Last night at 175 East Houston St., another piece of the Lower East Side’s past was torn down to make way for a shiny new storefront. In the days ahead, a round-the-clock restaurant called Preserve 24 will be opening in a large space with entrances on both Allen and East Houston streets. One of the last tasks at hand was to remove the iconic “Economy Foam” sign that had been affixed to the tenement building for so many years.
After decades on the LES, the store relocated to the West Village a few years ago, but the sign remained behind. As it was dismantled yesterday, indications of this building’s more distant past begun to emerge. See the lettering in the second photo? S. Ershowsky was the butcher shop that occupied 175 East Houston prior to Economy Foam’s tenure there.
It just so happens there’s are references to the butcher shop in Mark Russ Federman’s new book, “Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built.” Russ & Daughters is just a couple of doors away. The stories were told to Federman by Ruth Tanenbaum Shapiro, whose husband, Leo, bought the shop from “old man Ershowsky” in 1946. Ruth remembered the trays of turkeys in the window. They would cook 25 birds at a time during the holidays in big gas ovens in the back of the store and then “the meat was put back on the frame and covered with the skin.” There was a big walk-in refrigerator with sawdust on the floor and the meat,” she said, “was hanging on big hooks and they cut it for the customer right there.” Ruth’s dad was never thrilled about the fact that the store was not kosher.
This was the scene outside 175 East Houston Street this afternoon: