Lettering Obituary

Gertel’s Bakery, 1914-2007, died last week from complications arising out of escalating land prices, finally succumbing to demolition on November 2. It was 93.

Born at 53 Hester Street, Gertel’s storefront had long been a fixture of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Between the early forties and late fifties, the store acquired a new facade, with the store name rendered in a carefully executed script, and a “streamer” below. The auxiliary lettering, including the memorable one-liner “Bakers of Reputation,” was made in the contrasting “gaspipe” style of flat sides and rounded tops.

In a daring (and endearing) move, its neon sign included three different forms of the letter “E,” which friends recall fancifully as a nod to the neighborhood’s melting pot history. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Gertel’s was regularly photographed in public, though often unable to hide the tragic effects of irreversible sun damage.

Gertel’s will likely be survived by a condominium, Luxury, and an awning, Arial. —TFJ

Photo: Jeremy Perez-Cruz, 2007

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