Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Finding a Bargain under a Bridge

This post also appears on Fashion Herald.

I LOVE dollar stores, especially Jack's. It's chaotic for sure (I have to be in the mood for an adventure), but there are great deals on a huge variety of merchandise. The first Jack's was opened at 16 East 40th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. In 1994 Jack opened a second store on the first floor of 110 West 32nd Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, and three years later, a closeout retail store called Jack's World, on the 2nd and 3rd floors in the same building. Here is 110 West 32nd Street in 1912 -- it's the middle building with the sexy cornice and Penn Station in the background to the west.

Photo: MCNY
The photo above was taken just after the completion of its neighbor to the west, known then as the Cuyler Building, and later as the Gimbels Administration Building, and even later, as one host to the Gimbels Traverse, or skybridge (more on that later). As for the "Jack's" building -- visible below to the left of the skybridge -- it was probably built in the early 1900s.

Manhattan, West 32nd Street, b/t Sixth Avenue & Seventh

According to  Walter Grutchfield's extremely informative website on New York City wall signs, 14 to 42, the building was occupied by a company called Alliance Press from about 1907 to 1938, and Protective Ventilator Co. from 1910-1916.  In 1916, Willoughby's Camera Stores purchased the building, setting up a much-loved shop on the ground floor. The camera and photography store (one of NYC's oldest) was there until 1994, bringing us full circle to Jack's. Again, 14 to 42 gives a concise history of Willoughby's, so I'm not sure I need to.  I can, via the MCNY photo collection, contribute a Willoughby's window from 1945:

Photo: MCNY


  1. Thanks so much for this post. Your photograph of the Cuyler Building (new Gimbels Admin Building) contains something that I have been looking for for a number of years... I have long known that the building which houses Jack's Joke Shop was the long-time home of "Stikeman & Co. NY, Bookbinders", but I have never found a period photograph with any reference to that firm. So imagine my surprise... In the photo of the Cuyler Building, visible on the left end of its neighbor (110 W32nd), is a large painted sign for Stikeman and Co, who occupied the top floor. I found your blog by searching for the Gimbel's Bridge, hoping I might turn up other period photos of the area. Thanks very much for not only posting the photos, but for writing so thoroughly about the subjects that a search engine had something to work with.

    Jeff Stikeman

    1. Thanks so much for the comment and compliment. I just read over your Stikeman Bindings post too. It's fascinating and the bindings are beautiful too.

      The link below it to a site that serves as a directory of directories, and might have something to offer in the way of company information (if you need it). It could also be a lot to sift through.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.


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