Joe Weinstein, born in Galicia, the historic region that straddles today’s Polish-Ukrainian border, came to the United States and founded Mays in 1924. In 1927 it was incorporated as JW Mays Inc. — JW for the founder’s initials and Mays for the month because it reminded him of the countryside and the flowers of spring.
Mays’ discount department stores catered to moderate- and low-income customers, with the flagship headquarters on Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn. In 1953 he boldly opened a branch in the brand-new community at the northeastern tip of Queens called Glen Oaks. Located at 258-01 Union Turnpike, the store was a great success, something attributed to the mushrooming population of easterly Queens. And it was unique in that its employees reported that 40 to 70 percent of their business was done after 4:45 p.m.
At its peak in the early 1970s, JW Mays had nine stores that employed over 5,000 people. Eventually, in the late 1980s and 1990s, discount department stores like Mays — along with Ohrbach’s, EJ Korvette’s, Alexander’s and TSS — started closing. The great Glen Oaks Mays closed in 1987, leaving just three stores in the chain. Those were shut on Dec. 31, 1988.
But on Jan. 1, 1989, JW Mays Inc. reincorporated as a real estate company. Today it owns 10 properties in and around new York City, mostly former Mays stores, and employs 31 people.
The old site on Union Turnpike today is home to big retailers including Burlington Coat Factory and Baby Depot.
Weinstein passed away in 1963. His son-in-law, Max Shulman, took over as CEO and passed control to his son, Lloyd, in the early 1990s.