Thursday, January 31, 2008

Final Guinan's Beer

I'm leaving the house in a few minutes for the last round of drinks at Guinan's. Tomorrow, the store will be closed. We went down this morning to say good-bye to commuters. Lots of them lingered in the doorway so long, they almost missed the train. One or two actually did miss the train.

We all seemed to be taking mental snapshots of what mattered most to us inside. The view of the Hudson from the bar; the red clock, wooden floors, candy counter, fire burning in the pub.

Fitz was down yesterday evening with two of his daughters. He says he refuses to say good-bye. I think he's probably right about that. You never really say good-bye to someone you truly love. It's more just, until we meet again ...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Journal-News Farewell to Guinan's

Barbara Nackman of the Journal-News wrote this nice story about Guinan's final days in today's issue of the paper.

Barbara has followed the Guinan's crew and the pub's stories for several years now, including this one about Guinan's getting an extra year of life in 2007 from Margaret Guinan. She quotes Margaret in today's piece about the decision to close: "It is just time, the right time."

And now is the right time to visit and pay respects to Jim Guinan and the family. The store will close after tomorrow night.

Journal-News: "After nearly 50 years, popular Garrison pub faces last call"

After nearly 50 years, popular Garrison pub faces last call
Barbara Livingston Nackman
573 words
30 January 2008
The Journal News (White Plains, NY)
(c) Copyright 2008, The Journal News. All Rights Reserved.

GARRISON - After nearly a half-century of slinging beer and coffee, Garrison's famed Irish bar and newspaper stand is calling it quits.

This time it's for real. Guinan's Pub and Country Store at Garrison Depot almost closed in January 2007, but the family rallied and stuck it out for another year.

Last call really is tomorrow.

"It is just time, the right time," said Margaret Guinan, daughter of founder Jim Guinan. "It is hard to pack up 50 years of things."

The bar was started by Jim Guinan in 1959, a year after he moved to New York from Ireland with his four children. He has battled diabetes for a while, but is feeling well. He is eager to visit relatives in Ireland and England, and then settle near his youngest child in Florida to play golf. He has been living in an apartment attached to the Depot.

He has two grown children living nearby who can no longer take on the load. Margaret Guinan is a police officer and her brother, John, is recovering from a brain tumor but enjoying a new grandchild and the marriage of his daughter.

There is no word about what will happen to the property.

Garrison Station Plaza has said it will make renovations to the space that offers Hudson River views. It features 1950s-era floor tiles and a kitchen and bath shared by the apartment and store.

Longtime customer Mary Ellen Yannitelli said she will make a proposal to keep it going.

"I would want it to be as true to Guinan's as I possibly could," she said of its newspaper and sundry items in the front and beer bar in the back fireplace room.

"It is just so special. We will see what happens. In the meantime, I would like to be there every night to take it all in," she added.

Yannitelli and other longtime customers are expected to toast the Guinan family and say so long to their home away from home.

For the last time, they will get to hear Irish music on the banks of the Hudson River. Traditionally, Guinan's hosted music night once a month on the Thursday after a full moon, which was last week. One last round of "Danny Boy" seemed appropriate, Margaret Guinan said.

Writer Gwendolyn Bounds captured the essence of the neighborhood pub in her book "Little Chapel on the River." A Wall Street Journal columnist and editor, she was introduced to the place days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when she came to Garrison for respite and was so comforted there that she moved to the hamlet.

About the closing, she said she is sad for the loss, but glad for the Guinan experience.

"We've known this day was coming for a year now, but that doesn't make the grieving any less. When I think about the doors closing this Thursday, I feel like all the air's gone out of me, so I stop thinking about it. Mostly what I've learned is to be grateful for the time we've got with places and people we love. And I'm grateful to the Guinans, Jim Guinan especially, for opening up their home to the world," she said.

Reach Barbara Livingston Nackman at or 845-228-2272.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chapel Lesson: Treat Everyone with Dignity

Beth Montgomery Coursen, Supervisor Town of Pawling, N.Y. , recently recalled her "chapel lessons." When she's not helping run the town, or hold peace in the bar, you can find her in the middle of a roller hockey match...

* * *

Buying the Sunday paper after mass in the 60's. Regular lunches of Peggy's grilled cheese sandwiches. Having a pint and hot peppers with the John Guinan and fellow grounds crew members after work in the 70's. Years later dancing to Irish Music at The Rising. Finding out while trading stories there with another "Irish Night" regular that reason I find him interesting could be that we share relatives in Dylan, Ireland. Guinan's has long been a constant in my life.

Had it not been for the lessons taught over 4 decades, like others I would be feeling the loss at Guinan's closing. Even if you have only been there a time or two, you were given a lesson. Each lesson will unravel in a different way to each ear that hears it, no matter how consistent the yarn told inside the four walls of Guinan's.

The overriding life lesson I have learned from all the Guinan's is; Treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of who they are, where they came from or what their views are. In doing this you'll learn that most folks will return the favor. Some folks may need gentle reminders, others a warning. A handful will need to be shown the door in a way that may not be gentle. Age, gender or physical condition are no deterrence, I have witnessed every Guinan do this. For those that learned the lesson, the doors always remained open at Guinan's.

