Disappearing Face of New York ‘During the eight years it took James and Karla Murray to complete this project, one third of the stores they featured have closed’

- Newsweek

47 Responses

  1. Mike Frazer

    I’m intrigued by ‘Barney Greengrass The Sturgeon King”…..what does Barney sell ?
    Fishing Tackle ? Caviar? Sturgeons ?

    • Red cardinal

      That’s a great name isn’t it.

      “Look over there. That’s Barney Greengrass…The Sturgeon King”

      Brilliant. I wish I had a name like that :)

  2. Juan Ortiz

    Wow Ideal Dinettes on Knickerbocker Ave. I remember Casanova on Graham Ave- as a kid my one of neighbors use to work there, he would be outside the store front with his tailor’s tape measure draped over his neck.

  3. LouBousNLattes

    While we don’t have the lovely old storefronts here, our town has had many closures in my lifetime…I can remember many of the original businesses now long gone. Not even the new ones seem to last long…
    But losing those old beauties makes me sad.

    Thanks for those eight years of chronicling these.

  4. John Verity

    I have photographed many of these same storefronts. It’s a shame to see them disappear, but I am glad somebody has bothered to document them. So many get replaced by generic signage, made from plastic and all looking pretty much the same.
    Make sure to check out the Forgotten New York website, too:


    And Frank Jump’s signage photos:


    Ny, NY, big city of dreams ….

  5. matt carmody

    The stretch of Third Avenue below Fourteenth Street that used to house numerous pawn shops had a cachet to it that made one think back to days when such businesses represented an accepted way of surviving the ups and downs of the local economy, Now NYU student housing has taken their place.

    This is a wonderful book. Thanks.

  6. DotCotton

    @Mike Frazer: Barney Greengrass is a classic old-fashioned New York deli – it’s on the Upper Westside. Great place for brunch – the lox omelette is a specialty. I’ve been there lots of times – regular people rub elbows with Hollywood big shots.

    It’s still there.

    • Patty

      No Rick, Walter Hardware was a staple of Astoria since I can remember I lived here for 65 years….the owner recently closed and the owners had it for about a year. It is closed and being renovated.

  7. Stephen C Thurtell

    I worked for many years as a carpenter in NYC, and for so long I took for granted that I could find anything I needed, I had only to know what hardware or specialty store to go to. There was Lillien Hardware on Houston and La Guardia, with labyrinthine multi-storied aisles, and employees who knew what you were looking for or could recommend something better and knew where everything was. Same with Direct Fastening down the street, CK&L Hardware on Canal, Sturdy Nuts and Bolts in Tribeca, Dave Sanders on the Bowery and on and on and all gone. And with them not only the rich uniqueness of New York, but one’s ability to solve a problem quickly, be it with an odd part or obscure tool. Now it’s Home Depot on 23rd that doesn’t have anything you’re looking for and employees with no depth and knowledge. Now it’s the internet, so remaining tool supply houses can’t afford to stock every tool – they don’t move fast enough because they can be purchased on line. And gone are those wonderful people with decades of experience. And gone is the ability to be creative the way one could only be in New York with all those resources at your fingertips – a fast walk, a subway ride, a cab ride away, with the city in your ears in your eyes in your heart.

    • Dave

      My sister owned a place in Queens for a while. There are a lot of hardware stores but surprisingly few with what you need for a building from about the 1930s. They have everything I need for my Suburban Sacramento house (1950s-drywall) which isn’t helpful when I’m across the country trying to help out my sister.

  8. Victoria Larkin

    Oh I miss New York, the one Stephen is talking about, the one where anything was findable, and the people in each store knew what they had and could tell you all about it, the one with flavour and personality, my old lover, my old home…

  9. Jeff in Germany

    Thanks for posting this, yah even in the small town here in Germany there used to be a butcher, baker, grocery store, variety store, post office, bank, all have closed because people would rather do everything in the city that is close by soo the local shops go under, and if you can believe it little shops went under here and there isn’t even yet a Walmart, Staples, Costco, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc.. just a few larger type stores in the city anyhow.. its sad to see that the stores with personality in your article have gone under, people just don’t seem to appretiate the personal touch anymore, even with my business people prefer to email me rather then talk, automated, its going to be a wierd wierd world with no heart eventually, think about dating, eventually everyone will have to be pre screened, you’ll take a sample of hair from the person to be analyzed to find out if they fit your breeding needs, you’ll do a full background check online criminal, education, job history, income, etc.. get ready for it…

    • Charles Valoroso

      Very interesting insight to these photographs. I think technology has gone too far and made humans adapt to its programming of the masses via the products that they market to the consumer. The simplicity of life is a thing of the past. Our lives are becoming more complicated and it really does not have to be that way. Places like Greenwich Village and similar neighborhoods are now part of the the global village.

  10. Boat Captain

    I remember Frank Bee’s as a kid growing up in the Bronx. I wonder if that picture is the same place, it certainly looks just like it from my memory. On Tremont Ave.

  11. Andy C

    My friend used to own Zig Zag Records! That Pastosa is on Richmond Road in staten Island and it’s not going anywhere soon, they have two locations in Staten Island and both are thriving!

