S. KLEIN STORES

Samuel Klein founded the discount chain S. Klein in 1906, with the flagship store at Union Square East and East 14th Street, and the business eventually grew as large as 19 stores in the metropolitan area before the inevitable decline. The Union Square flagship closed in 1975 (the space is currently filled by the 1987 Zeckendorf Towers apartment complex; the S.Klein Union Square building remained vacant for over ten years after the stores closed). Samuel Klein maintained control until his death in 1942, and the Klein family sold the franchise in 1946 but retained the property.

The company emblem was a measuring square, seen with the clock above the word “dressed” in the 1930s photo shown above. The catchphrase “on the square” was a play on the company’s flagship location at Union Square and its profession of fair business practices.

Two substantial remnants of S. Klein remain, in a doorway on Clinton Street in the Lower East Side marking a former branch, and a giant illuminated sign in Newark, NJ that has never been torn down.

 

S.Klein on the Square  — note the large measuring square logo under the words “On the Square.” The building is finally under demolition in this 1986 photo by Bob Mulero.

 

This sign, formerly illuminated with neon bulbs, appeared at a Union Square subway entrance. Photo: Bob Mulero.

 

This illuminated S. Klein sign stood silent sentinel on Broad Street in Newark, NJ across the street from Military Park for 37 years after the store closed in 1976. The buildings shown here were demolished in 2013 to give way to a new 20-story building owned by Prudential Insurance. Photo by me in November 2003.

 

The only immediately apparent sign that S. Klein stores ever existed is in front of 68 Clinton Street in the Lower East Side, currently (206) home to a Pig and Khao, a Filipino-cuisine themed restaurant. Photo Google Street View, which allows you to go right in.

3/1/16


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14 Responses to S. KLEIN STORES

  1. Mitzanna says:

    I remember shopping the “bins” upstairs, then opening the drawers underneath them for more. Well worth the effort. My finds were authentic Mary Quant and Rudi Gernreich dresses among other equally fabulous stuff.
    There was an old shabby woman on the corner of 14th St and Union Sq in front of the store selling comics daily in the 70’s, one of the the old time “real NY characters”.

    • Bob says:

      They were the first ones to sell Lindt chocolate bars when they were good. went to Kleins store on Long Island.

  2. joel frid says:

    I remember a big S. Klein’s store in Flushing at Main Street between Roosevelt Avenue and the LIRR and continued up Roosevelt Avenue. When this store went out of business, it was replaced by Alexander’s. Alexander’s was replace by Caldor. Now there is a Chinese Mall. On the first two floors at the Corner of Roosevelt was a Woolworth’s. There was also a May’s around the corner on Roosevelt Avenue , now Macy*s and also I thing that there was a Gertz also around the corner, but I cannot remember. All there stores are gone.

    • Andy says:

      I lived in that neighborhood 1973-78. May’s never had a store in Flushing. The Gertz store on Roosevelt Avenue became Macy’s, which is still there. You’re correct about Klein’s – became Alexander’s when I lived there.

  3. Peter Hirsch says:

    Growing up in Hempstead on Long Island ca, 1965-68, S, Klein was also a big part of my world. I actually was living more towards the West Hempstead border where E. J, Korvette’s ruled near the intersection of Hempstead Avenue and Turnpikes and Fulton Ave., but Kleins was the classier of the two. Of course, if your family had any money and cared about appearances, you went up to Garden City to places like Lord & Taylor or Arnold Constable, though these were mostly limited to clothing, Kleins or Korvettes were where we bought our appliances and “useful” stuff.

    • charles leidner says:

      i lived in west hempstead from 1962 to 2002 i bought all my beatle albums and my monkee albums at s kleins but if you had money which we did not then you shopped at a and s in hempstead i will never forget those days

  4. John T says:

    The S Klien store at Union Square was like a medieval village – many different buildings with different floor heights, you could walk along the fourth floor and continue on the fifth floor. Chaotic and crowded, it was an NY institutional that had lines outside for sales in the early 70s, but had to shut down only a couple of years later.
    I went to Xavier High School nearby in the early 70s, and Union Square was such a neglected place then, all the buildings surrounding the park were dusty and poorly maintained. It was actually a bright spot when the McDonald’s opened in about 1974 – finally something new & clean!

  5. PeterD says:

    You can see S Klein and a lot of the Union Square area on film in the original “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” which came out in 1974.

  6. Roger the Shrubber says:

    The square could also be a masonic reference.

  7. chris says:

    What was it that Ratso Rizzo said to Joe Buck in “Midnight Cowboy” about Kleins?
    It was almost what Tom Cruise said to Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Main” about K-Mart
    Somewheres along those lines.
    Help me out here

  8. tjd says:

    “Where does it tell you to go ? The basement at S. Klein’s ?

  9. Michael says:

    Actually, the Clinton Street picture is of my grandfather ‘s shoe store. He name: Sam Klein, but unrelated to the owners of the mega store on Union Square. S Kleins shoe store was in business until the early 1960’s when my grandfather retired and the store was purchased and reopened by a different owner. Clinton Street was not nearly as fashionable then.

  10. Joseph Ciolino says:

    Still have a tie a bought “on the Square.”

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