Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why Is Guinan's Closing?


The better question, perhaps, is why is Guinan's still alive?

If Guinan's had followed the path of most mom and pop joints across America, when mom or pop died, the business would have soon followed. Peg Guinan died in 1988. No matter how great a man or presence Jim Guinan is, he and Peg were a team. They needed each other. The store needed both.

Yet a miraculous things in the annals of commerce happened: into the void left by a parent, stepped the children, and then the grandchildren. At first it was Jim's youngest, Christine, and her husband Mike. They upgraded fixtures, expanded inventory, doubled the store's business and gave hope. Later it was the oldest, John who sacrificed every early morning in recent years to be there for the 5 a.m. commuters, handing them umbrellas and tossing smiles and quips long before light hit the Hudson. After John got sick, came his daughter Kelly, who has put in long hours after her regular graphic design job, giving up weekends with her boyfriend and almost all personal time. Pinch hitting through the years were Kelly's brothers Sean and Casey and her uncle Jimmy wise-cracking and slinging beers when he came to town.

But above all, the backbone since her mother's death has been Jim and Peg's first daughter , Margaret. Despite a Teflon tough shell, Margaret's kindness and devotion to her family is the main reason we've had all this borrowed time. She is the why we got an extra year last January. She is the one who stepped into her mother's shoes and has kept her father healthy and in his home for so long. And she is the one who must make this final, painful decision to close the store because the time commitment is just too much.

I cannot speak for the family and of course, wish this day would never come. Perhaps some miraculous solution will appear. But I absolutely understand the Guinan children and grandchildren need and deserve their lives back. A place like this cannot run well without full-time attention. There has been so much incredible "human duct tape" of friends stepping in to help, but in the end, as I wrote in Little Chapel, "If there's not a Guinan here, well then ... yes, well then...."

It is extraordinary that three generations have stepped forward to give what they have. Rather than question why it's ending, let's spend the upcoming weeks thanking them for what we've had.

9 comments:

Steve "The Whistler" Herbst said...

IRISH NIGHTS -- If it weren't for the "LIttle Chappel" book I would not have been aware of the Irish Nights at Guinan's. I had a terrific time on the occasions I got to be and perform there and am happy to have met Jimmy, Wendy, and so many of the people mentioned in the book. I am sorry to hear that Guinan's may no longer be there for all of us. I wish Jimmy and the family and friends of Guinan's the best!

Regards,
Steve "The Whistler" Herbst
"Whistling is an idea whose time has returned!"
http://www.SteveTheWhistler.com

johnmac said...

I found Guinan's through Wendy's wonderful book (which my next door neighbor Lucille Evangelsti brought to my attention at out local (mohegan Lake, NY) Barnes and Noble). Since Guinan's is less than a half hour from my Jefferson Valley home, I have spent many enjoyable afternoons there, sitting out in the sun over the Hudson River looking across at West Point at West Point, often listening to Jim Guinan's stories; sitting in the bar area in the winter .. and taking to Jim or John Guinan; and, of courses at "Irish Nights" where I have often been able to coerce Jim into singing 'The Dying Rebel" (brining back memories of listing to Ruthie Morrissey sing it in person at Mickey Carton's Mayo House in Rockaway or on the Jukebox in Inwood's Broadstone -- the "Chapel" of my youth).

Through my trips to Guinan's, I've gotten to know and greatly respect all of the Guinan's -- Jim, John, Margaret, and Kelly; to know and delight in Wendy, to admire the musicians -- Jack, Candace, and my old Inwood buddy, Bob Dowd; to stand in the kitchen and swap basketball tales (possibly enhanced) with Governor George Pataki (a great one-on-one person); to worry and say prayers when John Guinan had his brain tumor incident and sigh with relief at each positive step; and, most of all to bask in the spirit and camaraderie of all chapel-goers.

Thank you Wendy and thank you Guinans -- you have my prayers and my love.

John

johnmac said...

the effervescent Ms. Bounds does not mention in her short history above that she was one of those who stepped into the breach when Jim needed convalescence for his diabetes, opening the store at 5AM and, despite her deficiencies in mental arithmetic. serving customers.

It was also her wonderful book that brought many new Guinanites (including me) into the fold, increasing greatly the number who will mourn its passing.

As Jimmy Breslin might have written had he been a Guinianite, "The broad from North Carolina, in spite of the fact that she writes for a high-falooting paper, captured the feel of the joint -- a mixture of an Irish pub, a New York City neighborhood ginmill, and a small-town gathering. She got it right!"

Breda said...

I read "Little Chapel on the River" after reading its review of the book in the NY Times. I live in Yorktown, which is only a few miles from Garrison. The book so piqued my curiosity about Guinan's that I decided to go have a look myself. I was born in Ireland and emigrated to the US as a young child. When I got to the store it brought back so many memories of the Ireland I remembered. It was so similar to a little shop that my aunt used to run. When I went in to look around, one of Jim's sons was behind the counter. I asked him how his dad was (at this point I didn't even know if Jim was still alive). He said, "Go ask him yourself." And he led me to Jim's kitchen where I spent a wonderful hour talking to him about his life in the US and the "Auld Sod." It was such a wonderful afternoon, because Jim reminded me so much of my own dad, also named Jim, who passed away seven years ago this past Dec. 23.

My older daughter is an Irish Step Dancer and one Thursday evening towards the end of the summer we decided to go and check out the seisun. What a wonderful experience. I'm sorry that I didn't take the time to go to more of them. Maybe I'll just have to go this Thursday to say farewell...

Patti said...

Loose tea, camp outs, volleyball and then a ride to Guinan's and sitting on the picnic table listening to Neal Young - taking a Yoohoo with a wink from Mr. Guinan, best roast beef in town, Mrs. Guinan watching over us, Hello Dolly and trying to get to Guinan's to pick up milk with all the confusion of the production going on - so many wonderful memories.
I wish you all the best and I know that we will always keep in contact Margaret -
Love to you all,
Patti Anderson

larkinlax said...

I just read the WSJ article. I am trying to convince my wife we should take a trip tomorrow from Annapolis to say goodbye. We'll see. Drew L.

Ginny said...

The idea of Irish music playing on the banks of the Hudson River every Thursday following a full moon is almost a haunting one. It "nags" at me. Having only been recently introduced to this tiny treasure I have missed so many nights of music from the past. I will not be able to look up at the full moons of the future without thinking of Guinan's.

Thank you Guinan Family, and thank you Wendy.

Ginny (Walden Book Club)

Kathy said...

My Father found Wendy's book "Little Chapel on the River". He loved it and passed it along to the rest of our family. We all loved it and felt as if we had know all of the "characters" for years.

Mom, Dad and I had the opportunity to spend a day at the "Chapel" this past summer for a fund raiser for "Team Guinan". We were welcomed as if we had known all of these people for years! It became obviously clear how Wendy's book came to life (and why she settled there). It was not just that little cozy place along the majestic Hudson River, but it was the compassion that this "family", the Guinans and all of their friends, have for one another and for their fellow man. This is a core value that this country was built upon, but through the years many have forgotten.

All the best to the Guinans and their "clan". Many thanks to you Wendy for sharing them with all of us.

Best regards,
Kathy O'Neill

P.S. I'm sure Peg Guinan is looking upon all of you and beaming with pride...as she should be!

Anonymous said...

Just herd your story on the radio breaks my heart. good luck to all from California!