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John's is short for John's Bargain Stores, a chain of discount housewares and appliance stores in New York City from 1927 to the mid-1970s. Stores operated in Manhattan between the years 1955 and 1976. The 14th St. location was 512 E. 14th St. This was the original store in Manhattan, and it was listed in the telephone directory in 1955 as "John's Bargain Stores 512 E 14 ORegn 7-0410." In 1962 the chain listed 12 stores in the Manhattan telephone directory.

The founder was Harry Cohen (1888-1963), whose obituary in the New York Times, 24 October 1963, read, "Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 23 - Harry Cohen, who founded and was president of John's Bargain Stores until his retirement seven years ago, died yesterday at his home. He was 75 years old. Mr. Cohen, a native of Brooklyn, opened his first store of general merchandise in 1927 in South Ozone Park, Queens, New York. He developed the chain, which now operates 280 stores, 118 of them in the New York area. Its annual sales volume is $46 million. Surviving are four sons, David, chairman of the company; Ben, president, and James, vice president, all of Rockville Centre, L. I., and Leon of Oceanside, L. I.,; a daughter, Mrs. Stella Tobin of Rego Park, Queens, secretary of the chain; two brothers, three sisters, nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren."

In 1978 "Gerald Sprayregen, a New York businessman, was sentenced ... to a year in prison on Federal charges involving a scheme that the prosecutor described as a 'massive fraud' that caused the collapse of a large retail chain called John's Bargain Stores" (New York Times, 3 Feb. 1978).

The following appeared in the New York Times June, 2002, on the death of David Cohen, one of Harry Cohen's sons, "David Cohen, who led John's Bargain Stores to the top rungs of discount retailing in the 1960's, died on Thursday at his home in Medford, N.Y. He was 80. The cause was lung cancer, his wife, Blanche, said. He also had a home in Delray Beach, Fla. John's Bargain Store -- with its big red sign and white lettering -- was once a nearly ubiquitous presence in the New York metropolitan area, particularly in low-income sections. It grazed the low end of retailing, relying on paying cheap rent for locations few other retailers wanted, as well as on buying merchandise that could be startlingly inexpensive, often because the manufacturer had overestimated demand. 'Give us your mistakes and we'll make them pay,' was a company slogan. A company maxim was that the best places for stores were areas with few new automobiles but many used baby strollers. At its peak in the mid-1960's, John's had 527 stores along the Eastern Seaboard and in Puerto Rico."

Other John's Bargain Store photos are available on flickr. See, for instance, Christian Montone and BillP.

Copyright © 2010 Walter Grutchfield