Brooklyn Heights

Court Street Office Supply closing Brooklyn Heights store

January 23, 2018 By Mary Frost; additional story by Celia Weintrob Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Court Street Office Supply's owner Jacob Guttman stands at the door of his store. Photo by Mary Frost

Court Street Office Supply, at 44 Court St. across the street from Brooklyn Borough Hall, will be closing its doors on Feb 20, after more than three decades selling pens, stationary and office furniture.

But the company won’t be disappearing entirely. It will be operating instead from a warehouse at 139 11th Street, will have an online presence, and will be delivering to Downtown Brooklyn several times a day, owner Jacob Gutman told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The store is closing not because of rent hikes but because of the shift to online purchasing.

“The world is changing,” Gutman said.

The business is “much more than just selling pens and stationary; we feel that we are very much one community. It’s a tradition for people to come in. The third generation is buying school supplies,” he added.

Gutman believes this connection to the community will continue. Clients can use their existing accounts to order, and anyone can place an order by calling 718-625- 5771, emailing [email protected], or buying online at courtstreet.net.

A Going Out of Business Sale, with markdowns of 50 to 80 percent, starts Wednesday, Jan. 24, and ends on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

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Remembering bygone days at Court Street Office Supply

 

By Celia Weintrob,

For the Brooklyn Eagle

“Do you realize there’s been a stationery store in Downtown Brooklyn for about 100 years?” asked Jacob Gutman, owner of Court Street Office Supply. “Wilson-Jones was here in the early 1900s, they are known for inventing the three-ring binder. There was Goldschmidt’s Stationery at 32 Court, the same building we started out in. After that was Card Cabin, which I bought with my partner Lazar Abramowitz in 1982 from Bernie Klein. We were fortunate that Abe and Marvin stayed with us from that time.”

The unforgettable cast of Court Street Office Supply staffers will light up the eyes of many old-timers in Brooklyn’s business district. Like the TV show Cheers, these stalwarts are rich in personality and personal touches, and typically known by their nicknames.

Can anyone from the ’90s and 2000s forget Yitz, who was in charge of the office furniture department? “With Yitz, the chair came second to whatever the customer’s concerns were, especially if it was a health problem,” Gutman recalled. “Yitz was a certified nutritionist, people trusted him, told him their whole story. There were no boundaries with Yitz.”

“But don’t forget Yitz’s dedication to Chanukah,” Abe (known to the neighborhood for decades simply as Abe from Court Street) chimed in. “Over the eight days of Chanukah, Yitz would have at least nine parties. And I’m sure many people saw him burning chometz (leavened bread products) the day before Passover on the sidewalk in front of the store.”

Marvin Berse was another all-star at Court Street, said Gutman. “Marvin transformed our store into a real community house. What a great relationship builder he was, he really connected with people. I remember him handing out cookies, especially to those who really needed one.”

“The judges and attorneys were always in here,” Gutman recalled. “It was for many years a place to connect with the legal community without actually being in court. Judge Conrad Duberstein in particular was a big booster of the store, and liked it when people come together here.”

Remember the movie shoots? Abe said, “When Spielberg was shooting Catch Me If You Can,” in the 90s, they featured our store window fixed up like an old-time office store. There was another movie too, where the director asked us for really old ledger books. We brought up all kinds of ancient looking stuff from the basement, and sure enough, we had what they were looking for!” Abe also remembered the 1983 Brooklyn Bridge centennial celebration, when David Dinkins and Jesse Jackson campaigned in front of the store.

Shifting to a more somber time, he thought of 9/11.”I remember that beautiful morning, it was Primary Election Day. The store was pretty busy that morning. We had the news playing but nobody really understood what was going on right away. One of our employees had a brother who worked in the towers, who ran over the bridge and stopped at the store to rest, that’s the first we knew of how bad it was.”

This reminded Mrs. Gutman of the 2003 blackout. “We were absolutely cleaned out of all flashlights and batteries!” she said. “So we started carrying candles too. Scented ones!” she added with a grin.

“It was rewarding all these years, to listen to our customers,” she continued. “Not only to find the item that was the right fit for them right then, but we developed product lines based on what they told us they were looking for. Like the educational toys, and arts and craft items. That started due to the number of child therapists with offices in downtown Brooklyn who needed things for their patients. We also added things like kids’ backpacks, and stylish ladies’ carry-alls, pocketbooks and wallets. Once the Neiman Marcus Last Call store opened in the Municipal Building, and Michael’s on Atlantic Avenue, we saw sales for the ladies’ and kids’ items become slower.”

Mrs. Abramowitz loves the story of a customer who came in to buy a $70 Cross pen, then decided to buy two, and actually bought three before leaving the store. “I asked if they were gifts, but she said no,” she said. “Turns out her husband was a Cross pen user, but was careless and often misplaced them. She was such a thoughtful person that she’d leave them where he could ‘find’ them!”

Which reminded her of another colorful client. “One day a lady came in who was wearing a purple hat and scarf, and had a purple handbag. She was looking for a nice pen. I couldn’t resist handing her a purple one. She looked startled and asked me how I knew her favorite color was purple.”

“In 1982, Borough President Howard Golden started a new department, called BEDC, the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation,” said Gutman. “It had its own separate office (we sold them the furniture), and it was meant to showcase what Brooklyn could be. It wasn’t very nice in downtown Brooklyn back then! BEDC planted the seeds for the renaissance that we see around us today. It’s funny to think that back then, one of our biggest sellers was typewriter ribbons.”

“There isn’t a business person in Brooklyn who doesn’t know our store,” he concluded. “Even if they don’t know it by name, everyone knows the office supply store across the street from Borough Hall or the Municipal Building.”

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