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Murray, the Legendary Sock Man

Malky Lowinger

After four decades, Murray Goldwag of Kosher Socks fame is still very much a presence, manning his store on Main Street in South Fallsburg

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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MAIN STREET EVENT Walk into the Kosher Socks store and you’ll wonder whether you’ve taken a time machine back to the 1970s. There’s merchandise everywhere — spilling over the counter, hanging on the racks, piled on the shelves, lined up in makeshift storage bins, and even hanging above your head. Random items seem to be haphazardly arranged in what can best be described as “controlled chaos”

O nce upon a time, bungalow colonies were filled with actual bungalows whose roofs leaked, floors creaked, and tubs rusted over. In those days, if you needed to cool down in the hot summer air, you sipped on an ice pop while fanning yourself under a tree. Way back when, Dad would drive back to the city for work on a Monday morning, leaving Mom and the kids car-less until he returned the following Friday.

Thus did a cottage industry of bungalow peddlers emerge. Once a week, Hymie the Milkman, Mom’s Kosher Knishes, or Murray the Sockman would pull up on the front lawn with a van full of food or merchandise, a traveling store on wheels. These visits were always eagerly anticipated by the colony dwellers, who were happy to shop for a container of milk, a potato knish, or a new snood without having to move much more than 30 feet.

Times have changed, of course. These days, the site where Hymie Kanowitz’s Dairy once stood is occupied by Dougie’s Barbecue and Grill, and Mom’s Knishes has morphed into Izzy’s Knish Nosh. Though he no longer makes house calls, Murray Goldwag of Kosher Socks fame is still very much a presence, still manning his store on Main Street in South Fallsburg.

“I miss the old days,” he says, remembering the years when he peddled his wares. “We would hit three to four colonies a day, and everybody loved us. But there was a lot of schlepping involved.” He sighs. “And my hair was getting whiter and whiter.”

“We found out it was going to cost $900 to put up a new sign,” Murray says, “and that was a lot of money in those days. I climbed up on a ladder and covered the words ‘Ice Cream’ with ‘Socks.’ And it’s been Kosher Socks ever since”

Today, 72-year-old Murray’s hair is about as white as it’s going to get. But his quick wit and personable brand of salesmanship haven’t changed one bit.

Walk into the Kosher Socks store and you’ll wonder whether you’ve taken a time machine back to the 1970s. There’s merchandise everywhere — spilling over the counter, hanging on the racks, piled on the shelves, lined up in makeshift storage bins, and even hanging above your head. Random items seem to be haphazardly arranged in what can best be described as “controlled chaos.” Boxes line the walls along the perimeter of the store, most of them dog-eared and battered, but also clearly labeled: “Crib Sheets” in one, “Carriage Nets” in another, “Bottle Brushes” in a third. A display of high-tech-looking swimming goggles stands in middle of it all, a nod to the times.

“Hydro-specs,” he says. “Everybody wants them.”

Like his business, Murray himself has moved around a bit. Originally from Williamsburg, he also lived in Boro Park, and later relocated to Ellenville in upstate New York with his young family before moving to Long Island.

Today, Murray and Meryl are happily settled in Eretz Yisrael, on Derech Chevron Street in Jerusalem (“a 35-minute walk to the Kosel”). Three of their five children also live in Eretz Yisrael, including singing star Ari Goldwag, whose CDs are of course available for purchase at Kosher Socks.

Unlike their frenetic summers in South Fallsburg, Murray and Meryl slow down the pace when they return to Jerusalem. They attend Torah classes and spend lots of quality time with their children and grandchildren.

Anything You Need

But now it’s summer again, and a steady stream of customers walks in and out: a woman quieting her cranky baby, a group of teen girls checking out the sweatshirts, a young mother busy filling her camp list. There are also plenty of male customers, seeking items such as yarmulkes (how many of them wind up at the bottom of the lake?), tzitzis (“Every bar mitzvah boy has to wear an 18-by-18 shiur”), and shleikes (suspenders — all those knishes take their toll).

Murray is the ultimate multitasker. He can take a phone call (“Sir, our largest size pants is 55 inches”), greet a customer (“Vos machst du?”), negotiate with a gutsy mom (“It’s $18.95? Okay, I’ll give it to you for $18”), all the while posing for our photographer Amir and answering a reporter’s questions. He will also randomly burst into song (“My Yiddishe Momme…”), or tell someone a joke (“Did you hear about the guy…”). And always with that ever-present twinkle in his eye. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 668)

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