Thursday, June 26, 2008

West Point Grad and Guinan's Patron Quoted in NYTimes on Religion & Military Controversy

One familiar face at Guinan's during its last few years was a West Point cadet named Brad Hoelscher. He came to Guinan's on his 21st birthday and continued to support the store both as a patron and as an extra pair of beer-slinging hands on several of the busiest nights during Guinan's final hours.

Brad is quoted in this New York Times story yesterday about the controversy over what kind of role religion plays and should play at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and other service academies.

It's an interesting piece, even if you don't know Brad. For those of you who do, he graduated on May 31st. I was lucky enough to attend the ceremony and spend time with his family and friends that day. They are an incredible bunch. As for Second Lieutenant Brad's next steps, I'll keep you posted here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Music from Liz Carroll & John Doyle @ Philipstown Depot Theatre Friday

From Nancy Montgomery:

This duo is on the Irish Echo's top 10 list. Their last recording - In Play - "one of the best Irish traditional recordings of the year" - Earle Hitchner, The Irish Echo.
They play BIG venues, but because of a generous sponsorship from The Morton McGrath Group of RBC Wealth Management, they are playing at our tiny 1890's gem (the old stone train station at Garrison's Landing) on the Hudson - The Philipstown Depot Theatre:

Philipstown Depot Theatre
Music Tracks and Bull Hill Productions Presents:
Liz Carroll & John Doyle
Friday June 27th at 8:00pm
$30 by calling 845-424-3900

Note: John Doyle has been named to Irish America's Top 100 for 2008. His profile appears in the April/May 2008 issue of Irish America magazine, now on newsstands.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Salute to "Barkeep" John Guinan

The Poughkeepsie Journal published this nice tribute to John Guinan last week by Barbara Nackman. She talks a lot about his commitment to Braking the Cycle (aka, "The Ride") that he participated in every year -- and which his daughter Kelly now does in his stead with a group of us from Guinan's.

We're approaching the three-month mark for the ride. All the rain has kept a lot of Team Guinan off the road, but training has to begin in earnest soon. (Or we'll all be sorry.)

We're also entering into serious fund-raising mode. Please consider making a donation to help us meet our $50,000 goal at the Team Guinan link. It's a large amount in an economy that's got everyone watching their dollars. But it's for a very important cause that meant a lot to a man who meant so much to us. We're very appreciative of your help.

Photo by Kelly Guinan titled "I am my father's daughter." All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And 1,000 Names It Is...

Congratulations and thank you to all signers. We've just reached 1,000 names supporting a new store at #7 Garrison's Landing.

Please continue to forward the link to your friends and family. Remember, your voices have been heard.

Only 8 More Signatures To 1,000

Your enthusiasm for and commitment toward seeing a new store at #7 Garrison's Landing is contagious. We're approaching 1,000 names on the petition now, and the wonderful comments keep coming.

Here's to passing the thousand-name milestone today. Please encourage people in the area and who know about what Guinan's represented to this town and greater public good to read the mission statement and sign in support.

Again, thank you for all who've already done so. Everyone has busy days, and we're extremely appreciative that you spared a few minutes for this.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Letter From LTC Kenny McDonald

Below, a letter from a U.S. officer recently wounded in Iraq:

Dear Station Plaza Board Members,

I would like you to consider Mary Ellen Yanitelli's proposal for the Guinan's Country Store and Pub. There is a great opportunity to keep "a warm and special place" in Garrison.

I am a career military officer stationed at West Point and have been attending the Irish nights at Guinan's since 1995. I just recently returned from two years in Iraq after being critically wounded. I was more hurt by the news that Guinan's was closed than I was with my physical wounds. One of the "things" I clung to during my recovery were memories of Garrison and Guinan's. You can not imagine how important this was to my recovery.

I believe there is something so very special about this community. This is an opportunity to keep the community together....

God Bless,

LTC Kenny McDonald
Deputy Commander
US Army Corps of Engineers
New York District

Photo by Gwendolyn Bounds. All Rights Reserved.

