29 January 2008

But Where's Goodman?

In the middle of noisome Koreatown, at 32 W. 32nd Street, if you crane you neck a bit, you'll see written on the cornice the very posh name of "Bergdorf." Anyone who's lived in New York City for a while knows that name, but associates it with the high hat crowd on Fifth Avenue. This narrow structure was the famed department store's second location, it's first being on Fifth around 19th.

The reason it just says Bergdorf is because Edwin Goodman, while a prized employee and partial partner, had not yet bought out the high-living Frenchman Herman Bergdorf, who liked drinking wine a lot more than working. Goodman had convinced the distracted Bergdorf that the shop, if it were to survive, had to follow the fashionable crowd as it moved north. But he left for his honeymoon in Europe, allowing Bergdorf to choose the new location on his own. Rather than take a Fifth Avenue address, Bergdorf thought he'd save some change by opting for a cheaper side street. Goodman hit the roof when he found out, and soon gave Herman the heave-ho. Bergdorf was more than happy to take the money retire and move back to Paris.

It's a mangy old building now. Amazing it's survived all these years, cornice and all.

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