Niche Market | Cash Registers

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

(Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC)

New York is a city of specialists from foodies to academics, laborers to shopkeepers. Every Wednesday, Niche Market will take a peek inside a different specialty store and showcase the city's purists who have made an art out of selling one commodity. Slideshow below.

Faerman Cash Register Co.
159 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

When Brian Faerman hears the ka-ching of a cash register, it's music to his ears — and not because it’s the sound of a financial transaction.

Faerman's a devotee of this particular mechanical orchestra: the intricate system that causes a bell to ring, a hand crank to whirr, the spring that bursts a wooden drawer ajar.

As he walks down the aisle of vintage cash registers at the business started by his grandfather in 1910, Faerman, 50, pushes a buttons on each hulking machine, letting them ring with antique glory. “It's musical to me,” he said softly.

"I don't know how to describe my feelings toward the equipment that was made,” he gushed in his gruff way, “how somebody put so much work into something so special to be used by someone."

Some of the oldest machines have a ring-up limit of $3.99 — later a $99.99 limit was introduced, and up and up with inflation. Some machines have multiple drawers, each with a unique bell, so when the owner was across the room, he would have an idea how much money was changing hands. The oldest machine they have is 128 years old.

Machines range from copper-hued brass to shiny mint green. Some have oversized buttons built for broad-handed butchers, and there are also smaller machines with tight buttons specially designed for candy store counters.

"My dad used to scrap them — three cents a pound for the brass," said Brian's father, Bernard, who at 90, still comes into work five days a week.

Those brass relics now sell for thousands of dollars, he said. The price range for newer models is from $79 to several thousands. Vintage pieces can fetch between $600 and $5,000.

The elder Faerman, who spends most of the day in a denim apron repairing half century old machines in the back, said he began working at the shop in 1946 after returning from WWII. There were four cash register companies on the block, sitting underneath the third avenue El.

In the 1970s, electronic cash registers changed the game (they sell those at the shop too, for about $79 each) and super stores edged in on the business.

Nowadays, Bernard said, the shop relies on customers on the quest for "eye appeal," like John McCormick, the owner of Moto restaurant in Brooklyn, who bought a vintage register for a few hundred dollars at an auction and has put about $1,000 into it.

"They're beautiful and reliable. … Aesthetically I think you can't beat it and it's kind of a monumental piece behind our bar," said McCormick, who's been bringing his register to Faerman for tune ups for over a decade.

For Brian Faerman, who has worked his entire life in the cash register business, the music of the machines is something he can't shake, no matter how advanced the world gets technologically.

"It's in my blood I guess. That's why we're Faerman cash register company," he said. "We love the machines, there's a certain thing about them, they ring, they make that noise, they do what they're supposed to do."

(Bernard Faerman, 90, repairing a vintage cash register. Photo: Sarah Kate Kramer)

Interview with Bernard Faerman, co-owner of Faerman Cash Register Co.

What was it like here in the '40s?
Down here in the area there was an elevated train running right outside our door. There was maybe thousands of what they called bums in those years. They were alcoholics. Some of them came from very good families. They were sick. … There were four cash register companies right here on this block — two across the street and one three doors down. And things were a lot better then than they are now, because people came down here actually to buy, not to come in to look.

Why do you think people want the antiques?
Eye appeal. Why do they want antique cars? Eye appeal. Really quality equipment. Weight on an electronic machine is 30 pounds -- these weigh 130 pounds.

Are there advantages to the old machines?
They're much simpler. We get calls here every day where they louse up the programming on the machine. The old type of machines were a lot easier to work. They lasted a lot longer. You didn't have to worry if you had wet hands if it got on your boards they'd short them out—that didn't happen. I mean, I could take a machine here that's 100-years old and recondition it. You think you could do that with an electronic piece of equipment?

Where do you get these old machines?
Find them anywhere, find them in attics, people bring them around that's had them for years. They figure they're obsolete, but I just told you what goes around comes around.

Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
The Faerman Cash Register Co. on the Bowery
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Brian Faerman, owner of Faerman Cash Register Co.
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Bernard Faerman, owner of Faerman Cash Register Co.
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Faerman sells some new electronic cash registers as well as vintage machines.
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Bernard Faerman repairing a cash register.
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC
Sarah Kate Kramer/WNYC


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Comments [8]

electronic cash register from bangalore

Cash register POS, electronic cash register, cash register electronic, cash register machine, electronic cash register machine suppliers in Bangalore. Cash register POS and POS machine manufacturers in Bangalore @ Vertex Comsys."

Dec. 18 2012 05:56 AM
Alzira Araujo from 215N14th Street

Alzira Araujo too loved the business and his beatles of course! reccommendation for niche business.

Dec. 04 2012 07:43 AM
Tony from Garden City, NY

They're great! I've collected a few over the years & settled down to just one, a National Woodie No. 3. But discovering them and all the different models was a great experience. It now shares space in my house with my first passion, antique typewriters.


Sep. 10 2012 12:22 PM
neil post

bernie's son lenny was my college roommate. they have a great business and lenny too loved the business and his beatles of course!

Aug. 16 2012 06:15 PM

@MayLyn: You may be enthusiastic but are way off on your history of scanners and electronic registers. NCR (where I started work at the time) had electronic registers in at least 1976 - The Class 230, 255 and 280 for example.
Also the first viable retail scanners were used in 1974 at a Marsh's in Troy, OH.

Jul. 07 2012 01:26 PM
MayLyn from Utah

I love antique cash registers! They ring so pretty and I just can't get enough of it! The electronic cash registers did not come out in the 1970s it was in the 1990s. I have a cash register history book done by MR. Peterson's relitive the presidant of the National cash register, and I tell you the old machines are the best compared to what we use today! I own two wonderful antique cash registers one National from 1805, and one from 1915 a custom made faux oak finish candy store 717 National cash register that is such a beauty and I'm never selling them! They are so much fun to ring up KA CHING KA CHING KA CHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They have a antique cash register music album that I am hooked on by collectors of antique cash registers, and these songs are on the radio today! Gatta love the KA CHING on those antique cash registers! I want to bring them back, and get rid of the scanners and all of this stuff that came out in 1990.

May. 19 2012 12:44 AM
ruth ZIONY from los angeles

i like the 'ring'' of thecash register article2

May. 18 2012 08:56 PM
Neal Lewis

I have a reccommendation for niche business.

For more than two decades, I have failed at starting seeds. I order the uncommon heirloom seeds. I have purchased every possible contraption know for seed starting, but my results are pathetic. Greenhouses are masters at seed starting, but the plant selections are pretty mundane.

As an adjunct to their main business, greenhouses should offer a seed starting service. The customer brings the seeds and for a fee, collects the unique plants a month or so later.

May. 16 2012 10:50 AM

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