Michael Young stands at the podium in the moments before the bidding begins at the Antique Co-op and Auction House on Eastern Avenue on May 23.
As he speaks into the microphone the crowd before him goes silent, “At this very moment the old Ruderman’s is getting torn down,” says Young. “Head on down there this afternoon for a commemorative brick – it’s the end of an era.”
After years of vacancy the Ruderman’s building at 42 Ferry St. has indeed been torn down. The last business to lease the space left in 2011. For years the building has stood with locked doors and newspaper lined windows, its fate uncertain.
A CVS will be constructed where the old Ruderman’s once stood. CVS currently operates in three distinct locations in Malden: Pleasant Street, Eastern Avenue and Broadway. Neither an exact date for start of construction nor a projected open date for the location have been publicly announced. There has been neither confirmation nor denial of speculation that this CVS may serve as a replacement for the CVS on Pleasant Street. A media representative for CVS did not verify dates or return comment for this article.
Local residents have hoped for a return to business of some kind at the location for years. In the decades since the closure of the renowned furniture store, a flea market and the Antique Co-op and Auction House have operated in the space. Attempts to revive one or both of those businesses within the space after 2011 met with local support, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Stephen Nedell, a reference librarian and Malden resident, says: “Really what would go there? But it would have been nice to see another furniture store.”
Joseph B. Ruderman opened his furniture store in 1913 near the present-day intersection of Ferry and Irving streets, an area known at the time as the Shute Block. The success of his new and used furniture business led to growth for Ruderman, who in 1924 moved his business to a larger location at 42 Ferry Street, next to what was then the Malden Post office. Ruderman’s sons succeeded their father in the day-to-day operations of the furniture store, which continued to grow and even expanded during the Great Depression to include locations in Medford and Melrose.
The year 1958 brought a store expansion and the implementation of a modern façade. In 1967, the acquisition of the adjacent post office building gave Malden the visage of Ruderman’s the city’s residents have come to associate with the block.
Malden residents have fond memories of the store.
“When I got married, all the furniture for our house came from Ruderman’s,” says John Preziosa, former worker for the City of Malden and current director of Malden’s drum corps.
Connie Doherty of the Antiques Co-op and Auction House says: “There was Ruderman’s and there was Kotzen’s.
People came here to shop for furniture. Malden was a destination,” she reminisces. “The store was right next to Malden High. When I graduated in 1964, the store gave the girls a miniature hope chest and a charm for a bracelet.”
Connie was still in possession of the charm when she was interviewed and donated it for this article.
All three of Joseph P. Ruderman’s sons helped to run the company. Ruderman’s was a family-owned and operated business until the death of the last surviving Ruderman son, company chairman Ben Ruderman, in May 1989. Shortly thereafter,
the stores closed. By 1990, Ruderman’s furniture stores were no longer listed in business directories.
For the first time since its construction in the early 20th century, there was no trade in the building at 42 Ferry St.
The Ruderman family still had ownership of the property. By 1991 a new operation was in the location. Stan Krigman, Ben Ruderman’s son-in-law, opened a flea market in the space. Residents from Malden and neighboring towns manned booths in the former furniture building every weekend and several weekday afternoons every week throughout the tenure of the flea market’s operation.
“My wife ran a booth there for years,” Preziosa recalls. “Most weekends she was working there. It was fun!”
“It was extremely busy in its day,” says Dave Noonan, Sr., former owner of the Antique Co-op. “People could afford to do it as a supplement to their day job. Then around 2000-2001, the money was just different.”
The market stayed in operation under Krigman until about 1999, when Combined Properties purchased the building. An increase in rent and a discordant relationship between the leases and Combined Properties led to Krigman’s decision to leave the business.
The Antiques Co-op and Auction House, two separate businesses that have long operated in conjunction under the same roof, took over the space around that time. With a reputation for low prices and volume deals, the business did well enough to survive the economic collapse of the early years of the 2000s. However, in 2011, the Antiques Co-op and Auction House succumbed to the rising rent and operating costs and moved to its current location at 75 Eastern Ave.
Bi-weekly auctions still take place at this location and vendors in the co-op display their wares for sale every week during operating hours (and sometimes before and sometimes after), Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For this business at least, commerce marched on.
For the past four years, the block long flagship building of Ruderman’s local empire has stood silent, paper in the windows to block the sun.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
A large L-beam glides through the air high above the mostly toppled construction site at 42 Ferry Street, balanced atop the bucket of an orange excavator on June 6. The heavy grey of the steel of the beam contrasts with the blue of the early June sky. The beam wavers slightly as the operator of the excavator secures it behind a segment of wall on the last standing corner of the Ruderman’s building.
From the cab of the excavator, the operator pulls a valve. Cylinders shift and the beam pulls the wall toward the property. Bricks, cement and metal clammer down on a pile of gathered rubble in a place that 100 years ago was the Malden post office. Dust and small particles rise with the crash and blow out onto Ferry Street. It is the third week of demolition. The on-duty police officer informs me that in two days’ time, June 8 2015, the demolition of the years-vacant Ruderman’s building will be complete.
Fences, erected and expanded throughout demolition, now guard scattered nails and gathered piles of bricks and steel. Soon CVS, the second largest retail pharmacy in the nation, will begin construction on the site. It will compete directly with the newly expanded Walgreens on Centre Street. Walgreens is the largest retail pharmacy in the nation.
“What can you do?” says Noonan Sr. with a shrug. “Times change. I don’t know if it’s better.”