    • BOBO

      I remember across the street from Zig-Zag records was Captain Video, where you rent VCR tapes.

  12. Anthony B

    Not all shops go out of business- in fact, in my Cobble Hill neighborhood, all five of the Starbucks within a 4-block radius are thriving, and the four Dunkin’ Donuts I pass on the way to the subway are alive and well- plus, the three neighborhood Rite-Aids, the two CVS, and the three Chase banks are all doing really well. And a Five-Guys is due to open soon!

    So I don’t get what all the doom-and-gloom is about.

  13. Fred Gardner

    Sometimes I miss the IRT
    How sic transit gloria mundi
    BART can take you home, baby
    It can’t take me…

    In the New York subways
    they used to have vending machines
    selling sweet gum for a penny
    some kind of Juicy Fruit and Dentyne
    Do they still exist
    or are they just
    victims of progress?

    Indented into the girders
    with mirrors so you could see
    your face in one your way to school
    or work and both were me
    Do they exist
    or are they just
    victims of progress?

    Did junkies rip off the miras?
    Did the lumpen loot all the coins?
    Did artists with spraycans paint their desperate i-
    dentities all over them?
    Do they exist
    or are they just
    victims of progress?

    There were signs of enameled
    one-inch tile
    conductors who’d actually call
    Christopher Street, Sheridan Square
    Houston, Cortland Wall…
    Do the exist
    or are they just
    victims of progress?

    Yeah, sometimes I miss the IND
    The purple A, the olive F the downtown C
    C BART can take you home baby
    It can’t take me…

    Fred Gardner, Alameda CA

    • Dave

      At least BART is better Light Rail (none of the advantages of rail with all of the disadvantages of a Bus except you can’t drive it anywhere).

      Light Rail is just stupid.

      The Sacramento Region could benefit from a BART type system going up the US50 corridor to Placerville (El Dorado County) and the I-80 corridor to Auburn (Placer County).

  14. Lacy

    My dad is an originator of sign font, I grew up with it an always loved to watch him paint the letters. I sent him this link to see what he thought and this is what he said:
    “Maries Beauty lounge was a standard sign look for a lot of beauty slash furrier type places. I use to use the bicycle sign type helvetica with caps type lettering style. Nice stuff Lace!”

    Recently I found some old photographs of his work and was able to put it up on a website for him:

  15. Drawmark

    I grew up in NY/NJ and moved out west 20 years ago. I have only had the opportunity to get back a handful of times over the years, and last week was one of those times. As much as the city has changed over the years, buildings and businesses replaced with newer, bigger, sleeker models, my eye on this last trip was continually drawn to the old and familiar signs, and typefaces hiding in plain sight amongst the shock of the new.

    Not sure whether this was related to pangs of nostalgia, or the mere fact that the hand drawn/hand hewn signage of yore just plain sticks out like a beacon of authenticity in an era of sameness. Great post and site.

  16. michelle

    oh my gosh..i grew up and lived over miller’s pharmacy (173 broad street, town of stapleton, staten island) from birth thru age 24…
    my mother lived there for a total of 54 years…in an apartment that my grandfather took “temporarily” so that he could live next door to his store…there were 4 apartments above the pharmacy…all 4 were walk up railroad flats…all were 4 rooms in a row.my growing up years there have given me countless cherished memories….
    thank you for sharing these wonderful photos of the face of NY that is SO familiar to me…

  17. Laura

    Dear Stephen, Kove Brothers is still on 7th at 21st. Taught me everything I learned as a girl super!

  18. Frances

    The Optimo cigars place is located in Rockaway Park, and I used to go in there almost every day after school when I was a teenager because they sell the best candy and magazines. I bought my first pack of cigarettes there too, when I turned 18!

  19. Marie

    I love these kinds of facades, would like to know what preceded these… THESE KINDS OF PLACES ARE ONE OF THE TOP REASONS I LOVE NEW YORK CITY. i REMEMBER WHEN TIMES SQUARE WAS KINDA, WELL, WAS SEEDY. One Hispanic place in the pics. looks like a hybrid, but it looks okay anyways. The problem is the corporations and super-cheap developers and builders. Plus, how many people can afford to open a storefront in NYC anymore? Thanks retronaut!!!!

  20. Dezz

    This is a fantastic book. I bought it for my wife and she remembers a lot of these places… She took me to see the Mars Bar back in 2005…

  21. adam

    Wow! Great shots. I live across the street from that Chinatown fish market :)

  22. smartass

    Interestingly, the world was perfectly fine without all that cheap Chinese crap, without our stupid malls and without constant commercials on TV and on youtube telling us to go to those stupid malls to buy this Cninese crap.

    We must go back to the 1950s!!!

  23. andrea jones torres

    the picture with all the magazines… O, is shown at the bottom right hand corner.. so that would mean it was taken very recently. Oprah ablaze on the front cover.

  24. Joseph Reilly

    I remember Millers Pharmacy. I had gone to High School with one of the owners sons. I moved out to Staten Island from ’75 to ’77 and it was still there then. I have no idea what happened to my school friend.

  25. Jason T Sparks

    Well, my cover pictures for Facebook for the next year or so have just been found in one fell swoop. Which is nice.
    Note to self: find out what a fell swoop is.


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