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

Posted on: May 27th, 2015 at 9:10 am by
This image has been archived or removed.

[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…

This gallery has been removed.

Recent Stories

Sheldon Silver, Disgraced Assembly Speaker from LES, Dies at 77

Sheldon Silver, the disgraced powerhouse of the New York State Assembly, and native Lower East Sider, whose career was toppled by a 2015 corruption conviction, died yesterday. He was 77. According to the New York Times, Silver, who maintained a residence at Hillman Houses, had been imprisoned at Devens Federal Medical Center in Ayer, Massachusetts. […]

Cops: Robbers Entered Juice Press through Rivington Hotel Basement

Brazen robbers used the basement of the Hotel on Rivington to hit the Juice Press location next door, cops said. Police sources say that bandits entered the Hotel on Rivington shortly before 6:00am the morning of January 19. Gaining access to the basement, the perps then used the passageway to sneak into the adjacent Juice […]

Neighbors Rally to Help Longtime Printing Shop on Essex Street

A local letterpress printing shop – the last of its kind on the Lower East Side (nay, the city) – is on hard times, but one neighbor is determined to help Y.H. Printing. Desmond Yeoh emigrated to the from Malaysia in 1989. He and his wife opened Y.H. Printing seven years later on Orchard Street […]

Seward Park Cheerleading Squad Raises $30K for Nationals Competion

When the Seward Park High School cheerleading squad qualified for the nationals back in December, the school made history. The Lower East Side institution is reportedly the second public high school in Manhattan to ever qualify for the grand stage. However, the obstacle in their midst was budgetary. No cash for uniforms, travel, and lodging […]

City Readies Demolition of Delancey Foot Bridge to East River Park

With each new day, the destruction of East River Park intensifies. Little is now recognizable as dozens of trees were excised and the historic amphitheater demolished. All as part of the billion-dollar coastal resiliency project. Now, time has come for the pedestrian bridge linking Delancey Street to the park, above the FDR Drive. The city […]