Saturday, March 22, 2008

Department Store Building of the Week


In the center of this image is the triangular building of the Steinbach Co., 555 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park. Jacob and John Steinbach opened a store in Long Branch, which then was the pre-eminent Jersey Shore resort, in the late 1800s. (There's a reason Miss Kitty ran the Long Branch Saloon.) Jacob stayed in Long Branch but John saw that Asbury Park was becoming the business center of the northern Shore and moved there, first to Main Street and then to this location. In the mid-1930s the Steinbachs, who had invested heavily in the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel, brought S.S. Kresge into the business (Kresge was putting together a chain of department stores as well as his 5 and 10s) but by the end of World War II it was back in the hands of Walter Steinbach, who eventually sold it to the Goerkes of Elizabeth. The Goerke-Steinbach stores were brought together with the Howland store in Bridgeport, Conn., and the Genung's stores in Westchester County, N.Y., as a regional chain operated by Supermarkets General Corp. under the names Steinbach and Howland. The Steinbach building was rehabilitated last year after sitting idle for years, as part of the effort to revive Asbury Park.

In this case a department store and newspaper are almost literally joined at the hip. That's the old building of the Asbury Park Press two buildings to the left on Mattison Street.

One thing I love about the Steinbach building is that John Steinbach was not a humble man. Above the main entrance the name "Steinbach Company" did not appear, simply the name "John Steinbach."

The building with the white back wall in the lower left was a smaller department store, Tepper Bros., started in the 1930s by Jacob Tepper, a member of the Tepper family that owned the main department store in Plainfield. He had opened a Tepper store in Fort Wayne, Ind., but, failing in that, returned to New Jersey and eventually purchased the LeMaistre store, which had started as a lace shop. I assume it was related to the turn-of-the-century LeMaistre store in Manhattan.

For those who don't know New Jersey's weird home-rule geography, Asbury Park may have had only 15,000 people but was the downtown for a population four or five times that, with Deal, Allenhurst, Bradley Beach, Ocean Grove, Sea Girt, etc., etc., all being independent adjoining towns. Like most communities of that size, it had enough business for one big department store but not two.

I hope to post a new department store photo each week.

2 comments:

Ken Brooks said...

My father, Bertram Tepper Brooks, owned and operated Tepper's Department store until selling the business to a Mr. O'Conner in
1965. I have many photos of the old Tepper's building, both as LeMaistre's and as Tepper's, and I have some excellent photos of the inside of Tepper's as well. My sister and I--I'm 57, she's three
years older--grew up in Deal and naturally spent a lot of time in Asbury in the 1950s and 60s. I now live in Forida and she lives in Kentucky but we both love and miss the Jersey shore...which is why we make a point to visit every summer.

virginiacreeper said...

Hi I am Ann Dalrymple, I am 95. I used to work at Teppers. Please let me know if u can see this message. I'm in dunellen nice.