Deli, Wine, and Candy: How One Photo Captures Classic LES Stores at Their Height [HISTORY]

Posted on: March 10th, 2016 at 9:26 am by
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This photo from 1954 perfectly encapsulates the immigrant Lower East Side of the middle twentieth century. Everything about it is great, from the legendary businesses to the peddlers and fedora-wearing elder photobombing the foreground.

You’re looking at the northwest corner of Rivington and Essex Streets. Bernstein’s Delicatessen (#110) is sandwiched between Lipschutz Kosher Wines (#112) and Saperstein’s (#108). Also note the ice cream man and his cart stationed on the sidewalk.

Sixty-two years on, none of the stores pictured here survived. The Bernstein’s Deli you see was already here some two decades before this photo was shot. Two years later, owner Solomon Bernstein expanded to include what would eventually become the iconic Schmulka Bernstein’s, which pretty much invented the Chinese food on Christmas phenomenon.

Here’s a bonus shot of Schmulka Bernstein’s on Essex:

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Schmulka Bernstein’s in 1978, Photo: Museum of the City of NY

At 108 Rivington was Saperstein’s, a sweets and appetizing store that opened here in 1903. The Times noted that the space was perennially “stocked to the ceiling with dried fruits, exotic foods, fresh halvah, and smoked fish.” The business lasted eighty years until second generation owner Solomon Saperstein decided to retire at age 80 in June 1983. There was no one in the family to take over the business.

Economy Candy, founded in 1937 around the corner on Essex, moved here two years later in 1985. Its original function was a discount shoe shop, the candy stand was the biggest draw. Fashion purchases weren’t number one for those hit hardest by the economic downturn. So, founder Morris “Moishe” Cohen, who passed away last year at 92, pivoted the business into a sweets shop.

Sadly, there’s not that much out there about Lipschutz Kosher Wines. We came across a handful of Passover Hagadot that were sold on eBay, but attributed to 119 Norfolk Street (their home as late as 1975).

Help us fill in the blanks with them!

Verlaine, Fat Baby, and the mom-and-pop Farmacia occupy the other spaces now.

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