Alexander S. Beck (1863-1955), the founder of the A.S. Beck shoe company, emigrated to America in 1888 from Eger, Hungary. Originally he worked as a butcher in a general store in Duquesne, Pa.
In 1909 Beck made a career change and came to Brooklyn to open up a shoe store with his brother on Fulton Street. Their partnership was short-lived, being dissolved in 1914. Alexander struck out on his own with a store at 845 Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint and prospered. By 1920 he had 13 stores and decided to sell his company to The Diamond Shoe Corp. for $1 million. In the agreement it was stipulated that the company would always retain his name.
In 1945, now enlarged to 147 stores in 60 cities in the East, South and Midwest, the firm was sold again, this time to Saul Schiff and Associates. At the time, Queens had A.S. Beck stores in Jamaica, Ridgewood, Flushing, Astoria and Rego Park.
Beck lived quietly at 3608 Avenue T in Canarsie with his second wife, Rossella (Ray), 23 years his junior, and his daughter, Romola, and sister-in-law, Helen Spiro.
But the business’s fortunes turned and by 1972 the only three stores still operating in Queens closed. The final store, opposite Macy’s in Manhattan, closed in 1982.
People will always remember A.S. Beck for its high-quality products in a time when shoes were more important than sneakers.