Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Next Chapel

The clock is now ticking to see what business will occupy the space that was Guinan's. There's some news on that front, but first I'd like to point out a story in the Los Angeles Times last week about the battles to save several local San Francisco pubs, including one called the John Barleycorn.

In a short blog post about this at The Wall Street Journal's Web site, I noted how sometimes new owners of well-loved establishments, in their quest to create a new vision, will underestimate the financial worth of "regulars." (I also briefly mentioned Guinan's in this piece.)

Regulars, after all, are the lifeblood of these small places. They keep coming and spending money in bad weather and bad economies. Lose them, and you loose a financial lifeline.

Right now, the group that owns the building that was "Guinan's" is about to start renovations and is looking for new tenants. One of Guinan's regulars and most loyal parishioners, Mary Ellen Yannitelli, has raised her hand to start a new store there. Mary Ellen is married to Tony Yannitelli, whose ancestors ran a grocery store in the building that was Guinan's in the early 1900s.

Her mission: court a new generation of customers while not abandoning the old charms and regulars who made Guinan's so special and helped it survive nearly 50 years.

Stay tuned ...

Photo by Clemson Smith Muñiz

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Save This Place: Wall Street Consultant Buys Small N.J. Country Store

Over in Sussex County, New Jersey, a former Brooklyn boy named David Serena is making a move to save the local Layton Country Store, part of the county’s history for more than 100 years. Lore goes, he says, that it was once a dry goods shop, morphing later into an eatery for hunters, fishermen and tourists.

Dave, who owns a Wall Street consulting firm, seems an odd choice to run such a joint. But he’s picking up where old owners left off and handing the reins to his 19-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, who have a new son. The young family will move from Hoboken and take shifts with Mom and Pop working the store and acting as “waiters, waitresses, busboys and anything else that needs to be done,” Dave says.

In return, Dave will rent them a house and the payments will be part of their compensation.

Part of the charm will be mixing old world with new. He plans to tap the many local farms to highlight their products and goods and will prepare foods with fresh fare rather than mixes and pre-cooked ingredients.

He’s also registered a Web site:, (nothing is up yet--stay tuned...) and will be trying to drum up new customers that way and with a blog.

The family is aiming for a September 1, reopen. Dave says this may be “one of the dumbest decisions in my life.” I suspect he’s only half-joking.

But give him your support. Visit the spot when it opens. Spend some money. Lend him advice. Become a vendor. Write to Dave’s blog when it's up and going. Support his decision so he doesn’t feel so dumb.

Here’s the address and a map:
130 County Road 560
Sandyston, NJ 07851

View Larger Map

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Did Wal-Mart Underestimate this Little Guy?

Since this blog is dedicated in part to interesting tales about small businesses, here's one from today's Wall Street Journal about a tiny film production company who's giving Wal-Mart a big headache by selling footage it took of the retailer's internal meetings.

After reading the post and story, if you want to see a snippet of how people are putting some of the Wal-Mart footage to use, you can watch this video, which shows the retailer's executives dressed in drag as part of a seminar on sexual harassment.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Letter from a 1980 West Point Graduate...

..."It is with much regret that I learn of Guinan's closing. I'm sorry I never made the short trip tovisit. Your words paint a clear picture of a magical place and a wonderful group of souls.

I'm a West Point Classmate of COL Tom, joining him and almost 1500 other new cadets in the summer of '76 at West Point. I've known of Tom's trip across the river for years, it was, and is, one of the enduring legends of our Class lore. I haven't spoken to Tom in years but reading of him, and the special bond that existed between him and Jim, and with the Chapel moved me, and reminded me of similar ties we all formed during those intense, packed years as cadets.

Like I said, I never made the short trip to Garrison. I was part of the"Head to Newburgh" crowd to escape the 20 kilometer no drinking rule as a cadet. On my second trip there I would up at a party in a dorm at Mt. St. Mary College and met the young woman who I married almost 28 yearsago and whom I still dearly love. Our watering hole was a small bar in Newburgh called the Golden Rail and our community of friends included several of my classmates and Carol's friends from the Mount, many who remain steadfast friends that we stay in frequent contact with to this day.

I try and return to West Point each Aug to take part in the March backwith the new cadets as they complete Beast Barracks. Even though the chapel has shut it's doors, I look forward to driving over and seeing for myself, the wonderful community you have the good fortune to share. I'll also fit in a return to our own "chapel", the Golden Rail, but truth be told, it never held the magic you sense from Guinan's. Enjoy what is still there, as such places are increasingly rare, and thank you so much for sharing it with us."

Marty J. Eaton
MAJ, INFAMCOM Operations Center
USMA Class of 1980

(Photo of Tom Endres and Jim Guinan by Gwendolyn Bounds)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"And So We Ride" -- A Video

Black Watch Productions Inc. produced this video of last year's Braking the Cycle Ride. It's called "And So We Ride," and is the work of John and Monica Anderson who've been chronicling the ride for years.

Watching it, you'll see members of Team Guinan pushing up hills, chugging back electrolytes -- but you'll also see the reason we ride: John Guinan, who's featured at the end of the film. You can't miss the white mustache.
We're riding again this year, Sept. 26th to 28th, and have a Team Goal of $50,000 to raise. Help us get started! Here's the link to our donation page. (And leave us a note in the Honor Roll section.)

Thanks again to all of you who helped our team meet it's goal last year. We're already on our way with training.

(Pictured here: Kelly Guinan and Chris Robinson. Photos taken respectively by Team Guinan members Christine Ashburn and David Lant.)