorf Towers and the Food Emporium occupy the former S. Klein space.


Anonymous said...

Boy do I remember that store. we would take shopping trips to that store and The Mays Department Store across the street. I cant say I miss this store. I always remember it to be Dumpy and crowded.

Goggla said...

Great find!

Gojira said...

I hope they picked it up and kept it after they photographed it! In the early 1980s I found a 1950s-vintage unused glass jar of Peacock Whitening Creme in the trash at 500 East 11th Street (also scrounging a gorgeous Art Deco Electrolux turquoise vacuum cleaner with all the parts, so it was definitely a post-mortem clean-out from an elderly lady) that still had the "S. Klein on the Square" label on the box, with a price of 59 cents. Still have it on display in my bathroom. And still using the Electrolux!

Anonymous said...

Talk about hi-tech I bought my first portable transistor radio made by Emerson at this store in 1960. I believe there is now a Best Buy at that corner and I doubt anyone there knows what a transistor is.

bllue glass said...

great photos. such a big visible sky.
my first real part time job - after school - was at kleins where i picked up the clothing left on the floor and rehung them on the racks.
i hated it.
there was a wonderful automat on 14th street around the coroner.

Anonymous said...

Back when this was still a true neighborhood! I loved this area back then. I'd rather have May's Dept. Store, Patterson Silks, and Luchow's over what we have now.

Gojira said...

@ Anon. 10:21 - Zeckendorf Towers is now on the site of S, Klein, Best Buy is across and up 14th Street a little.

@Anon. 2:01 - I concur! And don't forget Woolworth's, with their lunch counter in the back!

Giovanni said...

My uncle was a buyer for the May Company, so sometimes I would join him sometimes to look at the competition on 14th Street. S. Kleins was actually a collection of about a dozen different buildings which were cobbled together in mish-mash similar to Beth Israel Hospital on 1st Avenue, where a few of the adjoining floors did not quite line up correctly, and upstairs it was a mess, with giant bins of clothing and stuff you had to rummage through to find the bargains. People would try on clothing over their clothes and then just leave it on the floor, and women would fight over the bargains dumped in the bins. It was a riot.

S. Kleins was like Sears and they had just about everything, from clothing to radios, TVs, refrigerators, auto supplies, motor oil, luggage, bathroom mats, all at great prices. They would buy out huge lots of inventory from other chains and have giant liquidation sales. But eventually people would only buy bargains there, and they started losing a ton of money, and were were sold to another chain and then eventually bought by McCrorys.

The end came when The May Company and Ohrbachs started giving them too much competition. Ohrbachs stood where Whole Foods is now, and generally had better, more fashionable merchandise, including knockoffs of French designer dresses at low prices, and was a more upscale place to shop for bargains, Then the recession hit, so McCrorys sold off many of the stores to EJ Korvettes. Back then everyone thought that the name stood for Eleven Jewish Korean Veterans who founded the chain, but apparently that was just a rumor. Eventually Korvettes went under too, and so did Ohrbachs.

Samuel Klein’s 14th Street flagship store closed in 1975 and was empty for a decade before Zeckendorf Towers was built, adding to the general feeling of blight and urban decay on Union Square during the 1970s recession and the early 80s. They said at the time that Zeckendorf would be affordable housing, but today a 3BR goes for $9,000, or for $5 million if you want to buy a 3BR condo. The Klein family probably should have held onto the real estate a bit longer.

EVQP said...

Looks like the top of a hat box lid...maybe from Cobblestones on that block?

EVQP said...

Or Fabulous Fanny's! Or a long time resident cleaning house...anyway, fun flashback!