One of my favorite stores on Greenwich Avenue used to be The Marks Brothers Staionery store. It reminded me of some stores back home with its tin ceiling, wooden floors and candy counter. They always seemed to have all the odd office supplies like old typewriter ribbons, mechanical pencils, etc. There was always a cashier and someone on the floor to help you find what you needed, as well as a stockboy refilling the shelves. It was your typical "Mom and Pop" store, run by local residents. I was saddened when it suddenly closed in 2003. Chain stores started popping up on Greenwich Avenue about the same time. It seemed like it was the end of an era. I thought it might be something interesting to research, so I checked the local newspaper index and Oral History transcripts.
PREVIOUS LOCATION OF THE MARKS STATIONERY STORE AT
42 GREENWICH AVENUE
The Marks family came from Goris, a town near the border of Russia and Germany. Their grandfather had come in 1875 with an older son. An uncle had preceded them, but died on a railroad train. (Foul play may have been involved.) Their grandmother came about five years later. The family went into the fruit business, and opened a store in Port Chester. (I found a Louis Marks in the 1908 City Directory, who ran a fruit store at 74 Greenwich Avenue.) Eventually, son Philip Marks (at the age of 12) and his brothers immigrated to the United States. The family moved between Port Chester, Pemberwick, and Norwalk.
Several years later, Philip Marks bought a newspaper business in Greenwich. It was primarily a newspaper route, but it grew into a large business. As a matter of fact, it was the only business of its kind at the time! Some cousins took over the fruit business in Port Chester, and Philip opened up a store near lower Greenwich Avenue in 1907. The 1910 City Directory lists a Marks Stationery store at 378 Greenwich Avenue. By 1922, the Marks ran businesses at the 380 Greenwich Avenue location and 39 Greenwich Avenue. After 1926, the address is listed as 42 Greenwich Avenue, near Putnam Avenue.
The business was indeed a family run affair. Sons Irving, Sam and Abe, and daughter Jennie all pitched in to run the store. Although the boys were paid - they were saving for college - Jennie received no pay, but she was told she could ask for anything she wanted and her father would buy it.
In the Oral History transcript entitled "Marks Brothers Stationery Store", Jennie Marks Levine describes a typical day at the store during the Depression years. She states that her father would get up at 2 am to pick up newspapers at the railroad station. He would bring them to the store, where they were folded. Then her father and brothers would help deliver papers in Greenwich until 12 pm. At noon, they'd change horses and drive up Round Hill Road and North Street, delivering papers until 6 pm. At first they used a horse and buggy, then eventually had a Ford automobile. The horse was so accustomed to the route that he knew which houses to stop at! He also knew where the road was - even in the snow!
The downtown store was sold after a smaller uptown store was bought around 1922. They lived upstairs above the store. The routes were also sold, and the operation became strictly a stationery retail business. The store opened at 6 am and stayed open until 9 pm. The boys went to college, but returned to help out with the business. Ironically, none of their training related directly to the business. Philip Marks bought the building and wanted to invest in other real estate on the Avenue, but his sons advised against it! No doubt he would have been a very wealthy man if he had.
The Marks family sold the business to Irving Pincus in 1978. He ran the business for 25 more years, but the emergence of "big box" office supply stores (e.g. Staples) was too much to compete with. In September of 2003, the business moved to the second floor of the building. Then, the business was transferred to the Ridgefield Office Supply Company in December of that year. They operated there for a while, but are no longer in town.
The Town installed a bronze plaque on the building commemorating the business in 1987. It serves as a tribute to the spirit of the Marks family, immigrants who moved to this country in search of prosperity. They worked hard to achieve the American dream. These people made Greenwich Avenue what it is today - a successful retail center.
Growing Up in Greenwich and the Marks Brothers Stationery Store: Levine, Jennie Marks; Oral History Project, 1974.