Boro Park Snapshot: Unique Sterling
Silver is the Yid’s metal, apparently. Who doesn’t have a
silver menorah, silver ke’arah, silver esrog pushka, silver atara and silver
snuff box? The Torah lined the Yiddishe life in silver.
Nowhere will you find nicer silver candy dishes, challa knives and besamim holders than at Unique Sterling, and nowhere will you find a more affable man with the chein of the old Ingerishe Yid than at the register at 4819 18th Ave.
Reb Noach Klein is a man with a quick wit and agreeable humor. He introduces himself as “Reb Noach shlita,” and has a quick retort when asked how many years he was in the silverware industry — “older than you are,” he told boropark24.com’s Heshy Rubinstein in an interview.
The answer finally came out — 45 years. Prior to that he was a starkly different business than the rarified aura of sterling and shiny silver, he was a mashgiach at Empire Kosher Poultry
Mr. Klein, a native of the Hungarian town of Dezh, opened his silver shop in 1975, first on 13th Ave. and 52nd Street and then moving to his current location nearly 20 years ago.
Some 90 percent of the wares are no silver knockoffs made in China but antique silver fashioned by the best metalworkers of the 19th or 20th centuries. He used to have to go around to suppliers to find the aged metal utensils and bowls he was seeking for his customers. He would spend weeks in Maine, Boston and Pennsylvania searching, fingering and haggling until he had what he wanted. Today, however, he has a coterie of purchasers who do the hard work for him.
So what is the different between a plain old used silver candy dish and an “antique” saucer whose worth Yankel or Berel would gladly part with their newly earned cash to decorate their Shabbos table? It’s all verification. The value of a silver piece from London crafted 150 years ago is much higher if it has names on it of long passed people.
“Let me give you an example,” Mr. Klein said, taking out a long, square silver tray from its case. “Antique sochrim sell this for $1,600. Here you can get it for $750. A difference of almost $1,000.”
Mr. Klein took out a silver fruit basket with a thin stand gracefully holding it up. “This would cost $2,250 out there,” he said. “In my store, I sell it for $1,650.”
Much of the equipment he used to weigh his wares and perform his proprietorial duties are still from the time when he purchased the store nearly a half century ago. He still has a rotary phone that makes it a headache to dial 718 or 917 numbers. His greatest nod to the 21st century is a gray calculator on his table, which covers up a pink receipt book. His scale is a manual one that utterly bypassed the technological revolution that digitized the world. But he wouldn’t give it up.
“When there was a blackout three or four years ago and there was no electricity,” he says with the wisdom of age, “nobody was able to use their scales. I was.”
A horse and buggy, its silver legs and wheels lifted in pride, lays off to one side, surrounded by the usual trinkets, bechers and leichters.
But despite that, he has an unusual message for Boro Park.
“Why do you need to buy silver?” he wondered aloud. “Have the sechel not to buy too much silver.”