In late 2004 or early 2005 I was on South 8th Street because I had been tipped off about something interesting, which I’ll get to shortly. While there, I saw a few painted ads for Gabila’s Knishes, which were still produced in Williamsburg in that era. Gabila’s had originated in 1921 when Elia and Bella Gabay created “Brooklyn’s Original Coney Island Square Knish” in their kitchen in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The knish, for those unaware, are mashed potatoes wrapped in dough which is then baked or fired. It has been a NYC-associated snack for many years, and recently appeared in the tile of “If These Knishes Could Talk,” a documentary examining the singular NYC accent, produced by my friend Heather Quinlan.
In 1928, to meet increasing demand, the Gabays moved into a larger processing facility with offices on South 8th Street in Williamsburg between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street. The firm remained in Williamsburg for many years until moving to Long Island in 2008. It was their extant offices and painted ads that I found on this foray.
Some of the Gabila offices were located in this extremely old building, probably from the 1860s, at 120 South 8th Street. However, a closer look over the door reveled something interesting.
I had been tipped about the “over the door Lincoln” on the block. Honestly Lincoln here looked imprisoned, a la Han Solo by Jabba the Hut in Star Wars. Soon enough after my visit, by 2008, Lincoln, the Gabilas, the knishes and the old dormered building were gone, replaced by a high rise apartment building and some Fedders Specials on the south side of the block.
What you need isn’t necessarily what you get.