A rare glimpse into Woodhaven's past
by Ed Wendell
Sep 20, 2016 | 7024 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The old Woolworth's in Woodhaven.
The old Woolworth's in Woodhaven.
When Haven 99 Cent store went out of business, the old Woolworth sign could be seen.
When Haven 99 Cent store went out of business, the old Woolworth sign could be seen.
It’s sad when a store goes out of business.

The “Everything Must Go' signs spark an interest in those looking for bargains, but such closings can sometime mean heartbreak for the owner whose business just couldn’t make it. And then a new business will step in and take its place.

In the short space of time between old and new, the awning comes down and sometimes you get a brief glimpse of our past. Such is the case this week as the Haven 99 Cent store near 91st Street closed its doors and took down their awning, revealing a piece of our history: the sign for the old F.W. Woolworth’s.

The lettering is long gone, but if you look closely you can still see the faded outline of the Woolworth name in the deep red wood that hasn’t been seen around here since the late 1970s.

Be sure you take a stroll past this location in the next few weeks to check out this little piece of our history before it gets covered again by a new awning.

In between Woolworth’s and the Haven 99 Cent store, this location was the home of the very popular Linen Barn, a gigantic store where you could get curtains and sheets.

But Woolworth’s is probably what most longtime residents of Woodhaven remember. The famed “five-and-dime” opened its first location in Utica, New York, in 1878, and at its peaks had hundreds of stores all over the United States. It eventually shut down its few remaining locations in 1997.

But though most people remember Woolworth’s at this location on Jamaica Avenue, it only opened there in the mid-1940s. Before that, this was the location of another popular five-and-dime, one you may have never heard of: S.S. Kresge’s.

The Kresge store opened in Woodhaven in the 1920s and was pretty similar to Woolworth’s, the kind of store you could walk into and purchase a variety of items for your household.

S.S. Kresge stores were very popular, with a few hundred locations around the United States.

Although it never achieved the same name recognition as Woolworth’s, Kresge’s certainly lasted a lot longer. You see, S.S. Kresge changed their name in the late 1970s to Kmart. Yes, that’s right, Woodhaven used to have its very own Kmart!

But even before Kresge’s, this spot had some interesting tenants, though it did spend its first 25 years or so as two different lots.

Starting in 1921, the left-hand side of this double lot was occupied by S&H Clothiers, which sold clothes for Men and Boys, and told prospective customers to “Look for the Large Electric Sign.”

And before that, starting in 1912, this was the home of Shaffran’s Reliable Dry Goods Store.

The right-hand side of the lot was the home of Lugt Paints & Hardware for over a decade, starting in 1914. The Lugt family boasted that they had a reputation in Woodhaven stretching back 35 years, meaning that they first started doing business here somewhere around 1880.

And before Lugt’s moved into this lot, this was the home of Heusner’s Delicatessen. However, this store had a tragic ending as the owner, Louis Heusner, invested money in a boat that burned to the waterline and faced with mounting debts, gassed himself to death in the back of the shop.

And so, as you pass by to look at the faded Woolworth’s sign, please note that this location has been the scene of triumph and tragedy, and the home of a parade of different businesses. We look forward to seeing what pops up there next.

If you like local history and looking at old pictures and news clippings, you’d really like the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society’s meeting at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at the Avenue Diner, 91-06 Jamaica Avenue.

And keep in mind that the 1 p.m. lecture series begins again next week on Wednesday September 28, at Emanuel United Church of Christ at 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.

This month’s lecturer is Queens Historian Jason Antos, who will be discussing the history of Shea Stadium, home of the Mets and the Jets. There’s history all around us, hope to see you at one of these free meetings soon!

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January 17, 2018
WOW, Yes I remember growing up in Woodhaven and going to this Woolworth with my mom, sad to see things go away. Wish I was young and able to do it all over again !