While longtime Rego Park resident and history buff Carl Godlewski was helping his neighbors organize their family’s apartment, he unearthed a time capsule from 1955… a small yellow-gold address and phone book, where each page spotlighted among the best Rego Park businesses, and fewer Forest Hills businesses as of that year. It also featured 1955 and 1956 calendars. All businesses were located in tasteful storefronts, often Colonial or Art Deco, with attractive window displays.
Sometimes while cleaning out a residence, treasures can be found in an attic, basement, cabinet, or in this case, in a desk, hidden behind a drawer! It is important to consider not tossing possessions, but thinking of how it can benefit someone else or a community. He decided to donate his unique find to this columnist’s collection of local memorabilia, to further document and preserve cultural, commercial, and architectural history.
Godlewski explained, “I came across a lot of treasures dating from 1950s and 1960s Queens. It was amazing to see these snapshots in time, and learning about the stores that used to be in our area. It’s important to remember where Queens came from, and these keepsakes help with preserving our past.”
The booklet, published by Fox Advertising Co. at 166-05 Highland Avenue in Jamaica, read, “Welcome & best wishes. This phone index and directory was compiled with one thought in mind – Your convenience. You will find here a complete shopping guide to your immediate community. Listing the finest shops, services, churches and synagogues. Also a list of reputable business houses that are ready at all times to serve and assist you with the finest merchandise at most reasonable prices. Cultivate their friendship – It’s to your advantage.”
Field Drug, operated under Harry Berliner, Ph. G. was located at 94-04 63rd Drive, and offered a free pickup and delivery of prescriptions, if a resident would call IL 9-5326. In addition, this shop catered to baby needs, vitamins, and cosmetics, as well as a board of health station. Sperry & Hutchinson green stamps were free with each purchase.
Maisonette, whose slogan was “Hairstylists of Distinction” and featured an Art Deco logo, was once located at 96-39 Queens Boulevard. It was the end of an era when this longtime business closed around 2008.
There were a number of establishments for the arts, entertainment, and recreation. Among them was the Duo-Art Academy of Music and Dance at 107-50 Queens Boulevard, where patrons called BO 3-8585. This center offered training in all instruments, voice, and Dalcroze Eurhythmics for children 3 years and up, and a free loan of instruments up to 2 months. Dance courses included ballet, modern, tap, acrobatics, and teenage socials. As for the adult social dance scene, courses consisted of mambo, tango, merengue, foxtrot, and the waltz, with 10 one-hour class lessons for $10. On site was a large ballroom with a stage that could accommodate 235 guests, as well as a smaller social space for 45 guests. A catering service was offered. This center was ideal for meetings, dances, Bar Mitzvahs, and weddings, and discounts were offered to organizations on annual contracts.
For decades, one of the most popular dining and dancing entertainment venues was The Boulevard at 94-05 Queens Boulevard, formerly known as Boulevard Tavern. It opened circa 1929 and was in full swing through the 1960s. Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, and Sweet Sixteens were advertised as their specialty. Barbara Ann Vallely recalled, “My dad Howard Banks worked there for many years. They would have up and coming singers perform. I remember him bringing home signed photos of Connie Francis and Tony Bennett. It was more than a restaurant, but a nightclub that also catered weddings, including Martin Landau’s wedding reception in 1957.” Other performers were Patti Page and Buddy Hackett. “My parents, Jack and Eunice Selenow, had their 25th anniversary in 1960 at The Boulevard,” said Victor Selenow. “JFK did a swing through Queens during his 1960 presidential campaign, and made a speech at The Boulevard,” added Monte Kaplan.
“We always went to Shelly’s for the rye bread and sponge and marble cakes,” said Jeffrey Cymbler, who was a patron with his family in the 1960s. This was considered Rego Park’s finest bakery at 94-06 63rd Drive. “Everything in the baking line” was their slogan. Residents can still sense the taste of their classic Charlotte Russe.
Into the 1990s was Barbizon Studio, a go-to spot at 101-01 Queens Boulevard that is much missed. An engaging slogan read, “Our beautiful photographs and satisfied customers are our best advertisement.” Their specialty was children’s portraits, and other services included 3D, weddings, adults, restorations, photo supplies, custom finishing, and photostats. Patrons would walk along a wooden floor, spot a collage of frames lining their walls, and be greeted by amiable owners.
Another very engaging name is Talent Shop at 92-04 63rd Drive. An ad read, “Ladies! The smartest…. most glamorous fashions on the Island are located right in your own neighborhood.” Everyone felt like a star!
A perfect dating and family fun establishment was Rego Park Lanes at 96-42 Queens Boulevard, when bowling alleys were cornerstones of Americana. It also offered a restaurant and lounge, famous for Italian and American dishes. Visualize a 70-foot bar with television, a novelty in the 1950s, and most of all, 16 streamlined bowling alleys. Owners and staff often became an extended family for patrons, so today’s longtime residents may recall host Leon Fox and manager Bill Beck.
Another cornerstone of Americana was the classic Jewish deli, which today is few and far between. At 94-19 63rd Drive was Dav-Eds, the “Celebrity Delicatessen and Restaurant,” which offered kosher catering and hot and cold canapes, a specialty, luncheons and dinners, as well as home-cooked food to take out. Nearby was a kosher meat and poultry market known as Koslow’s at 97-22 Queens Boulevard. It was indeed “Where quality reigns supreme” and efficiency was key with a free delivery service by calling either TWining 7-0543 or 0544. Afterall, their slogan was “You ring – We bring.”
A needle, thread, and button became the basis of the name Goldin’s, an intelligent logo. Situated at 97-02 Queens Boulevard, it was advertised as “The home of the educated needle” and “Queens finest men’s store. Brands included G.G.G., Eagle, Austin Leeds, Hammonton Park, Worsted-Tex, Alligator, Forstmann, McGregor, Mark Cross, and Dobbs Hats. Patrons could view a distinctive collection of furnishings and sportswear and visit a style corner for men. Hours of operation were 10 AM to 10 PM. Similar in spirit was the Knitting Studio at 63-55 Booth Street, which offered free expert instructions and individual styling, with a complete selection of quality yarn.
A buzz around town was Philip Birnbaum’s award-winning mid-century modern Metropolitan Industrial Bank Building, which earned a 1st prize architectural award by the Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1952. Its anchor tenant was its namesake at 99-01 Queens Boulevard, which in 1955, was Commercial State Bank & Trust Company of New York, which operated 9 offices. Among the several mom and pop shops on the same block was Margo Chapeaux at 99-03, an exclusive millinery at moderate prices, with individually styled hats made to order.
“Where carpentry is still an art” was the slogan of Wohl Brothers at 92-10 63rd Drive. They specialized in cabinets, carpenters, contractors, unpainted furniture, formica, fixtures, painting, and staining. To continue your decorating needs, Kass Seigal at 97-09 Queens Boulevard was a unique service for the traditional, modern, or contemporary setting, and merchandise included fine furniture, draperies, and accessories.
Simple pleasures begin at childhood with pets and biking around town. At 98-08 Queens Boulevard, Queensway Aquarium & Pet Shop sold tropical and goldfish, exotic plants, and dog and cat supplies, as well as birds including canaries and parakeets. The popular Bill’s Bicycle Store at 63-52 Alderton Street offered new and refurbished bicycles, including Raleigh, Rudge, and Schwinn, as well as accessories and bikes for rent.
Sometimes shops take their names from their surroundings such as Walden Terrace. At 97-09 64th Avenue, Walden Food Center offered appetizing, dairy, and groceries under Marvin Uleis, proprietor. Joseph Miller managed the kosher M. & S. Meat & Poultry, and Sam Baclanic managed the fruits and vegetables.
Cleaning could not be beat! Leeds Cleaners offered same day service at 91-42 63rd Drive under Allen Dresser and Elliott Gitlin, and another popular shop was Jade Chinese Hand Laundry at 97-05 Queens Boulevard.
For every occasion, The Flower Basket at 96-08 Queens Boulevard was ready to serve the community. This exclusive shop was also located in the lobby of 535 5th Avenue and at the Chanin Building. An ad stated, “We deliver and telegraph everywhere.”