It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Mad Men geography” post. This one is a little obscure, but, I think, important to the show. This address, 246 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, was supposedly the location of a store called “Heller’s Luxury Furs.” In a flashback contained in the Season 4 episode “Waldorf Stories,” Don Draper was employed here as a salesman sometime in the 1950s when Roger Sterling showed up to buy a fur he plans to give to his girlfriend, Joan Holloway. Don makes an impression, but Roger is dismissive; later, however, during a drunken blackout that Roger doesn’t remember, Roger hires Don to his advertising firm–thus giving him his start in the ad business. Later, in 1964, Don has his own drunken blackout where he makes what he later regards as a rash business decision, and thus the karma comes full circle.
As you can see, there’s no fur shop here today–this is a Whole Foods grocery store. There are a lot of shops and restaurants down this row, and the Chelsea Hotel is just down the block. This famous hotel is where Dylan Thomas was staying when he died after getting drunk at the White Horse Tavern, which I profiled in a previous Mad Men Geography post. Nancy Spungen, of “Sid and Nancy” fame, also died at the hotel, stabbed to death by Sex Pistols rocker Sid Vicious in October 1978.
As for “Heller’s Luxury Furs,” I don’t believe it really existed in real life. I researched it but could find no mention of it that was not coupled with something related to Mad Men, leaving me to believe it’s a fictional location made up by the writers. But it’s pretty important in the Mad Men canon, being the “place where it all started.” The flashback in the episode isn’t dated, but my guess is that it takes place about 1953.