Cultural Heritage Tours


Downtown Tour

J. Johnson & Sons

81-85 Church Street


J. Johnson & Sons, c. 1950s. Courtesy Joe Taylor.

J. Johnson & Sons, Inc., founded in 1869, sold fine men’s clothing. At one point it employed 65 people, and called itself The Live Store. Its founder Joseph Johnson was a noted community philanthropist who headed the fundraising committee to build a new Jewish Home for Children at 701 Sherman Avenue, to house and care for homeless Jewish children. He had studied violin with Harry Berman, who enlisted his support in 1930 to create the Johnson Junior Symphony, a children’s orchestra. The Johnson Junior Symphony initially used space on the top floor of the store, sharing space with the tailors who altered the clothing. The youth orchestra was later taken over by his son, James S. Johnson, who kept it going for twenty-six years. The building was sold to Kennedy’s, a subsidiary of the Phillips Van Heusen Co., in 1964, and the name changed to J. Johnson’s–Kennedy’s. In 1966 it moved its headquarters store to the Chapel Square Mall, where the name was shortened to Kennedy’s. A decade later it was losing money, only employed 15 people, and eventually closed. Near the top of the original building on Church Street, the engraving J. Johnson and Sons remains today.

  • Text source courtesy Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven Archives.

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