Recently, our fellow-blogger friend, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, noted that the facade of the East Village building that is home to Moishe’s Jewish bakery had gotten a facelift. He asked, “Can renovations ever just mean renovations, without implying some major shift, a landlord’s plan to seek a higher paying tenant?” This question got us thinking- we really want some hamantashen. More importantly than just stimulating our sweet tooths, though, it got us thinking about the history of this building and it’s famous Kosher bakery.
115 2nd Avenue has been home to Moishe’s since 1972, but had been in the family since long before that. According to a 2008 article in the Villager, Moishe Perlmutter, the current owner of the bakery, was born to parents that met in a Nazi concentration camp. After surviving that horror and coming to America after World War II, Moishe’s father began working at a bakery on Suffolk Street in 1947. Moishe later followed in his footsteps, buying a small bakery on Houston and Orchard Streets. Then, in 1972, he received a phone call from another bakery located at 115 2nd Avenue asking if he’d like to buy their space since the owner of the 80-year-old business had died. The building for sale was constructed in 1842 as a 1-family rowhouse and was later converted to a tenement and storefront in the early 20th century. Although that portion of 2nd Avenue, between East 6th and 7th Streets, was quite seedy at the time (read more about the earlier history of 2nd Avenue here), rents were affordable and the neighborhood was predominately Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish. So, Moishe Perl opened what has come to be an East Village institution.
Perlmutter retained his other location until at least the late 80’s according to historic New York Times articles, but it was his Second Avenue outpost that truly became a neighborhood staple. Still rooted in its Orthodox traditions, Moishe’s closes sharply at sundown on Friday and is not open on Saturday. However, today this local shop gets as crowded on Easter as it does on Passover. Mr. Perlmutter’s Yiddish accent, along with the unchanged interior of the bakery, make Moishe’s a symbol of the past and a beacon of hope for the future of preservation in the East Village.