Garrison Station Plaza Board Formally Requests Proposals for ex-Guinan's Building

This ad was published in this week's Putnam Country News & Recorder soliciting proposals for new businesses to operate at #7 Garrison's Landing. As the ad notes, "many people have expressed hope that at least some portion of that building ... will continue to be leased to a tenant whose business contributes to community interaction and convenience."

Thank you to all who have signed the petition backing a new general store or similar venue in this spot. We're closing in on 1,000 signatures. Please continue to encourage new signers and throw your support behind those who might have a viable plan to serve our community in this space.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Journal-News: "Barkeep a giving person right up to his own death"

Barkeep a giving person right up to his own death
Barbara Livingston Nackman
666 words
17 June 2008
Poughkeepsie Journal
(c) Copyright 2008, Poughkeepsie Journal. All Rights Reserved.

GARRISON - For a decade, Fishkill resident John Guinan each year rode his bike hundreds of miles to raise money to combat AIDS, the disease that took the life of his brother-in-law. Now, friends and relatives of the man whose family founded the legendary Guinan's pub will do the same to honor his memory this fall.

Guinan, 56, died June 3 at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie after a two-year battle with brain cancer. Guinan first realized some numbness in 2006 during his last ride for Braking the Cycle, which benefits health services at New York City's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.

Garrison resident Gwendolyn Bounds rode with Guinan. A columnist for the Wall Street Journal, she wrote "Little Chapel on the River," chronicling how Guinan's pub became a welcome home along the Hudson and the regulars became an extended family for her in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks near her Manhattan apartment.

"It's rare to find genuine selflessness in a person, both in business and in life, but John Guinan embodied that more than anyone I've known," she said in an e-mail interview. "He helped continue his family's legacy of turning average or bad days into good days for those who passed through their store. All it took was a simple kind word, an umbrella to borrow or dollar lent on trust - gestures hard to find today."

"John gave all this freely and more, which is why his loss hangs like a cloud over the town," Bounds said. "He was singular."

Guinan's Pub and Country Store closed Jan. 31 after nearly 50 years, and there is debate in Garrison over one proposal to reopen it as a pub/cafe. Last week, in front of its padlocked and boarded-shut doorway stood formal flower sprays, garden cuttings and messages to John Guinan, whose illness prompted his father, Jim, 81, to close the family business and retire. Dozens turned out for Guinan's funeral services June 7.

In March 2007, the many people who knew and loved Guinan threw a fundraiser to help his family offset his medical bills. In an article published days before that event, he contemplated how hard it would be to thank them, saying, "It's going to be tough to get my emotions together and stand there in front of them."

Guinan was born March 10, 1952, in Birmingham, England to James and Margaret Curnyn Guinan, and came with his family to the U.S. in 1957, settling in Garrison. He worked as a paramedic, landscaper and golf course manager, but most recently, at the store. He coached youth basketball, football and baseball in Philipstown.

A sportsman, Guinan first joined the 275-mile Braking the Cycle ride with his brother-in-law Tom Caruso, who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1996 and died several years later. Last year, unable to ride, Guinan nevertheless met bikers at the finish at the center's headquarters on West 13th Street.

"His was the first face I looked for," said Blake Strasser, rider coach for Braking the Cycle. "He was part of our family and he will be so sorely missed."

In addition to his father, James of Lutz, Fla., he is survived by his wife of 32 years, Mary Jane of Fishkill; daughter Kelly of Garrison; two sons, Sean of New Haven, Conn. and Casey of Fishkill; a granddaughter; two sisters and a brother.

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

In memory of John Guinan:

Donations may be sent to Braking the Cycle, c/o Global Impact Productions, 127 West 26th St., Suite 402, New York, N.Y. 10001 or go to

This year's trip is Sept. 26-28 and will go from Gettysburg, Pa. to New York City.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Garrison Station Plaza Agrees to Revisit Store Issue; But Outcome Still Unclear

Members of the Garrison Station Plaza board agreed this morning to revisit whether there should be a store or similar public venue housed in the building formerly known as “Guinan’s.” While this is a positive move to those of us supporting such an establishment, it remains unclear what direction the board will ultimately take.

