[This story was updated at 2pm on 9/9/16.]
Taking the D train into the Bay Parkway train station, have you ever noticed, on eye-level with the train, the word “Orloff’s” inscribed in all caps on the side of one building?
All that can be learned from the partially obscured sign is that this “Orloff’s,” located at 2211 86th Street between Bay Parkway and 23rd Avenue, on the southern tip of the neighborhood, was established in August of 1902.
Curiously, while the sign says “1902,” New York City records state that the building itself was constructed in 1926.
According to former Brooklynite Jim Buccini, the Orloff in question is Henry Orloff — Khuny Ortleyevich, before Ellis Island — a Jewish Ukrainian man who came to the U.S. in 1885 at the age of 16.
Buccini spoke with the alleged grandson of the man who actually built 2211 86th Street. He writes that Henry Orloff worked as a feed dealer before he had the building on 86th Street constructed. Orloff went on to maintain a retail business there.
Originally, the Orloff’s building had many purposes — including as a stable for horses, and a dry goods and men’s shoe seller, according to Forgotten New York.
“The building housed a number of different businesses over the past 114 years as the waves of immigration played out,” Buccini writes in his post on the building on Facebook, adding that he found these waves to be what “always made Bensonhurst an interesting neighborhood.”
Today, the building holds a Cantonese restaurant called 86 Fu Kee, which advertises above the Orloff’s sign. The building is not landmarked.
If the building was indeed constructed in 1926, the fact that the Orloff’s sign is eye-level with D train straphangers makes sense. The elevated platform was completed in 1917, according to building photographer Dave Cook’s blog, Eating in Translation.
What can you tell us about the Orloff’s building?