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J & M Hardware & Locksmith Inc

Opening Hours
Today: 8am–5pm
19 East 21st Street

A small part of history is intertwined with J&M Hardware. Prior to 9/11, the New York Fire Department suffered its greatest loss of men when a liquor shop adjacent to the hardware store went up in flames in 1966. Unbeknownst to the firemen, someone had moved the retaining wall. “When the firemen entered, the floor collapsed, killing twelve of New York’s bravest,” Neil Schneider, the present owner, recalled.

Shortly after World War I ended, brothers Jessie and Mack opened J&M. They were originally located on Broadway between 22nd and 23rd Street but were forced to move to Park Avenue South following the fire, where they remained for close to forty years. “Jessie had retired long before,” Neil shared, “But as the story goes, Mack passed away in the actual old store arguing with a customer about whether he had given him a ten dollar or twenty dollar bill.”

Mack’s wife then sold the business to Leon Bruckier, a holocaust survivor who also owned a hardware store in Alphabet City. He brought in his son-in-law, Dan Basovitch, as the locksmith, and when he began contemplating retirement, he wanted Dan to have a partner. “And they found me.” Neil had been managing a hardware store on the Upper East Side, but in 1987, he jumped at this new opportunity. The two men worked side by side until Dan retired in 2019. “Now I am the sole owner of the place.“

In an effort to attract customers when the store moved to a side street in 2003, Neil created clever rebus puzzles to display in the window. Years later, the hardware-themed puzzles have gained a cult following from regular customers, who eagerly anticipate each new riddle. The store is equally well-known for Dan’s radio-controlled airplanes suspended from the ceiling.

Over time, the store has adapted its inventory to suit the evolving area. What has remained consistent, however, is Neil’s dedication to the community. Whether it is fixing a broken stroller, rewiring a lamp, or producing jury-rigged flashlights when there were no more to be found during the 2003 blackout, Neil has always serviced the needs of the Flatiron District. “We are a neighborhood store — that’s what we do.”

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