Edward N. Preusser, a shareholder who is not on the board, presented the results gathered so far on a public petition started this week that calls for preserving such a store on Garrison’s Landing. To date, 910 people have signed both from the New York region as well as around the country and overseas.

The board discussed how and where they might solicit proposal for such use of the space. (One such proposal has already been submitted and may still be considered despite earlier indications that it would not.) GSP board members agreed they would study the matter and make a decision about their direction in the near future.

Those who have not signed the petition, but who do support having a place to serve the public on the Landing, please visit the Web site and sign today. Every name matters.

Separately, the GSP board made a $100 donation in John Guinan’s memory to Braking the Cycle. Members also noted that they planned to place a plaque commemorating the Guinan family on the building at #7 Garrison’s Landing no matter what its ultimate use.

Your support has been recognized and is helping. Thank you to everyone.

Photo by Jim Donnery. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 13, 2008

823 Signatures and Counting..

Your support for a new public venue or store at 7 Garrison's Landing (the building formerly known as "Guinan's") is overwhelming. As of this writing, there are 823 signatures to the online petition with page after page of heartfelt, eloquent comments accompanying them.

Thank you. And thank you again. I'll keep everyone updated here -- as live as I can -- on the outcome of tomorrow morning's board meeting at 10 a.m. at the Desmond-Fish Library.

There have also been many people who have emailed their stories and reasons for support. Here is one:

My visits to Guinan's were primarily as a commuter getting coffee and a paper before jumping on the train for the last 15 years. That may not sound like a big deal, but when it comes with a friendly neighbor behind the counter sharing 15 seconds of the latest news, a joke or a commiseration about the weather or whatever, it is a big positive deal. You can understand why I, like most of the people who take that train everyday, felt Garrison had to be the best train station in the world to start a hard days' work. I regret now that I did not get to the store as often as I would have liked for a beer after work or an ice-cream with the kids on a weekend afternoon - but the times I was able to do that really make me appreciate what we had in the store.

The long lines at John Guinan's wake attest to how greatly he is missed by so many people in every corner of the Philipstown community. The Guinan family developed and nurtured a wonderfully diverse community at the Garrison landing. In my mind it would be rubbing salt in the wound which Philipstown suffered in John's untimely death if the Guinan's store were simply written off.

Garrison is a unique and beautiful place to live for many reasons. In my experience, the quirky, unassuming, friendly, out of the way store at the landing was cited as one of those reasons as often as the beautiful woodlands, views of the Hudson and amazing cultural institutions like the GAC, the Desmond Fish Library and Boscobel. And that was even before Wendy Bounds' book spread the news of Garrison's secret treasure world wide.

The value of a meeting place/general store/pub like Guinans to Garrison cannot be understated. We are only pretending to have country charm if we don't have a country store like that. I think your efforts to take on running that store, where so many people have had such great memories, will be quite a challenge, but everyone I have spoken with in Philipstown supports you. For the sake of everyone in Philipstown: Good luck!!

Paul Mackey

Top photo by Clemson Smith Muñiz. Second photo by Kelly Guinan. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Petition to Preserve the Spot Formerly Known as Guinan's Pub & Country Store

A petition is now online strongly encouraging the shareholders of Garrison Station Plaza, which owns the building formerly-known as Guinan's, to include a new store in their renovation plans.

While several members support this idea, the board is also considering converting the building into all office space and/or apartments or other configurations with no cafe or store, according to people familiar with the plans. The board already has turned down a proposal to build a new cafe from former Guinan's regular, Mary Ellen Yannitelli. No specific explanation was given. (See this Journal-News article by Barbara Nackman for more.)

Many residents, myself included, and tourists who've visited Garrison's Landing feel that to not include a public gathering spot here would deprive the town of a much-needed resource in a critical location for commuters, Garrison Art Center patrons and talent, cadets, tourists, boaters, Landing businesses and other citizens.

