Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Vercesi Hardware


Reports the pcvstBee, "After more than 100 years in business at the same address, Vercesi Hardware is closing at 152 East 23rd Street between Lexington and Third avenues. The building has been sold and is slated for demolition."

According to Flatiron BID, the shop began as a sheet music store in 1912, opened "by an enterprising teenager from Italy by the name of Paul Vercesi. Later, the young man added film development and a new-fangled invention called radio. At some point, hardware became part of the mix. Eventually, the sheet music and radio tubes and film all but vanished, but the hardware hung on."

"Don't Trust Your Films to a Butcher" (1936, NYPL)

In recent years, Vercesi became 23rd Street Hardware, with nothing more than a change of the name on the sign. I've always liked the look of it, signs piled high, the windows full of stuff--not much different, really, than it was decades ago.

One neighbor summed up the too-familiar situation to the pcvstBee: "Today, if it's old, it's got to go. And for what...condos and coffee shops?"


Anonymous said...

I shopped there for years, using it when I built my loft on 26th and Broadway in the 70's. Yes, had to walk that far for a nut or bolt. Always talked to the owner who would tell me stories from when he was young, when the Third Ave El was still up. Sad to see it go.

dcr said...

Sadly for those of us watching, change has to happen. *The area that is now Manhattan was long inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. In 1524, all that began to change and imagine how bummed those folks were. It has to change. It's just sad that we have to watch it happen and turn the direction it's going. I still will love Manhattan more than anywhere in the world.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is a big one for me... I 'm a NY native, living in the pacific NW now, Every time I go back to NY and see everything that's gone, I am glad to see Vercesi... "at least Vercesi is still here", I think, as I pass all that bright yellow sign, and the lush promise of buried treasure inside. Thank you for sharing the history and the old picture. I won't trust my film to a butcher Mr. Vercesi... I promise!

Anonymous said...

bummer. one winter day back in '04 or so, i had just moved to queens and wanted to put some shelves up in my barren apt. being anti-big box retailer, i walked around looking for a hardware store before just deciding to go to the place on 23rd street i'd walked by my entire life.

so i took the subway into town and there was no one around on lexington or 23rd, it was a windblown empty saturday afternoon. went into the hardware store and the guy there showed me how to use a stud finder, how to anchor screws properly, how to make sure everything was level. he took his time, wasn't trying to oversell me, was patient with all my questions. i walked out of there excited to go home and start on the job.

a few hours later and i was looking at my brand new shelves, done by myself with the help of that fellow new yorker behind the counter. you won't find an experience like that at any home depot, no way.

Anonymous said...

Again I'm left to wonder if this isn't a sea-change from the electro-mechanical world to the digital, and facing my regret in that change: where the electromechanical is generally comprehensible - study the linkages and switches and wires and lamps and you could understand how the system is assembled and the thinking behind it - the digital is hermetically sealed and, generally, beyond the ability to reason without incredibly esoteric tools.

Or, more sinisterly, the digital presents as magic, and the knowledge embedded in those systems becomes more and more opaque to the point where it literally IS magic, an operation that the public takes on faith and superstition, thus accelerating a general decline in analytical thinking about natural phenomenea and our slide into obscene levels of magical thinking.

Nothing captures the fading spirit of analytical thinking like sussing over a DYI problem in a hardware store with the intent to Repair, and I believe its the dying of this spirit, as much as condos and coffee, that's as responsible for these closings.

And I'm left to wonder: would people still be punching their bodies with tats and piercings if their minds had healthier ways to engage with puzzles of the physical world, such as repairing broken stuff?

Anonymous said...

@10:39 AM, thanks for sharing that!

vercesi hardware is certainly a part of a bygone era. the staff at vercesi's helped me turn my once run-down, neglected hovel into a rather nice, liveable hovel, teaching me all of the little techniques i didn't know, suggesting ways to do things, etc.

a few years ago, i embarked on another one of my many DYI projects, and had trouble finding an essential part.

two employees at vercesi actually brought me up to their storage space on the 2nd floor and we had a long chat about ways i could build my design, after informing me that specific item i had in mind was a mounting component for old wall paneling that they hadn't seen in years.


so we stood on the second floor landing and talked about all the missing things, all the missing places -- canal surplus, anyone? -- all the old stuff you can't find anymore because everything's made in china now. might sound depressing but it somehow wasn't, rooting around and reminiscing with people who "got it."

gosh. this is how old people used to sound. now i'm one of them! ha ha.

Anonymous said...

More places than I can remember are now vanished. I wish Paul and the entire Vercesi crew, a happy life going forward. They were an invaluable resource for us for many decades. Thank you !!

Gojira said...

