SILVER ROD STORES, Brooklyn

by Kevin Walsh

There are a pair of drugstores in Brooklyn called Silver Rod. The two stores are in about as far flung as two neighborhoods in Brooklyn can be, one in Bensonhurst and another in East Flatbush. They’re the remnants of what once was a fairly large drugstore chain, such as the CVS and Walgreens of today.

Above is the location in Bensonhurst, at 64-04 18th Avenue. Bensonhurst was once one of the Italian-American strongholds in Brooklyn, but has evolved into a Russian and Chinese neighborhood, with some Italians hanging tough. I walked 18th Avenue for FNY over a decade ago, and it bears doing a second walk as it has no doubt much changed since then.

The other surviving Silver Rod Drugs is at 5105 Church Avenue (near East 51st Street) in the heart of African-Caribbean American East Flatbush. Church Avenue is an ancient colonial-era route named for the Reformed Church at Flatbush and Church Avenues, a congregation founded in the 1690s and surrounded by a cemetery with tombstones in the Dutch language.

From the 1940 Municipal Archives comes this photo of Silver Rod Stores at 1504 Avenue J. At the time the branch was billing itself “Silver Rod Stores” but I don’t doubt it was still a pharmacy. To this day, many drugstores have no problem selling cigarettes and cigars.


Where does the name “Silver Rod” come from? This 1937 New York Times article states that at the time 14 stores were closed because of a strike, and I imagine there were more stores than that.

The genesis of the name becomes somewhat clearer thanks to a Commenter, “nycrefugee” who points to an item in geni.com on immigrant Joe Silverstein:

Silver Rod Stores. In 1919, Joe Silverstein incorporated his drugstore at 127 Delancey Street as Silver Rod Stores (Drugstore) along with S. & L. Rodnon (Simon and Louis). Simon and Louis Rodnon were partners in Rodnon Brothers Cigars at 140 Delancey Street, according to R. L. Polk & Co.’s Trow New York Copartnership and Corporation Directory, Boroughs of Manhattan and Bronx for 1919, page 982. When he registered for the World War I Draft in June, 1917, Louis Rodnon wrote that he was from Poltava, Russia; born Aug. 11, 1888, and was the “owner of a cigar store and garage” at 140 Delancey Street, NY.

The incorporation of Silver Rod Stores of 127 Delancey Street was reported in the trade journal Oil, Paint and Drug Reporter, August 1919, p. 53. It was said to involve “drugs, confectionery and tobacco . . . with $60,000 capital” in — Drug & Chemical Markets, Volume 5 (1919). It was written up in the journal of the National Association of Retail Druggists, 1919, as “The organizers of the Silver Rod Stores, Inc., of Manhattan, are meeting with fine success in their venture. Their Delancey street store specializes on drugs, confectionery and tobacco. More stores of the same kind are planned. The owners, Mr. J. Silverstein and S. and L. Rodnon are well known in the New York City drug circles and a prosperous future is predicted for their endeavors in the retail drug line”

Thus it becomes clear that the former chain was named for founders Joe Silverstein and the Rodnon brothers, Simon and Louis.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

5/18/20

12 comments

nycrefugee May 18, 2020 - 10:19 pm

It appears that the company was formed by men named Joe Silverstein, Simon Rodnon, and Louis Rodnon in 1919. (https://www.geni.com/people/Joseph-Joe-Silverstein/6000000017361022495; and http://lostnewyorkcity.blogspot.com/2011/04/silver-rod-pharmacy-has-that-name-for.html.) Maybe the newspaper misidentified Simon Rodnon as “Samuel Rodman”.

Reply
William Mangahas May 19, 2020 - 6:20 am

Thanks for the history of the Silver Rod pharmacies.

I noticed that the 1940 Municipal Archive photo is in color and not black and white. Have you seen any other color photos ?

BTW – I see a gold color license plate on the car on the left.

Reply
Kevin Walsh May 19, 2020 - 7:47 am

Likely colorized. Orson Welles once told Ted Turner to “keep your crayons off my pictures.”

Reply
Bo Hack May 19, 2020 - 6:33 am

Brooklyn folklore has it that the “Rod Man” had quite a following with more than a few local ladies, one of whom was a house painter’s wife. During a tryst while hubby was out, she offered to dip his member into the familiar silver paint used for prewar bathroom risers. He reluctantly acquiesced, not knowing it was permanent, hence the moniker he proudly adopted for his business name. A strategically placed small window in his casket lid showcased his legendary – ahem – “riser”. At this point, it was only flecked with silver paint, but caused many of his followers in attendance to burst into uncontrolled weeping. What a legacy!

Reply
redstaterefugee May 19, 2020 - 9:56 am

Dr. Martin Abend strikes again. His next posting will attempt to explain the origin of another long gone retail chain: Pen Rod’s

Reply
Ty May 19, 2020 - 7:25 am

Is that tax photo colorized?

Reply
Kevin Walsh May 19, 2020 - 7:46 am

It appears to be.

Reply
Alan May 19, 2020 - 10:00 am

I remember Silver Rod at the corner of Church and Utica Avenues.- Now a Walgreens. I did not know Silver Rod had moved a block away! At the Church and Utica location, it used to have a cafeteria but after a fire it reopened without one.

Reply
Bill J. Smith May 19, 2020 - 7:13 pm

It was B&W, none of the 1940 tax photos are in color. I colorized this picture myself, and posted it on
the Avenue J in Midwood Facebook Group, and the Old Images of Brooklyn, in Facebook

Reply
William Smith May 19, 2020 - 7:18 pm

I colorized this tax photo and posted it on Facebook groups, Ave. J in Midwood, and Old Images of Brooklyn.

Reply
Jeffrey H. Wasserman May 23, 2020 - 4:16 am

The 18th Avenue area’s still doing well if you consider there are four banks on the block with the Silver Rod Pharmacy and four others in the two or three blocks just to the north.
Of note to me is the former Walker Theater, now a Target store, across the street, where the wife and I went on our first date in 1978 to see the movie ROCKY near the end of the film’s first run.

Reply
Jeffrey H. Wasserman May 23, 2020 - 4:19 am

Sorry, I should have said just to the south not north. The sun was in my eyes on Google Maps, ha-ha!

Reply

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