Blueprint of store at 179 E. Houston
Blueprint of store at 179 E. Houston

In the 1940s my great grandfather, Joel Russ, bought this tenement at 179 E Houston Street. He bought the building because that’s where his appetizing store, Russ & Daughters, was located. Back then, the Lower East Side was affordable enough that small shopkeepers could protect their businesses by owning property. He arrived in 1907 from Eastern Europe. For 7 years, he peddled herring. First, he had only a barrel, then he got a pushcart, then a horse & wagon. In 1914, he opened a small store selling herring, lox and other Jewish food staples; his wife and three daughters lived in the back. The shop did well enough that he moved his family to Brooklyn, to a house with a backyard. But the Depression hit. Bankers showed up one day and told him that he had to give up the house or the business. He gave up the house. He moved his family of 5 to a crowded Lower East Side tenement, a move that felt like many steps backwards. But they made it through those hard times. I imagine that when my great grandfather purchased the building, and held the blueprints in his hands, he felt that finally, hopefully, his business and family were secure. I wish he could have seen his perseverance continued by 3 subsequent generations who have sustained Russ & Daughters, thriving at 179 E Houston Street. Today, the framed blueprint hangs on the wall of Russ & Daughters Cafe, the restaurant that my cousin and I, two of Joel Russ’s great-grandchildren, opened on the 100th anniversary of Russ & Daughters.

Year: 1907

– Niki Russ Federman

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more