New York City, NY

Ghost Signs of NYC: A. S. Beck Shoes Book Excerpt

Frank Mastropolo

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128 West 34th Street©Frank Mastropolo

This excerpt from the new book Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past examines the sign that has improbably survived decades after the A. S. Beck shoe stores have disappeared.

"Fifteen years ago, A. S. Beck opened his first shoe store—on an idea," read a 1925 ad in the New York Daily News. "He believed that if he were to put more style and more value than was customary for the price into the shoes he sold, the men and women of New York would be quick to recognize his efforts and he could look for his profits in increased sales, increased turnover and in additional stores.

"In A. S. Beck Shoes you get style, comfort and durability. There is not a fashion or last that the most exclusive shoe designer creates that does not find its way into A. S. Beck Shoes."

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1925 A. S. Beck advertisementNew York Daily News

Alexander Samuel Beck emigrated to America in 1888 from Eger, Hungary. Beck partnered with his brother Samuel and opened his first retail shoe store on Fulton Street in Brooklyn in 1909. The partnership was dissolved in 1914 and Beck opened another shoe store in Greenpoint.

By 1920, Beck's business had expanded to 13 stores and was sold to the Diamond Shoe Corporation for one million dollars. The agreement mandated that the company would always retain his name.

The chain was subsequently sold to Saul Schiff & Associates and by 1945 had expanded to 145 stores in 60 cities. But business dwindled over time and the final Beck's shoe store, across 34th Street from Macy's, closed in 1982.

Beck's majestic ghost sign remains on the building that built for the Beck chain in the 1920s. Its gold Art Deco signage mounted on gray stone tiles was reportedly designed by in the mid-1950s by Harry L. Alper.

Mastropolo is the author of Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past and Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past.

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Frank Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever, one of Best Classic Bands' Best Music Books of 2021; New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock; the What's Your Rock IQ? Trivia Quiz Book series; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past, winner of the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Award; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past. Mastropolo is a journalist, photographer, and former ABC News 20/20 producer, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University silver baton. His photography is featured in the Bill Graham Rock & Roll Revolution exhibition.

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