Thursday, June 5, 2008

Journal-News: "Yearning for a new Guinan's, but Garrison owners say no"

Yearning for a new Guinan's, but Garrison owners say no
Barbara Livingston Nackman
880 words
5 June 2008
The Journal News (White Plains, NY)


GARRISON - It's been more than four months since Guinan's pub and country store closed - and pining for a reopening has become something of a local pastime.

The old glass-fronted counters inside the Garrison Landing shop are gone, and the interior walls have been stripped bare and opened to the studs. No neon signs suggest beer varieties, and there is a clear view of the Hudson River from the front entrance.

There is no final word from the building's owners, Garrison Station Plaza Inc., on what exactly will replace the beloved Irish pub begun by Jim Guinan in 1959.

One resident, Mary Ellen Yannitelli, whose family is historically connected to the site, is hoping she can make it into Hudson Cafe.

"I don't want to do this for melancholy sentimental reasons. I don't have a claim on it," she said from her home, a short walk from the site. "But to capture some of Guinan's would be great."

Her husband Tony's grandfather owned the riverfront building before the Guinan family took it over.

Yannitelli, 41, a lifelong Cold Spring resident and mother of three children, ages 16, 14, and 6, has worked as an office manager at a construction company, helped her husband with paperwork in his custom cabinetmaking business, and served from behind Guinan's counters.

She said she envisions a modern business open from early morning to late at night.

Jim Guinan, 81, who retired to Florida to play golf, offered his approval of her concept.

"I think it is good idea. I'd like to think it will continue somehow," he said.

She is not assured of a chance.

Garrison Station Plaza Inc. has gutted the shop and attached apartment and said it needs new electrical wiring and other upgrades. The eight-member station plaza board has not committed to a new tenant and has rejected Yannitelli's offer.

"We need to make a substantial investment into the property at #7 Garrison's Landing, formerly known as Guinan's Country Store, in order to make it usable for anything," board secretary Margaret O'Sullivan wrote in a May 29 e-mail. "So we have started by gutting the building. We have received a conceptual proposal, with no financial details, from Mary Ellen Yannitelli, which we have reviewed and declined. The board has to look at the building with a 'fresh eye,' taking into account not only the recent past but back to when it was built, to try and bring it into the 21st century and still retain some of the past aura."

O'Sullivan said the board wasn't sure what would be the best use for the site or even what would be an appropriate rent to charge.

In 2007, property taxes on No. 7 Garrison Landing were roughly $5,600.

Garrison Station Plaza was incorporated in 1966 with a goal to purchase and improve properties along the Garrison waterfront.

In descriptions from 1969, GSP cites Guinan's as an essential institution, according to documents Yannitelli discovered while researching the site.

"If there wasn't a Guinan's Country Store, we would have to invent one. Where else can one get the many little things that are so necessary for daily living. The 'Country Store' has always meant 'accommodation,' but surely the Guinans have enhanced the meaning of the word. As our leading delicatessen and the only Pub in Depot Square, everyone in Garrison should give them support," reads a description.

Garrison Landing Association, a separate group, owns adjacent properties. The marina is leased to a boaters group and the station to a theater group.

Yannitelli said she was disappointed to be rebuffed so soon, but she hopes to resubmit her proposal and include construction plans and a descriptive business concept.

"I would hope the full board would review this and ask me questions," she said. Her vision is for a cafe with homestyle meals like meatloaf and roasted chicken.

Passers-by last month seemed to miss the old, comfortable spot.

Metro-North workers said they longed for some fresh coffee. Students heading into the city were upset they couldn't get a newspaper for the ride into Manhattan.

Taxi driver Arafat Alli of Alley's Way in Cold Spring said his customers would call from the store to be picked up and would have an area to wait. He said he would see the place busy, and to him it seemed clear that it filled a local need.

"It would be convenient for many people," he said dropping off a passenger who had expected to purchase a newspaper. "There aren't many places like this, and I figure something similar will open up. Won't it?"

Anita Prentice of Garrison said she hoped a new deli-pub would take over the spot. Her husband Nat's family are longtime residents, and she learned of Guinan's when the couple took up roots in the river hamlet.

"Garrison is a tiny place, but this was a center," she said. "It added something, a place to go and to gather."

Reach Barbara Livingston Nackman at bnackman@lohud.com or 845-228-2272.

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