Canal Surplus, yes. I also remember Schlesinger's Hardware, on the northwest corner of 11th and B, which had been around since the 1920s; the Schlesinger family owned the building, sold it in the 70s, and in the early 80s were one of the first places forced to close because of rent increases on the part of the new owner, who was looking to cash in on the trendy crowd being attracted to the EV by the art gallery scene that started in 1984. The space sat empty for 5 years, then it became a vintage clothing shop, now it's an Italian restaurant. But you could go in there asking questions, getting advice and on one occasion, the son came home with me to help me hook up the gas stove I had found on the street, because he wanted to make sure I had all the correct parts for it and that it would not leak when it was connected. Now that was service...

L' Americana said...

'the shop began as a sheet music store in 1912, opened "by an enterprising teenager from Italy by the name of Paul Vercesi."

Great post, even greater comments ... the only place you can get the old NY back is to go live in Europe.

Anonymous said...

In some ways I wish they were replaced by coffee shops. At least that would be comforting replacement...but coffee shops are gone now in Manhattan. It certainly won't be replaced by anything besides condos no one can afford or retail spaces no one needs.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Third Generation NYC guy, and all I can say is what is happening now is really strange. My Grandfather ran businesses in the Garment District, my father was here from the mid 60's-90's. I have been here early 80's to current.

I don't know I guess I'm just a relic of the past. Sadly.
Don't fit into this new cityscape.

One thing I have learned, NYC has immense power, to draw people in, like a black hole. Whether franchises, or whatever.

goatsflee said...

No, not Vercesi! This sucks. Schadenfreude since I no longer live there but still...

Crazy Eddie said...

From a post from the growing up in PCVST during the 50's, 60's FB page:

"They are not closing. They are moving to a new location on 2nd Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets. The building that they are in will be torn down soon to make room for another skyscraper on 23rd Street. I stopped in there today to tell them I was sorry to see them closing and they were quick to reassure me that they are staying in the neighborhood."

Ken Mac said...

Hardware stores, parking lots, shoe repair shops, who needs em? At least we still have $50 a cut barbers for hipsters.

Sinestra said...

Sometimes I wonder where this is all going- A city full of useless flash, confections and treats, serving our whims but not our needs.
Hurricane Sandy taught me how much more useful a bodega, gas station, laundry, diner and hardware store are to my needs.

laura r. said...

"sinestra", NY has become a parttime corporate residence/vacation destination/collegedorm/wkendtourist what ever. the sad part is that most of the world wants this too: inpersonal useless high priced products, all fluff. (the good news is that the hardware store is not closing according to "crazy eddie" 8:10pm. which is it? moving?)

A.L. said...

I think that many people on this and other similar blogs often miss a critical point: not all old business are being displaced just for high rents.

In many cases, their business model, market or way-of-doing-things just become obsolete for various reasons.

For instance, even in cities where skyrocketing rents are not much of an issue, online shopping changed in fundamental ways how people shop for things like hardware. If you are part of Amazon Prime (it costs $79/year) you can get pretty much any hardware next day. Sometime in the near future, Amazon will bring same-day deliveries on big cities.

Music stores are mostly doomed by digital music, high rents or not. The way people procure and buy music shifted in a way that erased the market for CD stores, except some very niche ones.

Other things are threatened by lifestyle changes. Barber shops have very low appeal among people aged below 40, people who grew up with modern electric razors and other tools to take care of their facial hair by themselves at home.

All of these businesses are more or less doomed even if rents didn't increase.

Anonymous said...

I went into this HARDWARE store (had not been in the area since earlier in the year) HOPING to get one of their 2014~pocket size Calendars that I had been getting since the early 1980’s when I was a student at the nearby SVA, and SHOCKED to see the signs.
I FEEL like part of my life has been sliced & will miss this place with their FRIELDY staff even when I lived in the area in the early 1990’s.
I’ll miss you VERCESI/23rd Street HARDWARE”! :(

Unknown said...

Another hardware store gone. As another hardware store owner they were our competitor our neighbor and our friends. They will be missed.

Anonymous said...

to person who posted 11/26/13





Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Have they set a date of when they will re-open the new location? I think home deopo had some part in them closing . It was in the recesses of my thoughts when hd opened that Vercesi might close because of the yuppy influx

Unknown said...

I worked at Vercesi hardware in the late 80's while I was in high school. What an amazing piece of NYC history Vercesi was! The memories and people I worked with there shaped me as a young man.

As these kinds of businesses disappear one by one only to be replaced by chain stores and massive money making living spaces I feel a slight sense of sorrow knowing my kids will never experience this type of small business entity.

Thank you to Paul V., Pong, Joey, John, Mark, Charles & Co. who all will always remain in my thoughts. I appreciate all of you for the experience and the knowledge and friendship I gained from each of you.


Michael Soekawa