Tracing the Lower East Side Roots of Beckenstein’s [HISTORY]

Posted on: May 27th, 2015 at 9:10 am by

[Photo: Picsamerica]

[Photo: Picsamerica]

Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been called many things, but never a fashion center. Yet it is fashion in the form of inexpensive fabrics that lures shoppers to this neighborhood better known for blintzes than ball gowns. -New York Times; June 5, 1961.

Between the ghost advertising and left-for-dead store signage, its remnants continue to define the charming tone of the block. Even though Beckenstein’s is long gone, its presence is still felt, likely contributing to soaring real estate prices on the block.

Twelve years. It’s been twelve years since the legendary S. Beckenstein fabric company relocated from Orchard Street to the garment district on 39th Street. Leather and hat vendors then took up residence beneath the awesome brick advertisement that pretty much defines the old-world nature of the block.

Like so many other Lower East Side success stories, this company was one born of immigrant toil. Polish patriarch Samuel Beckenstein started the business in 1919 with naught but a pushcart and eventually jumped into a retail store. Business flourished during the Depression years when the company provided custom trousers when they became too threadbare to wear. According to the official website, this service ultimately became the inspiration behind the 1932 song “Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long,” later popularized by Barbra Streisand. The store would later occupy two addresses on Orchard, one for menswear yardage, the other for remnants.

These days, Beckenstein operates under a slightly modified namesake that includes “Fabric Czar.” However, the business remains a family endeavor, currently under the auspices of fourth generation ownership – grandsons Neal Boyarsky, President and CEO of the firm, and his son Jonathan.

Running a recent errand for shmata found us inside the midtown digs. The space is well broken-in, featuring plenty of random old-world ephemera, including newspaper clippings, old-school cash register, boxing gloves, and vintage NBA jerseys. It’s worth heading up there for a look…

Recent Stories

Clayton Patterson Revisits the Pyramid Club with ‘Portraits’ Exhibit

The Pyramid Club of yesteryear is revived, albeit temporarily. Indeed, prolific photographer and activist Clayton Patterson is showcasing his documentation of an era rife with struggling artists immersed in a culturally diverse neighborhood at its peak of creativity. His photos of the scene are often considered a pioneering record of the evolution of drag in […]

CW Pencil Enterprise Reopens on Orchard Street this Friday

The so-called “purveyors of superior graphite” are readying their illustrious return to the Lower East Side. CW Pencil Enterprise just announced that the store will resume retail operations at the new Orchard Street digs this Friday. The change of scenery was owed to interior remodeling at its old Forsyth Street location. Renovations reportedly created a […]

‘Stranger Things’ Lights up Delancey Street

It’s T-minus ten days until Stranger Things returns for a second season. Last week, an intricate billboard of same appeared at the mouth of the Williamsburg Bridge on Delancey Street. Above the low-rise retail strip that houses Coco bubble tea and the endangered Happy Wok Chinese restaurant, among others. The advert includes profile cutouts of the […]

About that Bronx Zoo ‘Bootique’ on Allen Street

Allen Street has a new “Bootique” on its hands. Well, had. The Bronx Zoo spent the weekend promoting the month-long “Boo at the Zoo” Halloween festival with a pop-up experience at 91 Allen Street. The banner remains atop the textured marquee as a continuous advertisement. Temporarily at least. Boo at the Zoo runs through October […]

Construction Commences on 12-Story Luxury Rentals at Former Moscot HQ on Delancey Street

The northeast corner of Orchard and Delancey Streets is getting boxed in as we speak. Indeed, after many months of neglect – the fence itself was constantly falling down – construction is set to commence on a shiny 12-story luxury phallus. Plywood supports were installed yesterday afternoon around the sidewalk perimeter of the 86 Delancey […]