The bustling neighborhood, as diverse as New York itself, includes some of the city’s most popular restaurants in a variety of price ranges and cuisines; a dynamic retail environment with a profusion of fashion, beauty, and home furnishings stores; superb educational institutions and such architectural highlights as the fabled Flatiron Building, the Metropolitan Life and New York Life buildings, and the exquisite New York State Appellate Courthouse. A burgeoning residential community is adding its own new vitality to this historic neighborhood. The district is easily accessed by a range of public transportation options and is just a short stroll from either Grand Central Terminal or Penn Station.

So look around explore, enjoy, and Discover Flatiron! 

 

Flatiron History

Discover Flatiron: Holiday Greeting Card Creators

It’s the digital age but conventional holiday cards remain a longtime favorite format of season’s greetings for family and friends. As traditionalists take their pen in hand during this 75th anniversary of the U.S. Postal Service’s “Mail Early” Christmas campaign, the Flatiron/23rd Partnership looks back at notable wholesale holiday card manufacturers and stationers who flourished throughout the neighborhood a century ago.

“Americans purchase approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards each year,” according to the Greeting Card Association (GCA). “Annual retail sales of greeting cards are estimated between $7 and $8 billion.” According to the GCA, Christmas cards are the most popular seasonal cards among consumers today, with some 1.6 billion units purchased each year, which includes boxed cards.

The beginnings of the U.S. greeting card industry date back to 1856 when Louis Prang, who was born in Breslau, Prussian Silesia, in what is now Poland, opened a lithographic business near Boston. By 1875, Prang made his debut with the first complete commercial line of Christmas greeting cards for the American market. Within five years, Prang reportedly produced more than five million cards a year and is now recognized as the “Father of the American Christmas Card” by the GCA.

“Collectors today still seek out Prang's beautiful Christmas cards,” notes the New England Historical Society website. “They were printed on high-quality paper and lavishly decorated with as many as 30 colors applied to a single print. Some were embossed, varnished and embellished with fringe, tassels and sprinkles. And, according to the website Quartz, “While Christmas took the lion’s share of season’s greetings, card makers soon added designs to celebrate other denominational holidays: by the 1920s, there were Jewish New Year cards, by the 1940s, Hanukkah cards.”

At the turn of the 20th century, greeting card businesses began to surface as commercial entities in the Flatiron District. One such notable manufacturer and wholesale dealer of greeting cards was the Thompson-Smith Company at 263 Fifth Avenue. “The 1914 Christmas line ranges in wholesale price from $15 per thousand to $5,000 per thousand,” reported The American Stationer in 1913 about the Thompson-Smith Company’s plans for the upcoming year. “It gives that portion of the public that wants to spent 5 cents for a greeting card the very best that can be offered at that price, and for those who want more elaborate cards there is a selection of up to $10 apiece.” 

Barse & Hopkins, publisher of the holiday book classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, was also engaged in the card making business at its 28 West 23rd Street location. At the 1922 Gift and Art Show, the company reportedly featured several samples of merchandise for retail buyers such as Christmas enclosure cards, tags and seals, and calendars that were displayed by the firm’s exhibit representatives William J. Barse and Irving G. Hopkins.

Christmas and New Year’s postcards were another format for customers to send holiday wishes. The Atlas View Card Company at 10-12 East 23rd Street offered leather postcards as well as picture postcards made from photos. A sample dozen reportedly sold for 15 cents, and a special sample selection prepaid offer cost 50 cents.  

Businesses also purchased print advertising space in publications seeking sellers for their festive cards. In a 1951 edition of Popular Mechanics, the Fanmour Corp. at 200 Fifth Avenue sought so-called “agents” who could “easily make $27.50 a day selling 50 outstanding Christmas boxes. Up to 100% profit.”

Nowadays, much of the card manufacturing industry has since moved from the Flatiron District. There are, however, a number of prominent and profitable stationers and retailers who continue to sell holiday cards in the community. They include Papyrus at 655 Sixth Avenue, between 20th and 21st Streets, and 940 Broadway, between 22nd and 23rd Streets, Flying Tiger Copenhagen at 920 Broadway, between 20th and 21st Streets, Memories of New York at 206 Fifth Avenue, between 25th and 26th Streets, and Trader Joe’s at 675 Sixth Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Streets. The holiday greeting card legacy of Louis Prang also continues to prosper through his self-described definition as an artistic individual who produced “for the enjoyment of the masses.” 

Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

Flatiron Faces

Flatiron Faces: Deborah Koenigsberger, Store Stylist & Owner, Noir et Blanc

Meet Deborah Koenigsberger, store stylist and owner of Noir et Blanc, a French-inspired boutique, located at 7 West 25th, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. “The key to the success of the store is our unmatched customer service over these many years, and the fact that I scour the shows in Europe to bring back little known brands,” says Koenigsberger. A few doors down at 11 West 25th Street, Koenigsberger also wears her hat as Founder and award-winning CEO of Hearts of Gold, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help homeless mothers and their children. “Last month, we raised the highest net amount of dollars ever for the organization. We netted over $870,000 to continue this vital work.”

