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

Elizabeth Street Garden will be Bulldozed and Redeveloped by Penrose Development

Now that election season is over, there is finally movement toward the controversial destruction and redevelopment of the Elizabeth Street Garden. The city will apparently announce today that it’s chosen the developer to carry out this task. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development awarded the contract for the seven-story project to Penrose Development. The […]

Do Big Belly Trash Compacting Bins Contribute to Litter Problem?

This photo says it all, really. Namely that those Big Belly receptacles might not actually be working to plan. The multi-thousand-dollar trash bins began appearing across the streets of Chinatown and the Lower East Side earlier this fall, but are they helping or just part of the problem? Despite the best of intentions, an overflowing Big […]

Open 3 Months, ‘Brigitte’ Seeks Basement Club on Ludlow

Of course this would happen. Open nigh on three months, Canal Street bistro Brigitte is already angling to open a basement club. Naturally. Ownership this week submitted a dressed-up application to alter its liquor license to include bar and seats in the cellar. Blueprints show communal table seating to accommodate twenty-four additional patrons, plus a […]

Hill & Dale Partners with ‘Thai Direct Bowls’ on Allen Street

Hill & Dale is now open for takeaway Thai lunch options. The Allen Street watering hole last month struck a partnership with Thai Direct Bowls, a startup that offers “authentic meal kits, healthy lunch bowls and delicious food products.” It’s sub-leasing the space from the golden-age-of-radio-themed bar during daytime hours (until 4pm). Patrons can choose […]

8-Story Commercial Development Planned for Chinatown ‘Diamond Center’ on the Bowery

The Chinatown diamond district is getting cut once again. It wasn’t enough that the Diamond Corner at Hester Street and the Bowery was sacked and replaced with a Bank of America branch. 76 Bowery is coming down, too. And like its neighbor one door to the north, it’ll be redeveloped into an eight-story commercial building. […]