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Building #19 Records

 Collection
Identifier: JHCI-019

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains administrative records, advertising materials, ephemera, photographs, and recordings created by Building #19, a New England-based discount chain store founded by Jerry Ellis (born Gerald Elovitz) and Harry Andler in 1964. Series I contains administrative records, including customer letters, employee handbooks, committee reports, as well as "pink sheets," internal use forms filled out by staff for all products sold in the store and how they should be advertised. Series II features advertising materials, including Building #19's well-known weekly circulars—advertisements inserted into various New England newspapers that often featured caricatures of Ellis and self-deprecating humor about the store—as well as original advertising mockups, sale signs, and newspaper clippings of advertisements. Series III contains ephemera, photographs, and recordings, including plaques, certificates, trophies, promotional materials, and photographs and recordings of stores, staff, and events.

Dates

  • undated, 1966-2012

Creator

Language of Materials

This collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Conditions Governing Use

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Historical Note

Building #19 was a New England-based discount chain store founded by Jerry Ellis (born Gerald Elovitz) and Harry Andler in 1964. Ellis was born on September 11, 1917 in Providence, Rhode Island to Samuel and Jessie Elovitz and was raised in Hartford, Connecticut. Andler was born on July 1, 1913 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Israel and Bessie Andler and was raised in Boston.

Ellis and Andler opened the first Building #19 store in the Hingham Shipyard in Hingham, Massachusetts to sell discount furniture that was damaged in a fire. As the buildings in the Shipyard were numbered, and the store was in the 19th building, Ellis and Andler decided to keep the name of Building #19, rather then purchase a new sign.

Known for its self-deprecating humor in branding and advertisements (billing itself as “America’s Laziest and Messiest Department Store” with the slogan “good stuff cheap”), as well as for its surplus stock of miscellaneous clothing and household goods that were often saved from floods and fires or purchased at discount prices after bankruptcies, store closings, or manufacturing mistakes, Building #19 operated 15 stores at its peak. Aside from its main store in Hingham, each store had a fraction appended to its name, including: Building #19 in Hingham, Massachusetts; Building #19 ½ in Burlington, Massachusetts; Building #19 ¾ in Norwood, Massachusetts; Building #19 ⅞ in Lynn, Massachusetts; Building #19 ⅕ in Natick, Massachusetts; Building #19 1⁄6 in Haverhill, Massachusetts; Building #19 1⁄7 in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Building #19 1⁄9 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island; Building #19 1⁄10 in Worcester, Massachusetts; Building #19 1⁄12 in Swansea, Massachusetts; Building #19 1⁄15 in Nashua, New Hampshire; Building #19 1⁄3 in Hanover, Massachusetts; and Building #19 1⁄18 in Cumberland, Rhode Island. The company also at times operated stores in Weymouth and Somerville, Massachusetts and Manchester, New Hampshire.

Building #19 was particularly known for its advertising circulars—which often featured caricatures of Ellis—that were sent out weekly and inserted into newspapers across New England. The circulars included drawings by Scituate, Massachusetts resident Mat Brown and copy written mostly by Ellis, and they often lampooned Ellis himself, as well as the stores, its customers, and the products they sold.

In 2002, Building #19 purchased Spag’s Supply Inc (known as Spag’s), a discount store located in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The store was later renamed Spag’s 19 but was closed in 2006.

In 2013, Building #19 declared bankruptcy and closed its 10 remaining stores.

Harry Andler died at age 64 on January 15, 1978, and Jerry Ellis died on November 11, 2017 at the age of 90.

References

  1. Materials from the collection.

Chronology

1964
The first Building #19 store opens in Hingham, Massachusetts.
2002
Building #19 purchases Spag’s Supply Inc (known as Spag’s) and renames it Spag's 19.
2013
Building #19 declares bankruptcy and closes its remaining stores.

Extent

292.4 linear feet (111 oversized boxes, 98 document boxes, and 1 manuscript box)

Abstract

This collection contains administrative records, advertising materials, ephemera, photographs, and recordings created by Building #19, a New England-based discount chain store founded by Jerry Ellis (born Gerald Elovitz) and Harry Andler in 1964.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Judi Elovitz, 2019.

Processing Information

Processed by Lindsay Murphy, 2021

Creator

Title
Building #19 Records, JHCI-019
Author
Lindsay Murphy
Date
2021
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245