This photo has been in my family for years. It depicts my grandfather, Morris Koeppel (left, in glasses), in front of the clothing store he owned in the 1930s. The picture has been around for years, but I’ve never known where the store actually was. I had always thought it was in Manhattan, but the rough consensus was that it was probably in Queens, and most likely in Kew Gardens Hills, near where my grandparents lived.
The argument against that was that the store address – we could see the number “1460″ in the image – didn’t follow the somewhat odd Queens borough numbering system, which break addresses into two-part designations indicating the nearest numerical cross street.
The only real clue I had – and it didn’t pan out – were the reflections in the mirror of the store. They were faint, but I could see that a shoe store was located across the street. And that was that. A dead end. A couple of days ago, I emailed the picture to Joe DeMay, who runs the now-archived “Old Kew Gardens” website. Within a few hours, Joe replied, and the mystery was solved.
He wrote: “I love mysteries. For this one I engaged the help of a Richmond Hill historian, Carl Ballenas, who is expert at tracking down such details. We independently came to the same conclusion…The store shown in the photograph is not in Kew Gardens, or even in Queens. It was at 1460 Broadway in Brooklyn. The world Triangle in the store’s name is appropriate because the streets there form a series of triangles along Broadway. The clues are to be found in the reflections in the store’s windows which are more easily seen if you flip the picture to see a mirror image and view at full size. Across the street was a Bohack and also a Sparber Shoe Shop shown at 1461. I found that there was a Bohack at the time at 1457 Broadway. Carl found an old Sparber ad for 1461 Broadway. That building at 1461 today matches what can barely be seen in the window reflections of your photograph including the pilaster columns and the second floor wall cutting catty corner across the first floor roof. Across the street, where your grandfather’s store was, now has no buildings.”
I have attached and enhanced some of the images Joe and Carl sent (Joe graciously says that Carl deserves “most of the credit” for the discovery; I’m grateful to both of them!)
The Google Maps image of the lot where the store once stood answers another question: why was it called “Triangle Clothing Company.” The shape of the existing lot gives that away: the store is named after the shape.
What’s most interesting about all this is how neighborhoods change. From the advertising circulars – as well as the look on my grandfather’s face – this was a thriving commercial area once. It appears less so, now, but the community garden that now sits at the location of my grandfather’s store shows that there’s still something vibrant there.
Now, the final mystery: who is the other person in the picture?