Historic, but not famous

Alfredo Thiebaud (December 13, 1939 – September 19, 2014) was the founder and president of Delicioso Coco Helado, known for its coconut flavored ices. He was born in Honduras in 1939. By the 1960s he had immigrated to the Bronx and opened the business that recreated a dessert popular in Latin America and the Caribbean. The business started in the kitchen of his  apartment. He would eventually added more flavors such as cherry and mango.

Alfredo employed workers and supplied vendors with pushcarts that he built himself in his factory basement. These employees became his family, as well as the Bronx community and the organizations that he supported. He often donated his icy treats to neighborhood festivals and borough events. He was known for never saying no to anyone, remaining in the Bronx and selling ices on the streets even during the worst years when most people and companies were fleeing the area.

Mr. Thiebaud’s faith in the Bronx had helped revitalize a declining neighborhood and provided thousands of families with much-needed jobs over the years. He died at the factory he loved after an accident with an electric security gate.

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Historic, but not famous

Leonard Eppig, brewery owner

Leonard Eppig (March 4, 1839-April 9, 1893) was born in Grosswallstadt, Bavaria. He came to New York on the S.S. Rotterdam and settled in Brooklyn at the age of 15. He learned to brew while working for Michael Seitz, a Brooklyn brewer.

In 1866, he and a partner formed the Hubert Fischer & Leonhard Eppig Brewery. Ten years later, he bought out his partner and it became simply the Leonard Eppig Brewing Co., but traded under the name Germania Brewery. The brewery was located at Central and George streets. His firm was noted for continually improving or adopting the latest technologies in brewing, to increase quality and output.

He and his family, including 8 children, lived in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. An area known for its breweries. He built houses in the area lived in by his staff and commercial property to improve the neighborhood.

When Eppig died, his sons continued running the brewery until it was closed down by prohibition in 1920. They reopened the brewery after repeal, but in 1935 sold it to George Ehret Brewery.

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Historic, but not famous

John Eberhard Faber, pencil maker

John Eberhard Faber  (December 6, 1822 – March 2, 1879), was a German-born American manufacturer of pencils in New York. His father, George Leonard Faber, was a descendant of the famous Faber family, one of ancient lineage in Bavaria engaged in the profession of manufacturing lead pencils. John moved to NYC in 1848 and opened a stationery store at No. 133 William Street in 1849.  The store was moved to 718-720 Broadway in 1877.

He explored ways to improve the pencil and in 1852, realized that the red cedar available in America was ideal for lead pencils. In 1861, he opened the first lead pencil factory near the East River, between 41st and 43rd Streets under the name of Eberhard Faber.

 

After a fire in 1872, he moved the pencil factory to the Greenpoint neighborhood of Northern Brooklyn. When Mr. Faber died in 1879, the pencil factory was the largest in the world.

Mr. Faber was married and had six children with his wife Jenny. After his father’s death, John Eberhard, Jr. took charge of the company. The brand has since been bought by PaperMate. The factory building, the first in the world to make colored pencils, is now commercial office space and living lofts. The buildings are still decorated with large pencils.

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Historic, but not famous

Robert Gair, cardboard box inventor

Robert Gair, a Scottish-born immigrant, invented the folding carton in 1890 in Brooklyn. He was a printer and paper bag maker in the 1870s. He invented the paperboard folding carton by accident: a metal ruler normally used to crease bags shifted in position and cut the bag. Gair found that by cutting and creasing paperboard in one operation, he could make prefabricated cartons. He ultimately got into the corrugated fiberboard shipping container business in the 1900s.

 

Before cardboard, he served in the Civil War and returned to NYC to open a paper factory on Reade Street in Manhattan. He moved to Brooklyn after his cardboard became popular and he needed more room and better shipping options via boat.

Around 1904, Gair met the engineers from the newly formed Turner Construction Company and saw possibilities in the use of concrete. The engineers persuaded Gair to adopt the new concrete system and eventually built 10 buildings in the area including the famous Clock Tower in DUMBO. Many buildings in the area still bear his name between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.  The old factories’ distinctive concrete facades have written in stone: ”Robert Gair Company,” ”Gair Bvilding No. 6,” ”Gair Building.”

In 1926, the Gair Company moved to Piermont, N.Y., in Rockland County, and the next year its Robert Gair died at age 88.  The Brooklyn Real Estate was handled by his son and offered as factory space to various companies.

All the Gair buildings are currently residential.

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