When a shuttered lottery store’s sign was removed on Avenue A in February 2023, multiple East Village ghost signs were revealed. The hand-painted glass panes that were uncovered probably belonged to Kammerman’s, a popular Alphabet City children’s shop in the mid-20th century.
The ghost signs advertise the carriages, strollers, and toys once sold there. Many of the glass panes on the Avenue A side of the building still exist, but only a few have inscriptions.
Throughout much of the 20th century, Avenue A was a mecca for young parents shopping for children’s clothing, carriages, furniture, cribs, and toys. In 1972 the New York Times highlighted three stores within four blocks of each other on Avenue A: Ben’s Juvenile Mart, Schachter’s Children’s World, and Schneider’s Juvenile Furniture.
The shops employed artists who would adorn cribs “with any whimsy the customer desires,” noted the Times. “One woman recently requested a reproduction of a postcard her husband had sent her during their courtship.”
In 2004 Schneider’s departure marked the end of an era. “In the latest sign that gentrification is overtaking Manhattan’s funkiest neighborhoods, a store that sold bargain-priced baby cribs and carriages on Avenue A for a half-century left the area when its rent quadrupled,” reported the New York Daily News. “‘We’d be working to pay the rent if we stayed,’ said Lorraine Waxman of Schneider’s Juvenile Furniture — which opened at 20 Avenue A when Harry Truman was president.”
In the 1930s, I. & J. Kramer Children’s Wear was a corner store on Second Street at 25 Avenue A. Glass signs with lettering edged in gold leaf described its merchandise: infants’ wear, children’s dresses, boys’ suits, underwear, and novelties.
Its ghost signs remained hidden for decades until they were discovered in 2016 by the owners of 2A Bar. “We were simply doing routine renovations on the facade of the building to fix our windows,” said Laura McCarthy, co-owner of 2A since 1984. “Lo and behold, we found these signs hiding out for decades upon decades underneath.”
“In this day and age when our city is increasingly losing its historical spaces, it seemed like a no-brainer to celebrate this previous incarnation of the bar and to share that story with the rest of New York City.” Time will tell if the East Village ghost signs revealed at 60 Avenue A will also be preserved, or disappear like the store they once advertised,