09 April 2014

Who is Louis Zuflacht?

Louis Zuflacht. What a name. Hard to forget. Especially when it's in large metal letters (formerly lit by neon), in an ostentatious font, on the side of a building.

That's the name that has graced the building at the corner of Suffolk and Stanton Streets for many decades now. A clothier, Zuflacht hasn't done business out of this storefront in a generation or two. But subsequent occupants of the address—either out of deference to the lovely signage, or out of laziness—have left Louis' name up there, ensuring that the former proprietor has not entirely passed from public memory.

I've passed by the sign dozens of times and never bothered to look up his story, though I've always been intrigued. It seems the right time to correct that error since the shop is unoccupied at present (after being everything from an art gallery to a video gamer hangout), so, it could be argued, 154 Stanton Street belongs to Louis Zuflacht more now than in has in many years.

Louis was born in either 1881 or 1883 in New York. He died in 1986, having lived more than a century. His place of business was a men's haberdashery. His sons Jack and Joe joined the business and ran it for a while. He apparently had a partner, named Harry A. Schechter, who died in 1962, according to an obit in the Times. When the neighborhood went south, so did they—literally, to Florida. At some point, the City owned the building.

The building was erected in the 1860s. In 1939, this was a men's clothing store called Tress & Tress, so Zuflacht must have come along soon after, judging by the style of the sign. (An electrical sign application was filed with the City in 1942.) Still, it's possible there were two shops at this address at one point. It was bought by artist Denise Carbonell in 1984 for $340,000. She converted it into a store that sold her handmade quilts as well as vintage clothes and furniture. She lived on the second floor. It was then bought by Kristen Copham in 2008 for $3.28 million. Copham turned it into a gallery.


T.E. Rinaldi said...

The sign is in my book, New York Neon. In my research, I established an installation date of 1942 for the sign, based on DOB records. This makes it one of the very last neon signs installed in New York before the war effort pretty much put the city's neon shops on hiatus for the duration. I also learned that the building had been a typical 5- or 6-story tenement and was cut down to its present taxpayer height around the time the sign went up.

Mitch said...

Makes one wonder what Mr. Zuflacht would have thought of all of it. Here it is 30 years after he died at a ripe old age, and his sign is on the internet (what would someone born in 1883 make of that?)

One can always hope that the next inhabitant of the store realizes his/her great good luck in inheriting that sign and leaves it up.

denise carbonell said...

my name is denise carbonell....i did buy the building for the price you listed,and after living in 154 stanton street for 20 plus years,i had to sell the property because i could not afford to maintain the property,or to give it the care it needed...real estate rich,cash poor.i did sell the building,but not for the sum listed,nor to the person listed---the property was flipped several times by unscrupulous real estate agents between my selling and the price you list.i was the third owner of this beautiful property,and i was the one who maintained it to the best of my ability for over 20 years....it was a very sad day when i realized i simply couldn't afford to live in the place i loved so much anymore...i would love to share more of my story if you are ever so inclined to listen---believe me...it's a doozy.

Howard Huges said...

Denise, you must tell your story here!

Josh said...

It's now a gallery that pays homage to its history. http://smartclothesgallery.com/

I hope it stays with us for a long time to come. It's a real beauty.

Connie Schulze said...

I just googled this name because I have a sturdy old wooden advertising clothes hanger from his shop. It has his name and the address printed on it, and I was curious. Neat to know it's a tiny part of NYC history!