Silvercup was a trade name for bread made by the Gordon Baking Company. During the Long Island City building boom of the 1920s, a massive building was constructed with four flour silos at 42-25 21 St. Company President Everett Wilsher and Vice President W.F. Husted made the bread into a household name for decades. The name was so famous that stores named Silvercup Meats and Silvercup Fruit sprang up in the neighborhood, though they had nothing to do with the bread firm.
For Christmas 1974 the Teamsters union wanted a 10 percent commission on bread delivered to non-union stores and supermarkets in ’75. Silvercup had an exclusive three-year contract with the city Board of Education and could not raise prices after Nixon sold grain to Russia and prices here doubled. The city was also in a recession.
Silvercup countered with an offer of 2 percent to the union. The Teamsters stood firm on their 10 percent and threatened to strike. Silvercup said if you do we will shut down the factory. The union laughed and said you can’t because you just bought a new fleet of trucks.
The workers went on strike and the factory closed its doors. Silvercup sold off the new trucks and ovens, as well as whatever else it could sell for salvage. It owed the IRS $500,000 in withholding taxes and another $500,000 in pension funds; 600 people lost their jobs.
Harry Suna (1924-1992) of 83-57 118 St. in Kew Gardens, who owned a sheet metal factory on 46th Street, visited the building in December 1979 and purchased it for $2 million in 1980. The Silvercup workers’ lockers were still intact as if they thought they would be coming back to work.Suna’s sons, Stuart and Alan, who were architects, saw the potential instead for movie sound stages.
Starting in 1983 with one 3,000-square-foot sound stage, Silvercup Studios grew to 18, totaling 400,000 square feet, by 2008. Harry and his sons helped start a Long Island City renaissance which brought back thousands of jobs to the area — more than compensating for the 600 that had been lost.
Today LIC is one of the hottest newly cosmopolitan areas of Queens.