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Stamps of approval for Casey Rubber Stamps in East Village

BY BONNIE ROSENSTOCK | Saturday is the busiest day of the week at Casey Rubber Stamps. This hole-in-the-wall, step-down, basement East Village shop, with a canary yellow awning has more recently become a curiosity, a go-to-place for weekenders and day trippers, thanks to owner John Casey’s recent interview on Morning Brew, a TikTok site.

Casey, in his seventh decade, now has more than 6 million hits on the site. If only a small portion of those viewers come by to make a purchase at the store, at 322 E. 11th St. (between First and Second Avenues), Casey calculates that he will be able to afford the rent increase and new 10-year lease from the building’s new owner. The rent will include a small additional space, accessed through an archway in his current shop, which he has been in since 2002.

A Casey Rubber Stamps brochure. (Photo by Bonnie Rosenstock)

The loquacious Casey, who still sports his charming accent and wit, thanks to his birthplace in County Cork, Ireland, came to our shores in 1967. He began making stamps in 1978 at his first location, on Bleecker Street. His love of stamps dates back to his childhood when he used to accompany his father to a printshop.

“The first stamp I made was a rabbit,” Casey recalled. “It’s quite nice.”

One of his favorites is a sailing ship: “I found the original in an 1870 catalog,” he said. “I have the pristine version. It’s absolutely beautiful.”

Shelves of stamps. (Photo by Bonnie Rosenstock)
(Photo by Bonnie Rosenstock)

He finds his stamp inspiration in old books, catalogs, trade brochures, children’s books and wherever suits his fancy.

“My taste is very old-fashioned,” he admitted. “I have a 19th-century engraving from the 1859 Appletons’ American Cyclopaedia. The quality of the engraving is fabulous, such fine lines. It translates well into stamps.”

Casey has a fantastic and fanciful collection of novelty stamps, retro and vintage ones, graphic stamps of illustrations, stamps of animals, plants, nature and clip art, save-the-date stamps and invitation stamps, to name a few, neatly displayed on wooden shelves and in his striking brochure. Fifty percent of his business is custom order from graphic people and those who want a design, as well as from small stores and businesses; the rest is right off the shelf.

“People like initials. Boys like skeletons and girls like bugs,” Casey declared. “Alice in Wonderland drawings make great stamps. They were designed by Sir John Tenniel in pastels.”

Customers on a recent Saturday, the shop’s busiest day of the week. (Photo by Bonnie Rosenstock)

Casey makes the molds, cuts the rubber sheets, cuts the molds and the wood.

“All the stamps are hand-cut and made from natural rubber and mounted on maple wood mounts,” he explained.

Prices range from $3 to $15, with very few below $7. His equipment dates back to 1961.

“I do a lot for a small space,” he said, proudly.

The six-story building, which houses Casey’s business in the ground floor, has been undergoing construction for about a year, creating some noise, dust and debris in his shop. Owner Bob Perl of Tower Brokerage, at 335 E. 10th St., is completely gut-renovating the building, which he said has been untouched since 1900, into short-term, fully furnished rentals.

John Casey in front of his unique East Village shop. (Photo by Bonnie Rosenstock)

They are small units, Perl explained, but work out to be highly designed two-bedrooms, totaling 24 units.

“They are somewhere between an Airbnb and long-term lease,” he said. “You have to stay for at least 30 days. They have everything you need, from TV to Internet, soap, linens. It’s a nice setup.”

Regarding Casey’s business, Perl said, “He’s taking over a new space that used to hold an oil tank and a boiler. The additional storage will allow him to expand his business, which includes engraving. He has been paying under market rate for years with the previous owner, and I can also keep it about 25 percent to 30 percent off market rent. But the rent has gone up.” (Both he and Casey have not divulged what the new rent is.)

“On the other side, there’s a whole wall full of electrical panels, so I can’t use it for selling,” Casey reflected. “Most rubber stamp places do engraving since they are connected businesses. I can do metal, plastic, wood and laser engraving. I have a few machines, so I might as well use them to justify in my head that I’m paying two rents. I can only do it by increasing my turnover. And I need to push mail order.”

“There are very few left of these old-style artisans,” Perl noted. “They maintain skills and dedication to craft that’s not being recreated. John Casey is deeply admired and has a huge fan base. He’s an artisan still doing his craft. Two, he’s this delightful, classic Irishman. Three, going into his store is like going back in time. As tiny as it is, there are always people there. It’s part of this Lower East Side, the last of the remaining artisans. He will not retire. He will work as long as he can. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

“I’m really happy he wanted to stay, and we were able to make this possible. He’ll be asking me for a new lease nine years from now,” Perl joked.

“He gave me more space and a 10-year lease,” Casey said. “I want 25!”


  1. Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street June 19, 2024

    So happy he got a new lease that is somewhat affordable. He is indeed an East Village Icon.


    Thanks, Bonnie, for this wonderful story on Casey and his stamps store. i had no idea it even existed and am glad to hear he is here to stay for a while now. Eileen Millan

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