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Longtime LES Businesses Star in 'Living History' Eyewear Campaign

By Serena Solomon | October 2, 2012 8:20am

LOWER EAST SIDE — The almost century-old local eyewear company Moscot has called upon the equivalent of neighborhood royalty to model its latest glasses collection with its forthcoming "Living History" campaign.

Niki Russ Federman, the fourth-generation co-owner of bagel-and-lox favorite Russ & Daughters, Marty Katz of M. Katz & Sons Furniture, and antiques-dealer-turned-reality-TV-star Billy Leroy are some of the neighborhood personalities who were snapped for the advertising campaign, set to launch Oct. 4.

To further the story of the Lower East Side and Moscot, itself a fourth-generation family-owned business, the "Moscot Originals" eyewear collection included in the campaign are all exact replicas of the most popular frames sold over its decades in business.

"We really are part of a special club," said Russ Federman, who joined numerous others photographed for the campaign at a private event last week to unveil the images. "In a city like New York, where everything is always changing, to have places of history like this is amazing."

Russ Federman said that her grandmother, one of the original daughters of the business, was a Moscot customer as a child.

"I have always thought of Moscot as the Russ & Daughters of frames," said the 34-year-old.

The "Living History" campaign, created in-house by the team at Moscot, is a celebration of the immigrant history of the Lower East Side, as well as its entrepreneurial future, explained company creative director and co-president Wendy Simmons.

"Harvey [the current co-president of Moscot] and his father and his great grandfather, and soon his son, have stood behind this counter in the same way these businesses have done," said Simmons, who also acted as the campaign's photographer.

"Only 4 percent of businesses survive into the fourth generation and beyond, and we knew a lot of these folks," she added.

As for the eyewear included in the collection of Moscot Originals for fall/winter 2012, they were designed based on the most popular frames sold by the company from the 1950s and '60s. All Moscot's glasses are handmade, with its original Lower East Side store still located on Delancey and Orchard streets.

The campaign includes other longtime local businessman like Aaron Gross, the fifth-generation owner of Streit's Matzo Company on Rivington Street, and Bily Leroy, who operated Billy's Antiques & Props on East Houston Street.

"We get our bagels from Russ & Daughters, we get bits and pieces from Billy’s Antiques," said Simmons, calling Leroy the "unofficial curator of the Lower East Side."

Leroy was unable to make the unveiling of the campaign images because of his commitments to the reality TV show "Baggage Battles," which is now filming its second season. 

Billy's Antiques & Props closed its makeshift tent earlier this year with the hope of reopening later at the same location.

Moscot also used its own in the campaign, featuring Theodora "Teddy" Moscot, the mother of current co-president Harvey Moscot.

"The fact of what my sons have done, taking [the business] to where it is now — it was a mom-and-pop," said Moscot, who raised the children while her now-retired husband Joel operated the business. "Now it’s a global entity."

The company currently exports its wares internationally to about 50 countries.

Moscot's reinvention is also something of an inspiration for Russ & Daughters, Russ Federman explained.

She is attempting to balance the tradition and history of Russ & Daughters with such tech-savvy initiatives as using social-media sites like Instagram, maintaining a blog and using its storefront for contemporary art displays.

"I used to see it as a burden," said Russ Federman, of her entry into the family business. "Now I see it as a blessing."