05 June 2008

Old and New

A building on Ninth Avenue near 52nd Street exhibits an interesting combination of old and new New York. It's an odd L-shaped structure with frontage both on Ninth and 52nd. On the Ninth Avenue side, I noticed that what was the Janovic paint store has spruced up its facade with some new Benjamin Moore signage that's about as sleek as Benjamin Moore signage is going to get.

On the old, unwashed 52nd Street side, meanwhile, is a much older, metal version of a Moore sign, as well as something reading "S. Wolf Since 1869."

So which is it? Fancy modern Benjamin Moore or old-world S. Wolf? Well, both, in a way. As I understand it, Janovic (which was no spring chicken either, having begun business in 1888) bought the S. Wolf paint concern back in 1987. The two paint families had known each other for many years. Janovic sold to homeowners. Wolf helped supply paint for large ships and skyscrapers, including the Empire State. Finally, old Stephen Wolf—whose only son was a London theatre critic (!) who didn't want to work in paint—decided to sell. As part of the deal, Janovic got the Ninth Avenue building. But they left the 52nd Street signs, perhaps out of deference.

A few years agos, the Janovics sold out and the store is now part of the Moore chain, which is owned by Warren Buffett, Mr. Richest Man in America. But still the Wolf sign stays. The 52nd Street facade is additionally one of the most interesting, oddest and more ornate in the neighborhood.

The S., by the way, stands for Simon, Stephen's grandfather.

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