Juvenalia

by Thomas Beller

06/04/2006

150 E 2nd St, NY, NY 10009

Neighborhood: Lower East Side

On the southwest corner of 2nd Street and Avenue A is a nameless bar (its patrons refer to it as “2A”), and it has on its second floor large picture windows through which one can survey the goings on in the neighborhood. Across 2nd Street is a wide patch of sidewalk where a street vender can usually be seen selling selections from other people’s wardrobes. Above the sidewalk hangs a small billboard that reads, in faded letters, “Pretty Decorating.” Diagonally across the street sits a large Korean grocery called Avenue A Farm. And right across Avenue A sits a store named Schneider’s.

Starting at about six, and lasting all night, a steady flow of pedestrian traffic moves east on 2nd Street and back again; one of the area’s larger heroin suppliers operates out of a doorway between Avenues A and B. Few of those people look at the gray awning above Schneider’s advertising “Baby Carriages” and “Juvenile Furniture” in big red letters, and, in smaller letters beneath, the following items: “Gifts, Cradles, Strollers, Hi Chairs, Play Pens, Porta Cribs, Bedding, Toys, Teen Furniture, Dressing Tables, Infant Needs, Bassinets.”

The area used to be a mecca for stores specializing in baby furniture. There was Ben’s Babyland, and Schacter’s, and Lederman’s, but they’ve all gone out of business. Schneider’s is the only one left. The other day, its proprietor, Roy Waxman, was sitting near the front door, wearing blue slacks, a gray polo shirt with the Schneider’s logo stitched on it red letters, a gray cap, and gold-rimmed glasses. A black cordless phone was pressed to his cheek, in a manner suggesting that he rarely let go of it. On being asked about the history of the store, he replied, “Schneider is my wife Blanche’s maiden name. My father-in-law, let him rest in peace, started the business. One year later, I came in. This was 1947.”

One of the secrets of Schneider’s survival may be Mr. Waxman’s unlimited enthusiasm for juvenile furniture. Walking through a showroom crammed with chairs, cribs, beds, tables, and a number of objects whose names would elude those unschooled in the baby-furniture field, he waves at a row of chairs. “This is the biggest item. I would never have expected this item to sell so much. We must sell ten a week–even twenty a week. It’s a gliding rocker. They nurse their baby in them.” He sits and begins to rock back forth. Mr. Waxman is the sort of person who can sit in a rocking chair and still seem vigorous. The chair’s motion is that of a rocking chair, but the part of the chair that touches the ground remains stationary. “This is very popular for people in apartments,” Mr. Waxman continues. “Your downstairs neighbor don’t know when your rocking. You can rock in the middle of the night, nobody knows! Two o’clock in the morning, you’re rocking!”

In an aisle between lines of strollers, Mr. Waxman pauses in front of one of them. “Now, Maclaren is the Mercedes-Benz of the business. The best baby carriage in the world is this carriage here.” He proceeds to demonstrate the many features of the stroller, shifting the canopy into different positions and turning things inside out. “This carriage has made us a lot of money in the last six years,” he says. “But they’ve stopped making it. They want to go on to something where they make more money. I am willing to buy a thousand a month, and I’ll go on TV to sell them, but they can’t do it.” A hint of sadness creeps into his voice. “It’s the best stroller in the world. Whoever owns it loves it! It’s the end of an era. I have a couple hundred left, and that’ll be it.”

A call to the distributor confirmed Mr. Waxman’s statement that Maclaren, a British firm, had discontinued the model, and also revealed that it had been marketed under the name The Dreamer.

1993

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