We have just gone through Christmas shopping time. There are still folks around who prefer to stroll from shop to shop instead of sitting in front of their computer to find what they want. Nothing wrong with that...but, for our purposes we say kudos to shoppers who prefer to patronize their local businesses. One place you might shop is New York Lace . Perhaps you would couple that with a stroll around the Christmas Green then lunching at one of the good restaurants downtown. If there is a bit of snow, so much the better!
Quite accidentally, I stumbled upon historical information about The New York Lace store ( one of the oldest on Main St. ) finding a gold mine of Taunton lore. Connections bind history with a thread that if followed finds us at more connections... reminding us of the thought, of "nine degrees of separation."
It was a real treat to unravel this particular thread sending us back in history to the early 1900s , specifically 1907.
In 1907, in the United States, woman suffragettes were still fighting for the vote. In that year, the U.S. Congress raised their own salaries to $7, 500 (and kept on going). In February of that year the passenger ship Larchment sunk off Block Island, Rhode Island and 322 souls perished. In April, a Canadian won the 11th Boston Marathon. The Bubonic Plague broke out in San Francisco in May. December of that year saw the first ball drop in Times Square and Oklahoma becaming the 46th state of the Union. Federal spending that year - are you ready for it .... $ 0.58 billion.
That same year Pincus Zwetchkenbaum, an immigrant from Poland (the 1930 census lists him as Polish, his wife Austrian) came onto the Taunton scene. There are those who think he came from Russia but I am going with the Census information.
The well known fabric of the immigrant ingenuity of those days is exemplified with Mr. Zwetchkenbaum. It was true also with our grocer below, John Dimitri from Albania. It was a new country for many in Taunton and they did not hesitate to inject new vitality into the economy of the City. Current Tauntonian Stephen Kosta's Uncle John Dimitri below started selling bananas from a cart, then worked his way up to this horse and buggy....
.... eventually locating his own store (seen below) at 107 Main St. His store was
described as being right next to the Star Theatre .
New York Lace Store would be located nearby at 89 Main St.
Even though this photo was taken in 1927,
it still gives us an idea of early downtown Taunton.
Thank you to Stephen Koska for sharing both those incredible photos above.
Those immigrant entrepreneurs fitted themselves into a new culture
and in Pincus' case, a new couture.
A place for lace
As John Dimitri with his horse drawn cart above finally opened his own store, Pincus Zwetchkenbaum traveled the same journey beginning with "strips of lace and yards of calico ." By dint of hard work and keeping his goal in mind, Pincus, sold from a cart, went door to door and then managed to open his first Taunton shop with his son Joseph in 1906 in Whittenton selling lace and embroidery. In 1920 he moved it to the location downtown where Pober's had been.
(In those same years, my own grandfather, Joseph Souza, did as those gentlemen . Selling wood in his case from a horse and buggy and then establishing his own used furniture Store on Weir St. I like to think that they all knew each other.)
In 1935 Pincus Z. moved to 89 Main St. and opened New York Lace Store. Pincus and his family had been in business in the City of Taunton since 1906 and that business today is still going strong.
Imagine, our grandmothers would have shopped in the store in Whittenton.Since in 1907 women dressed like this...with lots of material and lots of lace, it
is highly likely.
Wow, the lace!
No date to this postcard, but betting it is very early on downtown Taunton.
Once Charles Crowley dated the clocks...we see a white one here. Need to
do more research unless someone out there knows?
I remember the touch of elegance that was so apparent there. Nylons (well before pantyhose) would have been nestled in tissue paper in their own slender white boxes, Gloves the same. There were always the same lovely ladies waiting on you, so it was a familiar shopping experience and very personal. They knew their customers and they knew their wares.
Through the years and decades New York Lace Store has anchored one end of downtown. Through that time it drew our ancestors then ourselves.
Stay tuned for Part II of The New York Lace Store Story. There is more!
*photographs from Stephen Kosta.
*photograph from my own archives.
*Aaron Cushman from the Research Department of the Taunton Public Library
Taunton Daily Gazette: Dec. 3, 1984
*A History of the Bridal Business in Taunton