In incorporating all the lessons learned we all share a role in keeping the spirit of Guinan's open forever.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Video from the last Irish Night.

Andy Revkin shot this footage from the last Irish Night. Midway through you can see just how crowded the store got and catch glimpses of Jim Guinan and John Guinan.

NYTimes "Our Towns" Column on Guinan's

Today, the NYTimes has a terrific tribute to Guinan's written by the paper's "Our Towns" columnist Peter Applebome.

The column, titled "Farewell to a Pub, and Maybe to an Era," runs on the cover of the Metro section. Applebome made it to the final Irish Night and hung in late with the crowd.

He's got some great turns of phrase; here's just a flavor:

"As they say, Harp Lager: $3.50. Slim Jim: 25 cents. Liverwurst sub: $5.25. Hearing Jim Guinan on the last Irish Night at Guinan's: priceless."

And you can hear a snippet of Jim singing "Danny Boy" that night also on the Times' Web site, along with other musical clips.

This is the second installment by Peter, who also wrote about Guinan's reprieve last year.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Last Irish Night...

Guinan's always seems to expand to fit the size of the crowd who wants entry into her rooms. And on Thursday night, at the final Rising of the Moon music session, she was put to the test.

The number of loyal fans coming to bid farewell was estimated at between 400 and 500, though it's hard to know for sure. From 7 p.m. on, both the store and the bar were so jammed that it's a wonder we all didn't collapse into the Hudson River. The overflow of folks spilled onto the patio to mill under heat lamps.

The festivities continued until 3 a.m.; nearly 60 cases of beer were sold with Kelly Guinan reporting that only a case of Ballantine and a few scattered other bottles remained at evening's end. Jim sang "Danny Boy" both in the bar and out in the store. He was also presented with a cake thanking him for "the moons and tunes."

For you who live nearby, there are CDs available at the store for $20 featuring Jim singing five songs: "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen," "The Dying Rebel," "Mother Mo Croi," "Galway Bay," and "Danny Boy." The CD, titled "Long Time Coming" is a limited release. All proceeds go to Jim.

Lots of wonderful pictures and video were shot that night. They'll be uploaded soon, and I'll post viewing details here. Meantime here are four shots: The store crowd photo was taken by Clemson Smith and the remaining three by Russell Cusick.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Irish Night Song of the Week: "Between the River and the Rails"

New York Times reporter, Dot Earth blogger and Garrison-ite Andy Revkin wrote this song called "Between the River and the Rails" about Guinan's.

Here's an mp3 recording of him performing it live at a recent Irish Night. Please be patient as it loads.

You can read the lyrics at this other post. Thanks to Bryan Merdler who uploaded the song.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Parking for Irish Night

Tomorrow's Rising of the Moon (aka "Irish Night") will be the last at Guinan's -- and it's gonna be a zoo most likely, though a fabulous wonderful zoo at that.

I'd encourage most folks, especially those who come after 8 p.m. to park in the Metro-North parking lot on the East side of the railroad tracks opposite Guinan's and walk across the overpass to the pub. I think parking might be free at that hour, but check the meter sign by the steps to the tracks. It's really cheap if not.

There are a lot of folks planning to come say good-bye, and that's going to make space very tight in the store and pub. Please be patient and try not to get frustrated. Everyone is there for the same reason: to have a good time and pay honor to this fantastic tradition.

Here's a link to Jim singing Danny Boy. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

WSJ Story: A Lot of Lasts ...

Last night I finished writing my farewell piece to Guinan's for The Wall Street Journal. It was published today and you can read it here.

The story notes how Guinan's is a statistical wonder: only about 12% of family businesses make it to the third generation.

But we all know Guinan's is a wonder well beyond that. Hope to see many of you at some of the upcoming "lasts..." -- Last Irish Night this Thursday, last Friday night, last commuting morning on the 31st.

Aerial Garrison's Landing/Guinan's photos

Here are two neat aerial photos taken of Guinan's and Garrison's Landing by Jeffrey Anzevino. He works with Scenic Hudson, a group devoted to helping preserve the Hudson River Valley and its towns.

Jeff writes that he was flying in a Cessna 172 from Dutchess County airport to Yonkers and back when he took these shots. (He wasn't piloting the plane himself). The date was November 8, 2007.

If you've got other great shots of Guinan's, please follow the guidelines on this link and put them on flickr so everyone can enjoy.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Engagement of Kelly Guinan and Ed Preusser

For those who know Ed Preusser, one of two brothers who regularly frequent Guinan's, you might recall how in Little Chapel he talked about never bringing his girlfriends to the pub.

"They wouldn't understand it," he said. "The woman I bring to Guinan's, is the woman I'll marry."

Well, he did one better than that. He's marrying a Guinan -- Kelly Guinan, John Guinan's daughter, to be exact.

They got engaged Christmas Eve after dating since early fall of 2005. Their wedding will be held in Garrison on August 16, 2008. Appropriately, it'll be a full moon. Congratulations to them both. As one era ends with Guinan's, another one begins.
Photo Credit: Christine Ashburn

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nail Pops, and Doing It Right...

