Random historical NYC photos of hard-working people and their push cart businesses, made me think of my Maternal Grandmother’s side (later the proprietor of Cooks Falls Lodge) of the family. My Great Grandfather was in the Russian Army. They ventured to America arriving in NYC., living and working toward building their future with big dreams. Leaving Russia where they had owned a grain business, a candle shop and an Antique store. He traveled on a vessel carrying dreams to America, with his brother, crossing the ocean in 1904, with the family arriving a year after (many men came first). His work brought him into some of the worst conditions in early NYC. Providing for his family, pushing towards his dreams for them, saving enough money to open a hardware store (which had different locations, survived a fire, during 83 years in lower Manhattan, the final store opened in 1945). It carried everything you could possibly imagine and they had long-standing customers. It made me smile because…the family first ran a push cart biz when they came to America. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!! The store was called Alexander’s Buyers Market Hardware at 60 Reade Street. NY. NY. (1993 NY. Times article to follow and those random photos.)
STRICTLY BUSINESS; A Cluttered Treasure-Trove Closes
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: January 11, 1993
A customer might wander into Alexander’s Hardware, peruse its marvels for a wondrous lunch hour, then pick up a couple nuts and bolts from one of thousands of bins.
“No charge,” Arthur Alexander would say. “I’ll get you next time.”
No more next times. After 83 years, the bafflingly cluttered emporium at 60 Reade Street in lower Manhattan is in the final spasms of closing. It is going the way of other old-fashioned Manhattan hardware stores, places like Kamenstein’s on Third Avenue at Ninth Street, Tinker’s Paradise over on Park Row, several places on Canal Street.
Rents are too high, hours too long, profit margins too slim. His two grown children shun working 60 hours a week in a family business. Mr. Alexander will soon be 68, the age at which his father, who never retired from the store, died.
The future, Mr. Alexander says with no rancor, belongs to outlets selling nuts and bolts in cellophane bubbles for a dollar or so a throw, not mom-and-pop joints that think nothing of giving a couple away. One Last Bargain
Alexander’s was officially closed Jan. 1 to make way for a shoe store, but the doors are still open for a couple days to get rid of as much stuff as possible. So devotees continue to wander in, looking for that last bargain, a suddenly remembered necessity, an inconceivable about-face in the march of time.
There was Richard Genovese, a research analyst, who once found a period lock for a 60-year-old closet on a dusty shelf. “The city has lost one of its treasures,” he said.
“It’s like digging around in my grandfather’s attic,” said Chris Piazza, a sculptor who has been spending her days — and around $2,000 so far — buying interesting things. One find: 200 foot-shaped treadles for old-fashioned sewing machines she intends to use in a whimsical model of the Eiffel Tower.
The place has been so much more than a hardware store. In sorting through things, workers have found snake skins, brassieres from the 1940’s, a few mottled fur coats. They have sifted through thousands of flexible screwdrivers used to screw around corners, tens of thousands of mother-of-pearl buttons for old-fashioned high-topped shoes for women, bayonets from the Spanish-American War. More Than Just Hardware
Amid the ball-bearings and washers, they have stumbled upon inexplicable surprises.
What did anyone ever want with lipstick that looks and tastes like eggnog?
“This has always been more than a hardware store,” Mr. Alexander said.
Mr. Alexander has followed firmly in the footsteps of his father, Samuel, in buying big quantities of things nobody wants, then finding novel ways to market them. Customs auctions, bankruptcy sales and the like were the Alexander’s hunting ground.
Samuel Alexander once latched on to 250,000 World War I wooden ammunition boxes and sold them as any number of things. Many went as shoeshine boxes after he hammered cast-iron stands on top.
Arthur Alexander acquired 10,000 pounds of body trim intended for 1939 Chrysler Airflow automobiles. A sign over a huge pile of them suggested the strips would make terrific stakes for tomato plants. Another time he became the proud owner of 45,000 aluminum heating elements used in making crock pots, which had come and gone. The elements moved briskly as refrigerator defrosting coils. Perfect for Doghouse Doors
Currently, he is scrambling to unload 70,000 hinges for the music holders on pianos. Clearly, the perfect thing for doghouse doors.
Sprouting from a successful pushcart, the store has occupied several downtown locations. “America’s Smallest Hardware Store in America’s Largest City,” said an early advertisement. In 1949, its reopening after a fire prompted a loyalist to write that he “would certainly have missed his daily browsing of the very interesting store.”
Though Mr. Alexander is going to make more money as a landlord than he ever made as a merchant, he acknowledges that he is saying goodbye to a piece of his family. Both his parents worked in the store, as did his younger brother, Lawrence. Tears flow down his face when he tells of Lawrence being diagnosed as having what proved to be fatal polio on the same day they moved into their present store in 1945.
One of the storekeeper’s stories concerns a pair of suspicious characters who for an extended period came in on Friday evenings to buy crowbars. Finally, Mr. Alexander informed the police. The men were arrested with a trunkful of used crowbars just after knocking off a safe. Fearful that the burglars might find out who fingered them, Mr. Alexander began carrying his licensed pistol everywhere.
He has also gained wisdom, including the unshakeable conviction that vacuum cleaners can always be fixed, no matter what. “They’re built to last forever,” he said.
But it is Mr. Arthur Alexander’s human touch that will be most sorely missed by his regulars — how he would know the history of each item, the patient and intricate way he would instruct a customer in the use of some esoteric object.
“It was wonderful to know you all these years,” Pearl Heller of Washington Heights told him, recalling the slender candle holders on which he years ago gave her a good price.
Photo: Arthur Alexander, 67, posing with vintage military paraphernalia in his hardware store, which is closing. (Jack Manning/The New York Times)