20 JANUARY 6, 2022 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
‘The Old Reliable Corner of Woodhaven’
BY WOODHAVEN CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL
Hundreds of years ago, Jamaica Avenue was a
path used by Native Americans and traders;
it takes its name from the Yamecah tribe. As
settlements began to grow in Queens and Brooklyn,
Jamaica Avenue developed into an attractive place
for setting up businesses.
Today, many of the buildings on Jamaica Avenue in
Woodhaven are over 100 years old and each of them
has many stories to tell. For example, the corner of
91st Street and Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven today
houses a McDonald’s. But did you know that this location
was known as The Old Reliable Corner and the
reason for that stretches back over 100 years?
In 1912, a man named Louis Schaff ran opened a
dry goods store at 4057 Jamaica Ave., at the corner
of Columbia Avenue (now 91st Street). He named
his business “Schaff ran’s Reliable Store” and it was
described as “commodious and neatly arranged, the
stock is composed of the newest and most seasonable
At Schaff ran’s, you could get a “men’s fi ne four-inhand
tie,” which regularly sold for 35 cents, at only
22 cents. And “ladies fi ne lawn and madras waists”
were down to 89 cents (regularly $1.49).
But Schaff ran’s was short-lived and by 1915 he was
replaced by Julius Friedman, who had built a name
for himself with a small dry goods store on Suydam
Avenue (now 85th Street).
Friedman made an immediate splash with a bright
red electric sign out front. “J. Friedman’s Only Store,”
the sign read, and at this corner, Friedman’s prospered.
He advertised “High Grade Merchandise at
Greatly Reduced Prices” and guaranteed savings
“from 25 to 50 cents.”
Although Louis Schaff ran fi rst used the word reliable
in the name of his business, Friedman began using
the phrase “the Old Reliable Corner” to describe
the location of his business.
At that time, the street naming and address
numbering conventions were undergoing changes.
Columbia Avenue would be renamed 91st Street and
the building’s address would change from 4057 to
9101. So advertising that you were at “the Old Reliable
Corner” wasn’t just an homage to the prior tenant, it
was a clever way to let locals (who were familiar with
Schaff ran’s) know where you were located.
Residents of Woodhaven still do the same thing
today — for example, describing locations as “over
by where Jason’s Toy Store used to be.”
Eventually, Friedman’s took his business down
the avenue to 78th Street and the Old Reliable Corner
had a new tenant, Daniel Reeves, advertised as “The
Better Chain Store Grocers.” Supermarkets were a
relatively new concept and the Daniel Reeves chain
was successful, with nearly 300 locations in New
Dan Reeves lasted at that corner until the mid-’30s
and the chain itself would be sold off in the 1940s.
The owner’s son went on to own the Los Angeles
Rams and the chain of Dan Reeves supermarkets
took on a new name, Safeway.
As for the Old Reliable Corner, for the next 15 years,
it became home to Woolworth’s. Most residents of
Woodhaven remember Woolworth’s about 15 buildings
east of the corner, but it didn’t relocate there
until the mid-1940s.
Courtesy of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society
For the next 30 years, the Old Reliable Corner was
home to Schenkein’s, a store that specialized in fl oor
coverings like carpets, linoleum and tiles. Eventually
Schenkein’s downsized and moved into a smaller
location down the block.
In Schenkein’s place came M&L Shopper’s Corner,
a discount store that J. Friedman’s would have been
proud of. Specializing in discount clothing, Shopper’s
Corner regularly changed its stock to match
the season and everything was priced to sell. And
eventually, aft er Shopper’s Corner turned off their
lights, McDonald’s came to town, its walls along 91st
Street painted a bright red; as bright and as red as
the sign for J. Friedman’s Only Store.
Aft er a recent remodeling, which found McDonald’s
being painted black, there is one interesting
item that you can fi nd near the roof along Jamaica
Avenue. Just above the fl agpole, you can see an old
metal bracket, the one that used to support that
famed J. Friedman sign over 100 years ago.
Whether you were interested in clothing or groceries
or carpets or french fries, the Old Reliable
Corner of Woodhaven has been providing it for over
100 years. Now that’s reliable!
If you have any remembrances or old photographs of
“Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you would
like to share with our readers, please write to the Old
Timer, c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside,
NY 11361, or send an email to editorial@ridgewoodtimes.
com. Any print photographs mailed to us will
be carefully returned to you upon request.