09 March 2014

The Mystery of Jade Fountain Liquor Corporation

The Lower East Side has lost a great many of its mercantile landmarks over the past 20 years of gentrification. And I'm not suggested that Jade Fountain Liquor Corporation—a grungy little booze shop on Delancey east of Essex—can replace the likes of Ratner's or Gertel's. But, hey, it is nearly a hundred years old!


According to the patchwork sign—which says, among many things, "As Old As Hills"—the store was was found in 1920-something. (I can't tell what the last number, now fallen off, was.) Which is, of course, absolute nonsense. No liquor store in the U.S. was founding in 1920-anything, because Prohibition was in effect from 1920 to 1933. Nor is it likely that the shop has existed all that time as Jade Fountain. Not in this location, which was solidly Jewish until the 1960s or so. Chinatown didn't start to encroach on Delancey and Essex until the late 1980s

So what can we find out about the address of the place, 123 Delancey? In 1901, there was a five-tenement building here with a store on the ground floor, which doesn't fit the description of the current structure. (Though the store WAS a saloon.) By 1980, this storefront had been empty for two years, when some renegade artists took it over and put up a show. So, surely Jade Mountain hasn't been in this space for very long. Thought the business itself may have existed as Jade Mountain at different addresses for may years.

Let's just say this, then: the store and storefront itself is certainly old. You don't see that sort of graceful curving glass facade on any stores past the '50s. Inside, it's a plexiglass deal, with all the bottles walled off from the customer. The usual crime-fighting ghetto set-up. But, beyond the glass, the bottles are lined up on shelves in wooden cabinets that look 75 years old. Someone did business at this address a lot time ago. Maybe they sold liquor, maybe they didn't.

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