When I first spotted the curious label "public grocery," my mind ran to the sort of public market where shoppers once purchased fresh foodstuffs from multiple pushcart vendors. Nowadays, in New York, the indoor Essex Street Market and the outdoor Greenmarkets continue to fill the bill. The term "public market" itself, which until recent years was on the verge of becoming quaint, has been rehabilitated as a hallmark of civic virtue, in contrast to the (perceived) narrow self-interest of private parties.
The corner establishment shown here is, of course, a privately owned, for-profit enterprise (and all power to them; margins are low). I've stopped by, during the summer, for a cold can of soda, but on a more recent, winter, visit I couldn't bring myself to venture a cup of hotplate coffee. The current signage was installed at some indeterminate time after Mom & Sons got out of the restaurant business, decades ago, perhaps by the owners of Peace World Newsstand — a name long since effaced from the awning.
Current management isn't chatty. If there's a story behind "public grocery," perhaps the way to tease it out is to spend a few minutes by the counter while warming my hands on a cup of that coffee. I can take small sips.
The placement of the banner suits a product with a skinny profile, though not necessarily a healthy one: Pixy Stix would fit just as neatly as a bag of these bean-based, high-fiber chips and puffs. Historical imagery via Google Street View reveals only one other advertiser, in August 2013, coincidentally also concerning food. This awkward space, it seems, just isn't all that appetizing.
Beanitos banner Wrapped around the corner of 270 Lafayette St. (at Prince St.), Manhattan
...no icy." To forestall customers who might maintain that their slush in a cup is neither solid nor liquid, a third state of matter has been identified, and banned, at this casual-wear storefront. The management apparently still hasn't caught wind of edible balloons.
This illuminated sign, which originally stood atop the Pepsi bottling plant nearby, was built by the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corp. in 1938. When Artkraft Strauss refurbished the sign in 1994, the company reportedly "refabricated all the letters and the bottle, duplicating the original style and craftsmanship."
The duplication wasn't exact, however. The "swirl" bottle wasn't adopted by the Pepsi-Cola home company until 1958 (though a predecessor design, with a "wave" on the shoulder only, was patented in 1940). The bottle's logo is an even later vintage; this design was reportedly in use from 1970 to 1987. As for the serving size, it's difficult to date. Have you seen an 8-ounce Pepsi lately?
Pepsi-Cola Surviving 1938 signage, refurbished 1994, relocated to this site 2008 Gantry Plaza, Long Island City, Queens
This antebellum public market survived the Civil War and the Depression before being sold to private owners in 1941. From the 1960s until the devastating arrival of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the building operated as the Circle Food Store; that business finally reopened its doors to the neighborhood in 2014.
St. Bernard Market Surviving decoration, 1522 St. Bernard Ave. (at North Claiborne Ave.), New Orleans
Established in St. Louis in 1840 as Western Brewing and later named Lemp Brewing after its German-born founder, Falstaff adopted the name of the Shakespearean character in 1903. Sir John Falstaff, the company profile reportedly proclaimed, "was beset by no frustrations, fears, or problems of protocol," and "his sense of good fun was tempered by an exceptional intellect." This location, previously home to the National Brewing Co., operated as a Falstaff brewery from the late 1930s until 1978. A statue of Falstaff still rises above one entryway.
The second photo shows the illuminated Falstaff sign, topped by a "weather ball." First lit in 1952, this beacon and the vertical sign would provide a forecast for the following day. After restoration, both once again shine brightly at night, though their current predictive abilities are unclear.
In the 1870s, "Frederick Akers was proprietor of the oldest and best known trade roasting establishment in New York," according to the 1922 book All About Coffee, by William H. Ukers. "Mr. Akers died in 1901. The same year, William J. Morrison and Walter B. Boinest, former employees of Akers, formed a partnership to carry on the same kind of business at 413 Greenwich Street." Later a corporation under the name of Morrison & Boinest, it specialized in wholesale coffee roasting and spice grinding — as the signage still tells us — for some three decades.
The first photo shows the narrow Greenwich St. facade. The second, from around the corner on Hubert St., also shows better-preserved signage (at left) for Dayton Corsa, importers of "teas and coffees."