I'm in the midst of a kitchen renovation that's taken more than a year because I decided to see just how easy (or hard) it was to do everything eco-friendly. I'll be writing more about it soon, but right now, I want to address something more pressing:

Nail pops.

For those of you who remember my thrifty neighbor Walter from Little Chapel on the River, you might recall the part where he teaches me how to fix all the little unsightly bulges in my walls where the nails fastening the drywall are pushing out of the studs. (Chapter 21, page 240 for anyone wanting a refresher course...)

That was almost five years ago, and back then Walter pushed me not to cut corners, to make sure I screwed down every nail and put three coats of joint compound on each blemish. "It's the RIGHT way to do it," he said.

I fixed hundreds after his lesson. Time-consuming, yes. But the payoff was super-smooth walls.

Friday, Walter dropped by while I was priming my kitchen walls. He stalked around, prodding at the insulation, staring my work. "Should I mention the nail pops now, or later?" he asked finally.

I was exhausted and not in the mood. "There are only three, and you can barely see them," I snapped. "I'm not fixing them," I added, grumpily.

"Oh, now you've forgotten everything I taught you," he said, shaking his head. "Remember, it's the right thing to do." Then, he added: "I can just circle them with a pencil for you."

"Get out," I told him. I spent the rest of the evening priming, grousing about Walter, and trying desperately to ignore the nail pops which seemed to get bigger by the minute. I told myself they were my walls, I could hang a painting over them, no one would notice, that Walter was annoying, and of course, by the time I went to bed, I knew I'd have to fix the damn nail pops.

The next day I saw my neighbor for dinner. "I'm fixing the nail pops," I said begrudgingly. "But not until the electricians are done because when they do their work, more nail pops will come out. I should fix all at one time."

I stared at him, awaiting his challenge.

He smiled. "Very good," he said.

"That's the RIGHT way after all," I replied.

New Guinan's Trivets

UPDATED: Jan. 13th.

Check this out. Artist Russ Cusick designed and produced several trivets of Guinan's interior.

These two tiles are images shot of landmarks in the bar. One features the neon green shamrock commuters can see from the train platform; the other is the old metal red Coca-Cola cooler that houses beer.

Russ has loads of other tiles with Guinan's images down at the store. He's not charging for them, but it's suggested that takers make a minimum donation depending on the size. Donations will go to John Guinan and his family for medical costs.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Guinan's Farewell Notice ...

This letter from the Guinan family appeared in The Putnam County News & Recorder yesterday:


In 1957, Jim and Peg Guinan came to America with nothing but a dream of "making things better for their family." They bought a business in the Depot in Garrison in 1959 and the community welcomed them and their children with open arms. And we Guinan's have made many friends who became a "part of our family"... We were open on all the holidays for our "family of friends" ... We watched children grow to be married and have their own children who still patronize the store.

In 1988, Peg passed away and Jim continued with the business until his children began to take over. Their children "grew up" in the business as well.

And now it is time for us to say "Thank You" to all who became a "part of our family" and afforded us the opportunity of having "that dream." To those of you who have helped us over the years, we will not forget what you did for us. To Barbara and Murray Prescott - a very special Thank You!

On January 31, 2008, we will not say goodbye, but rather "see you around," and will close the store and start anew.

Come for the last "Rising of the Moon" on Thursday, January 24, 2008 and celebrate with us by dancing a jig an singing song.

With thanks and Sláinte.
Jim Guinan and Family.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Letter from Mary Ellen Yannitelli ...

Time is growing short to visit the Chapel...but there's hope for the future.

This letter from Mary Ellen Yannitelli, a wise character in Little Chapel, wife of Tony and mother of the late Lou-Lou, was published on the Cold Spring Living Web site's blog earlier this week:

"To those that have been to the 'Little Chapel', please come for a goodbye beer or cup of tea. And to those that have not, please come and experience this fast disappearing slice of America.

The last-ever Irish night is Thursday January 24-it will be extremely crowded, so if crowds are not to your liking, come anytime-I work Thurs., Fri., and Saturdays from 9 am-12. Friday nights are usually particularly fun and Sunday afternoons looking out onto the glimmering river are enjoyable as well.

After the Guinan's are gone, the building owners will do some much needed renovations, which will probably take almost a year to complete. After that-who knows? I have already proposed to them that I would like a shot at opening a Guinan's-like country store there-so we'll see!"

I hope to see you all there!
-Mary Ellen

Photo by Clemson Smith

Monday, January 7, 2008

Irish Night Song of the Week: The Wild Rover

From time to time, until I run out of songs, I'll post a link here to a new song recorded live from one of Guinan's Irish Night sessions. The music is courtesy of the talented artists of course and also Bryan Merdler who spent hours uploading the songs online.

The first pick is my personal favorite: The Wild Rover led by Jack McAndrew.

Anyone wanting a CD with copies of the music, can email Bryan directly at lgrthnmst(at)

Note: Logo above courtesy of Vic Schwarz.