1. You’re fluent in a number of languages and initially considered a career as a United Nations translator. But your passion for fashion and modeling directed you to become a retail entrepreneur. Three decades ago, you opened the boutique Noir et Blanc. Tell us more

Retail has changed SO much since I opened Noir et Blanc in 1989. We don’t just sell clothing but we style each woman, and that goes a long way with our clients. We give her the personal attention she needs to feel beautiful and confident in the pieces she purchases. In addition, I’m a stickler for detail and quality, so the collections we carry are well thought out and curated to create the best wardrobe she could have. My store manager, Karen, who has been with me for over 20 years now, and I constantly brainstorm about new ideas we want to incorporate in the collections and the store in general to keep things fresh.

2. On social media you’ve stated that the retail fashion business is an evolving industry and that “networking is a great way to meet new customers.” How has networking helped you as a small business owner? 

The value of networking cannot be overstated. Personally, I belong to a networking group, which I joined about four years ago, and it has helped my business tremendously. I’ve met other stylists and individual clients that I would have not come across in my normal everyday life, which has proven to be invaluable. It has opened new avenues for us.

3. Your concern about the plight of the homeless in Madison Square Park during the 1990s led you to become the Founder and CEO of Hearts of Gold. This not-for-profit organization will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2019. Describe Hearts of Gold and your role there as well as some of your recent achievements and plans for the future. 

My role at Hearts of Gold (HoG) is Founder and CEO, but I literally do everything and I am extremely hands on. Some of our recent achievements are the success of our HoG Learning Center, giving away our 1,000th backpack this past August during our Annual Back-to-School Backpack Giveaway and Block Party, and the graduation of several of our moms from our new initiative, the Career Development Program.

4. Over the years, Hearts of Gold has gained support from a number of high-profile individuals, including Grammy and Oscar winning singer and songwriter Stevie Wonder, Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, and Emmy winner and Today co-anchor Hoda Kotb. How has their participation and those of others helped Hearts of Gold’s mission? 

The participation of high-profile individuals never hurts as we all know and in HoG’s case, it has helped us to tell our story. Individuals like Marcia Gay Harden, Stevie Wonder, who was my inspiration for starting the charity, Rhonda Ross, and others have lent their name and support. This speaks to the ability of our story to reach out and touch. The fact that they support us legitimizes our work.

5. Is there any advice you can share with others who are interested in both social services and owning a business?

My advice to any entrepreneur is to do what you LOVE. Find your passion and exploit it to the maximum. Look for all the ways it can pay your bills, but also help someone else who is NOT as fortunate as you. It’s not so hard to do, and in the end, you will never regret that decision. Finally, get yourself a mentor or a coach who hears you and can help you to navigate the bumps that you are sure to encounter along the way.

6. You’re engaged in a busy work schedule, and you’re a wife and mother, too. How do you maintain work-life balance? 

Maintaining work-life balance is all about time management. Fortunately, I have an amazing husband and two pretty terrific boys, so that’s been hugely helpful. This is not to say that I don’t get overwhelmed, but when I do, I check out. Traveling is my absolute favorite pastime! It gives perspective to everything and clears my head. 

7. Switching gears to when you’re not working, where do you like to dine in the area? And, what’s your go-to dish? 

My two favorite places to dine in the area are ABC Kitchen and Hillstone. While very different from each other, each one is always an enjoyable, delicious experience with excellent service! The Miso Glazed Atlantic Cod at Hillstone is my fave and the Mushrooms, Parmesan, Oregano, and Farm Egg Whole Wheat Pizza at ABC Kitchen is delish!

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

Must-see and do in the neighborhood? Walk the side streets! The area has exploded and there is so much to discover! I love all the creative new shops and restaurants that are constantly popping up! 

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area? 

All these years later, my favorite building remains the Flatiron Building. It’s genius and it represents my ‘other home’ to me.

10. Finally, choose three words, okay four, to describe the Flatiron District. Historically rich! Fashionable! Yummy! 

Walking Tour

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What People Are Saying see

“Village meets midtown.”

When asked to describe the Flatiron District in three words

Brandon Stanton
photographer, Humans of New York

“It's a three-way tie. The architecture. The vibe. The food.”

When asked about his favorite thing about the Flatiron District

Marc Glosserman
Founder & CEO Hill Country Hospitality + local resident

“You are building a community like no other!”

Excerpt from remarks at the 8th Annual Meeting of the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership

Gale A. Brewer
Manhattan Borough President

Quick Stats

21M+

Square feet of commercial real estate

46M+

Total 2016 MTA riders for 23rd Street (1,6,N,R,F,M) and 28th St (1,6,N,R) stations

4,270

Hotel rooms

10,769

Taxi drop offs per weekday in 2016

3.3+

Dollars invested in the Public Plazas by the BID