Recently, Tablet magazine reported on the struggles of West Side Judaica, an 80-year-old shop swamped by the Upper West Side's rising rents and increase in chain stores.
It makes me wonder what I sometimes wonder: What happened to the Jewish supply stores of Essex Street? I keep walking down there, trying to find them--to find just one of them--but they all vanished, and in just a few years.
All photos taken in 2007--all have since vanished
It seems impossible. For decades, the street between Grand and Canal was full of them. Their signs swung out over the sidewalk, announcing Sefer Torahs, Mezuzos, Tallises, Bar Mitzvah Sets.
Customers roamed the shops, checking out the wares, buying everyday things and important items for special occasions.
Walking by, even in the late 2000s, you felt like you were in a Berenice Abbott photo. You know, that feeling. Especially at Zelig Blumenthal's, with the old writing painted on the window. It had been there for 60 years.
And then a big change came, all at once.
Blumenthal shuttered in 2010. The shop was gutted and given over to Cafe Grumpy, with high-priced apartments above. A neighboring shop, also 60 years old, followed in 2011.
One by one, in the span of only two or three years, all of the Judaica shops were pushed out by neighborhood changes, high rents, and pushy landlords. Deep history annihilated in an instant.
Today it's all cafes, bars, galleries. Something called "The Juicery." Everything new. Everything for the new population. I keep walking up and down, thinking I'll find one Judaica store, one sign, a lone survivor, but I haven't found one yet.