SoHo Memory Profile: Marty the Seltzerman

Marty and his delivery van, 1979

You may have seen Marty around SoHo recently.  He is usually either on the corner of Mercer and Prince in front of the Mercer Hotel or on the corner of Prince and Greene across from the Apple Store selling lovely bags, jewelry, and hats with his wife.  Whereas now Marty’s customers must come to him, in the 1970’s it was decidedly the other way around when Marty was one of a few seltzer deliverymen (there were no women) who revived the practice of door-to-door seltzer delivery at a time when it had already disappeared into history.

I remember Marty from back in the day when he had his delivery route.  He used to deliver seltzer to my best friend Anna’s house, and this was no small task.  Anna lived on the fourth floor of a loft building on the Bowery, and Marty would lug a full case of seltzer up those four long flights of stairs and swap them for a case of empties.  A case, made of pine, held ten 26 ounce siphons made of thick glass each full of delicious, perfectly effervescent water.  And he did this numerous times a day, every day.

One of Marty’s self-designed ads.

Marty told me he got into the seltzer business after he got back from spending some time in India, when he was staying with a friend who had his seltzer delivered.  At first, he was going to buy the route from his friend’s deliveryperson, but when that didn’t work out, he painted his van and went off on his own.  At first, it was only a hobby, but word spread about Marty’s business and then his hobby became his profession.  The very olde tyme-seeming practice of having beverages delivered to your home in antique, reusable bottles (new bottles were not being made, even back then, so each one was precious) turned out to be something New Yorkers craved, only they didn’t know it until the likes of Marty went into business.  As one of four such deliverypersons, Marty’s territory was downtown, from Canal to Thirtieth Street.  He did a brisk business until he left New York to live abroad in 1983.

A Pratt graduate, world traveler, Vietnam veteran, and former Madison Avenue art director, Marty has had an interesting-sounding life.  In a 1979 New Yorker article, Tony Hiss wrote that he “looks like what Bob Dylan would look like if he kept regular hours.”  An intelligent, adventurous, and reserved but very kind man, he has done and seen a lot, including the rise and fall of the old SoHo.  When asked what he missed most about SoHo in the 70’s, he replied, “There’s not much I don’t miss about it.”

 

A Marty’s Seltzer T-Shirt (photo: Bruce Miller)

Check out  Yenta Laureate’s photos of Marty and his seltzer gear.

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10 Responses to “SoHo Memory Profile: Marty the Seltzerman”

  1. SoHo Man Says:

    When did Marty stop wearing the chrome syphon nozzle hat, like in the illustration??

    LOL

  2. Bruce Miller Says:

    I have a beautiful Marty’s Seltzer t-shirt (“a case for good health’), tell me where to send the image. It would be a nice addition to this site. My college classmate and her soon-to-be-husband were customers of Marty’s when I visited them in the early 1980’s on 20th street.

  3. Fred Glick Says:

    You left out that in the early ’90s he was back in business. I still have the bottle he gave me when I left NYC for the Peace Corps in 1992.

  4. Harris Tilevitz Says:

    does anyone have contact info for marty? i have 10 seltzer bottles that he left at my house in park slope in the 80s and never picked up.

  5. Peter McFarlane Says:

    I met Marty in Vietnam in 1990. He was a very impressive fellow and we had some amazing chats while we were there! I’d love to reconnect with him though I’m way out on Salt Spring Island BC Canada!

    • Yukie Ohta Says:

      I often see Marty in the neighborhood. I will give him your email address, though I’m not sure he uses email. He’s got two kids though who can show him!

  6. Nancy Mazur Says:

    Marty delivered to us back in the early 80’s on 26th street. Always had very interesting conversations with him! Great guy. My daughter ( now 31) saw a guy in the subway wearing a Marty’s seltzer T- shirt and it got my husband and I talking once again about the good ole days. Told us he was giving up the business to mine rubies. Would love to get a t- shirt ( would really love delivery again but we live in Westchester )

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