1573 Third Avenue
Between 88th & 89th Streets
New York, NY 10128
Mon: 9:30 am - 7:00 pm
Tues: 9:30 am - 7:00 pm
Wed: 9:30 am - 7:00 pm
Thurs: 9:30 am - 7:00 pm
Fri: 9:30 am - 7:00 pm
Sat: 9:30 am - 7:00 pm
Sun: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
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Our History in a New York Minute
Plain wooden buckets were the best-selling item in the early days of a hardware store located in the heart of Yorkville. Back when beer flowed like water, many a thirsty laborer brought home his brew in a pail from a nearby saloon or from one of several big breweries in the largely German neighborhood. (At the turn of the century, local resident Harpo Marx learned to tell time on the Hell Gate brewery clock after his brother swiped his watch.)
Second-generation German-Americans Bernhart and Elizabeth Wankel bought a building just a block away from a Third Avenue El stop and opened their hardware store in 1896. As Bernhart was a street musician, tending to the business -- and providing security for her family -- fell largely to Elizabeth.
It is still flourishing in the same location, now managed by the founders' great- granddaughter, the third Wankel woman to run the company. (The late Dr. Felix Wankel, inventor of the rotary engine, is a relative.) In addition to beer buckets, the store's stock at first consisted mainly of tools and materials for the construction trade. No longer.
Today the El is gone, the breweries are gone, the German restaurants are gone, scores of high-rise apartment buildings dot the landscape...and Wankel's has changed with the neighborhood. Only a small percentage of its sales are now to construction professionals. Most of its customers are Yorkville neighbors who appreciate the store's neat organization, its attentive service, and its many well-stocked departments, including automotive, garden, small appliances, pet supplies, office supplies, doors and windows, electrical, plumbing, and building supplies.
Something else that endears the store to its customers is its employment policy. Wankel's hires the physically or mentally challenged, the formerly homeless or incarcerated, runaway teens who are trying to turn their lives around, as well as refugees from war, famine, and political repression.
Reprinted by permission from
The Historic Shops and Restaurants of New York
By Ellen Williams and Steve Radlauer
Published by Little Bookroom, 2002
Wankel's first sold wooden buckets.
B. Wankel & Son in the 1920's
Wankel's Hardware mid-20th Century
Watercolor by J.P. Grieco
Wankel's Hardware, a DoItBest store for the 21st Century
Photo by Polly Teller