S. KLEIN, Union Square

by Kevin Walsh

Samuel Klein founded the discount chain S. Klein before World War II, 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).

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.



D. August 21, 2013 - 12:03 am

“…a giant illuminated sign in Newark, NJ that has never been torn down.”

Although the store itself has been cut up and rented out.

Larry August 21, 2013 - 6:39 am

My Mom would drag my kid brother and I to S.Klein every fall for winter coats. The store was always packed with parents and kids…It was said at the time that S Klein had the best prices in town for the average folk…..

RM August 21, 2013 - 8:11 am


Alec August 21, 2013 - 9:54 am

According to wikipedia, the lot the Newark location was on had been vacant since the store closed there in 1976. But that parcel, and several other long abandoned properties have now been torn down as of July 2013 to make way for a 20 story Prudential Office Building. Another one bites the dust.

therealguyfaux August 21, 2013 - 11:22 am

Retail being a notoriously fickle business, as in the old joke about the pushcart “cashing clothes” man “: “Business has been rough of late. One day warm, the next day cool, you never know which clothes you’re going to need to sell or buy,” obviously you need some sort of out-strategy before it all ends in tragedy aka Bankruptcy Court, like a lot of store chains did.

When the parent company figures the stores are more valuable as real estate than as stores, in a rising RE market (as S. Klein’s parent did) it were certainly foolish not to sell out. (Just as long as the company got cash on the barrelhead– less tzuris that way.)

yvonne August 21, 2013 - 12:24 pm

FUNNY, what stirs up some memories…1966 (approximate) went with mom and friends on the train from Astoria to KLEINS in the city for some buys….. what we found in a bin was pants marked down to a dollar. We were thrilled for such a bargain! Still today, we will exclaim in that funny way, A DOLLAR! when we have an occasion to say a dollar.

Dan August 21, 2013 - 4:28 pm

The S. Klein on Union Square was a heartwarmingly decrepit firetrap.

East and West 14th Street also hosted many “everything you could possibly need” discount stores, which catered to S. Klein’s bargain-hungry clientele.

Most are gone now, although a handful remain. So if you’re in the market for a $3.99 six-pack of “irregular” underwear, a vinyl shower curtain that emits toxic fumes, or a framed 3-D portrait of the Virgin Mary, head on down to old 14th. It’s where the ghostly presence of S. Klein still lives on.

Gary August 22, 2013 - 6:24 am

My dad worked at the Con Edison building seen in the background as did I for 3 summers while in college. I remember on numerous occasions making a mad dash into the chaos at Klein’s to get some item during lunch break hoping to get back in time.

Tal Barzilai August 22, 2013 - 6:08 pm

Now that I think about it, that block does look familiar to what is there today.

Skip August 22, 2013 - 8:50 pm

When she was a little girl, my wife often went shopping at S. Klein with her grandmother — also for winter coats. They took the “Hudson Tubes” from Jersey City. She remembers there being another discount department store nearby – does anyone know the name?

Gary August 24, 2013 - 2:13 pm

Hi Skip:
May’s was right across the street. It was slightly more upscale than Klein’s, but still a discount store.

Ann Smith August 25, 2013 - 9:27 pm

It was Mays on 14th street

Phyllisamy March 1, 2018 - 7:54 am

Mays was a relative latecomer; the other big (and cheap) department store on 14th street was called Lanes.

Gary August 23, 2013 - 10:16 am

I grew up in the West Village in the 70’s, and remember Klein’s well. Having my mother drag me over to Union Square to shop for clothes was a little boy’s nightmare then, but forty years later has become a fond memory.
What I remember most about Klein’s was the little old lady who sold pretzels by the entrance. My mother used to bribe me to behave myself in the store by promising my a pretzel on the way out. Memories!

Al T'z August 25, 2013 - 5:00 am

Mentioning the pretzel lady, reminds me of another memory of the S Klein store on Broad Street, Newark. There was always a nun sitting within the front vestibule (and the rear minor entrance too on Halsey Street). Just sitting there, never speaking, never moving; I suppose waiting for an occasional donation. Never knew why or which church/order she was affiliated with. Very, very Spooky!

Jerry October 10, 2015 - 9:27 am

That “little old pretzel lady” put her son through medical school

Alan August 24, 2013 - 4:33 pm

I worked there, Summer, 1971

Constantine Klufas April 3, 2016 - 3:18 pm

I worked at Klein’s as part timer, when I was in High School (1952-52). Still have the plastic employee badge # 2721.

Wonder is anyone collects such memorabilia //

Tina August 24, 2013 - 7:26 pm

I used to shop at SKlein’s and at Lane’s on the corner of 14th and Fifth Ave. I was young and wanted to be fashionable for as little money as possible. Oh, I also purchased my wedding band at SKlein’s – we parted years ago, but I still have the ring and I still like it.

Joel Frid August 27, 2013 - 12:15 pm

There was an S.Kleins store in Flushing at the corner of Roosevelt and Main Street. My father took me there a few times. The picture of the store is very prominent on web sites that show old, downtown flushing.

Mark Wilner August 31, 2013 - 7:49 pm

There was Johns’ Bargain Store on 14St.

Dorothy McGovrern October 31, 2019 - 3:32 pm

Yep I remember John’s Bargain Store. It was right across the street on 14th st\ Right across from Stuyvesant Town where I lived for over thirty years

Ethan September 6, 2013 - 12:57 pm

They tore down the Newark building in July. 🙁

Richard December 17, 2013 - 5:18 am

I started shopping in Kleins with my mom in the 1950s. I was about 7, and we’d be standing in front of the big locked doors before they opened. There were dozens of fat women pressing against us looking in at the girdle sale bins just ahead of us. When the man would come and release all the doors, we were almost trampled … my mom would rush to the bins, grab a handful of girdles, regardless of size and then start trading with other women for the right size. Later, when I was about 12, I’d be given $50 and sent to Kleins alone to shop for all my school clothes for the year — I’d get a coat, 3 pants, 4 shirts, shoes, 2 sweaters, underwear, socks … and change. I was given explicit instructions that when I travelled home, the boxes had to face so I hid the label that said Kleins … the neighbors were not to know we shopped there (even though they all did, too).

William Terry March 2, 2014 - 4:27 pm

Found this related photograph by Dorothea Lange.

Susan March 22, 2015 - 3:12 am

Great photo by Dorothea Lange! My name is Susan Klein so I collect lots of S. Klein images!

celia Bart March 26, 2015 - 11:31 am

Does anybody have a photo of the Bagel Lady of S Klein?I have an original painting of her.

Dorothy McGovrern October 31, 2019 - 3:36 pm

I was shopping in Klein’s and shopping at the same rack of clothing was Liza Minelli.

joe November 18, 2019 - 1:17 pm



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