Old-time Orchard St. lives on in suit seller

Sammy Gluck, holding a photo of his father, in his Orchard St. menswear store. Gluck’s father founded the store in 1970. Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

BY ETHAN STARK-MILLER | As soon as customers enter Global International Menswear, before they have time to notice the fluorescent lighting and suit-lined walls, Samuel “Sammy” Gluck greets them with a smile and a handshake.

Gluck, 65, has sold suits on the Lower East Side for 35 years, since the days when people flocked to the famed enclave for discounted goods and one-on-one customer service. But now the neighborhood is populated by trendy bars and art galleries, and old Jewish merchants like Gluck are a rarity.

Gluck inherited the store from his father, Isaac Gluck, who first opened for business in 1970. Gluck said that, in its heyday, Global International Menswear was a three-floor mini-department store that was always busy.

“We had lines on the street to come into the store,” Gluck said.

But, he said, the Lower East Side has experienced significantly less foot traffic in recent years, which caused many fellow merchants to relocate or close.

Gluck said he has lasted because he owns his building and because he still loves selling suits on Orchard St.

When Gluck’s store opened, Orchard St. was populated by Jewish merchants who peddled designer fabrics for discounted prices. In addition, Jewish-owned stores remained open on Sundays when blue laws prevented most businesses throughout the city from opening on the Christian Sabbath.

Tim Laughlin, president of the Lower East Side Partnership business improvement district, said the repeal of the blue laws and the advent of Internet shopping have caused a significant drop of foot traffic in the area. Laughlin, 35, said that legacy merchants like Gluck now face challenging times.

Lower East Side business conditions are constrained because there are a lot of substandard buildings, there isn’t a critical mass of residents, “and there aren’t a lot of daytime uses here that are attracting folks to come to the neighborhood,” Laughlin said.

Gluck agrees reduced foot traffic has made conditions more challenging.

“You don’t know,” Gluck said, “one day slow, one day busy.”

The news site The Lo Down reported in late 2017 that Gluck had posted a “for rent” sign on his front window. The haberdasher said he was considering renting the space but decided to stay in business for the immediate future.

His friend Sammy Goldman, 45, said Gluck makes a good income from the other real estate he owns, and keeps the store open because of his familial and community connections.

“He’s so in love with the people from Orchard St.,” Goldman said.

Jamel Oeser-Sweat, 42, one of Gluck’s customers, is impressed with Gluck’s old-world sales approach.

“He’s a hard-working guy,” Oeser-Sweat said, “and his dedication to making things happen is a lost art.”

Gluck admitted that he stays in business because he still loves going out and talking to people on the street and taking care of his customers.

“Main thing is that you show them a personal feeling,” Gluck said. “It’s all about connecting to people.”

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