Woodhaven's past on one block of Jamaica Avenue
by Ed Wendell
Aug 30, 2016 | 3618 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A walk down Jamaica Avenue in 1976. In the background from left to right is Brown's Jewelers, Woodhaven Records, Woodhaven Bake Shop, Karl Ehmer, Geller's and Schenkein's Carpets.
A walk down Jamaica Avenue in 1976. In the background from left to right is Brown's Jewelers, Woodhaven Records, Woodhaven Bake Shop, Karl Ehmer, Geller's and Schenkein's Carpets.
slideshow
Legendary butcher Joseph Young's ad as it appeared in an April 1934 edition of the Leader-Observer.
Legendary butcher Joseph Young's ad as it appeared in an April 1934 edition of the Leader-Observer.
slideshow
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society will be taking residents on a 100-year virtual tour of Jamaica Avenue, detailing the rich and interesting history of one block of our famed shopping strip.

The presentation starts at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, September 6, at the Avenue Diner, 91-06 Jamaica Avenue. The presentation is free and everyone is welcome to attend.

The Society has spent several months performing deep research on the north side of one block of Jamaica Avenue from Woodhaven Boulevard to 91st Street.

Starting at Dunkin’ Donuts and ending at McDonald’s, the research has uncovered a comprehensive list of stores in each building going back over a century.

Along the way, Woodhaven residents will be introduced to some of the interesting businesses that dominated our avenue for several decades, yet have been gone so long they have faded from our memories.

You’ll learn about “Smiling” Joe Young, who operated a butcher shop for over a half-century at 92-15 Jamaica Avenue, where Prima Pizza sits today and where Carlo’s Pizza operated for over 35 years.

Come and find out more about Mr. Young and the traditional public outings he sponsored for the community to enjoy.

You’ll learn about Fred J. Pfiefer, the beloved jeweler who operated out of 92-07 Jamaica Avenue for five decades before retiring and paving the way for the equally beloved Brown’s Jewelers, which continued for about another four decades.

Between the two stores, they sold jewelry at that location for over 90 years!

You’ll learn about the Geller family, who operated a men’s haberdashery shop specializing in hats, shirts and neckwear at 92-01 Jamaica Avenue into the roaring 20s, and then moved next door to 91-17 Jamaica Avenue and managed a linen store for the next 40 years.

Both properties would go on to have their fortunes tied together in the 1970s, as Tony’s (and the 7 Brothers) Meat Market. Today it is Baby Blue.

You’ll also learn about some of the large chain stores that used to operate along this stretch of the avenue. For example, did you know that there used to be a Bohack’s between Woodhaven Boulevard and 91st Street on Jamaica Avenue? We’ll not only show you where, we’ll show you a picture of it.

We’ll show you where one of the most popular five-and-dime stores on Jamaica Avenue used to sit. You might think we’re talking about Woolworth’s, but we had a different popular five-and-dime in mind.

And unlike Woolworth’s, this business is not only still operating, but has developed into one of the largest retail giants in the world, as well as one of the largest philanthropic institutes.

Speaking of Woolworth’s, you might remember this classic store sitting right in the middle of this block, but it actually got its start on the corner of Jamaica and Columbia avenues (91st Street) where McDonald’s sits today.

That corner lot is where we end the tour, and it’s a doozy. Older residents might remember the many years that Shopper’s Corner did business at that location. But we’ve traced the tenants back through a carpet store, grocer, and dry goods store that was so popular and beloved in the 1910s that the corner itself was nicknamed “Old Reliable.”

And in addition to the stores, you’ll learn a bit about the people who used to live and work here.

You’ll learn about the chemist who had an interesting connection to General Custer. You’ll learn about the two young men who were killed in different World Wars, and whose names can be found on two of the Woodhaven monuments honoring their sacrifices.

And throughout this remarkable story will be your favorite newspaper, The Leader-Observer, which has documented our community’s history for over a century.

Everyone who comes out to the Avenue Diner next Tuesday will not only walk away with a greater understanding of our community’s past, but also a nice handout detailing the names and locations of nearly 100 different stores that have done business along this stretch over the past century, everything from toggery to apothecary to head shops!

And as we do at every meeting on the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Avenue Diner, we will encourage attendees to share their memories with each other. We hope to see you there.

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