The petition is a move to persuade the board to consider these voices in their meeting this Saturday, June 14th at 10 a.m. at the Desmond-Fish Library. Already, more than 650 people have included their names and comments, including former New York Governor George Pataki and his wife Libby.

I am a member of the Committee to Preserve Community on Garrison's Landing, and I strongly encourage all who care about this historic strip on the Hudson River, to please sign.

There are no doubt renovations and potentially costly upgrades that must be done to this building, originally erected in the mid-to-late 1800s. However, before such work begins, it's important to take a deep breath and investigate configurations that would sustain both a public-use venue, as well as other spaces that would fulfill the board's stated desire to look at ex-Guinan's with a "fresh eye."

Again, please take a moment to sign the petition and cast your vote on the side of preserving a very symbolic piece of disappearing small town America.

Photos by Kelly Guinan. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 9, 2008

"The Man Behind the Bar..."

Garrison resident, friend to John Guinan and morning commuter Dwight Garner wrote this fine tribute to John Guinan today on his New York Times book blog, Paper Cuts.

Last year Dwight posted about his commute from Garrison, and noted how Guinan's was one of the "Hudson Valley’s last great establishments."

No argument here.

In today's post, Dwight fittingly described Garrison's loss of John this way: "The town feels atomized without him." During John's battle with brain cancer, Dwight often sent John books he thought he'd shine to -- just another example of the small ways the morning commuters paid back the man behind the bar for his kinship.

Dwight lives here with his wife, author Cree LeFavour, who writes this interesting, visual foodie blog called On the Plate.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

NYTimes on John Guinan; Community Donates Graciously to Weekend's Memorial Services

New York Times "Our Towns" columnist Peter Applebome Friday penned this tribute to John Guinan and the Garrison's Landing store his family ran from 1959 until 2008.

Peter has written two other stories about Guinans, one in 2007 and another this year.

In his most recent post, Peter included a moving quote from John about what the store meant to him all these years:

“I’m not sure exactly how, but we became a comfort zone for people,” [John] said, “a place that reminds people of a place they went to when they were young, something that makes them think good thoughts. People need a place like this, but the reward you get for the kindness you provide is worth much more than whatever you give out. It blows me away to be a part of it.”

John also would have been blown away at the generosity of the community during his wake, funeral service and memorial reception at Garrison's Landing. One of his dear friends, Mary Ellen Yannitelli -- who has proposed opening a new store to carry on the Guinan's tradition -- helped spearhead the reception, where local vendors who worked with the Guinan's, as well as friends, donated or provided discounts on food/drink and sundry items--as well as offered their time.

Here's a rough list of donors from Mary Ellen. Apologies from both of us for any who are missing or any misspellings. Please send any corrections or add names to the comments section at the end of this post:

Libby Turnock & the Garrison Art Center
Bill Burback/Peter Hofmann
B & L Deli
Peekskill Beer & Soda
JAC Baked Goods Inc.
Peekskill Ice
Tom & Sandy Endres
Tom Whyte
Donny Yannitelli
Yorktown Police
Putnam County Sheriff's Dept.
Christine & Ed Ashburn
David & Cathy Lilburne, Jeff Lacko & Katie Mayo
Various neighbors/friends-homemade desserts

Photos by Gwendolyn Bounds; All Rights Reserved. For permission to use, please contact

A Celebration of John Guinan

Friends of the Guinan family gathered yesterday to celebrate the life of John Guinan at Our Lady of Loretto in Cold Spring, N.Y. and later on Garrison's Landing at a reception hosted by the Garrison Art Center. Bagpipers (from the Cold Spring Fire Co. Pipe & Drum Corps, I'm told) gave a wonderful farewell to him.

Several riders from Braking the Cycle came by train from New York to commemorate John, who has pedaled with them since the ride's inception. The organizers of Braking the Cycle, among them Eric Epstein, Blake Strasser and Steve Bratton, have graciously made John honorary Rider Number 1 this year.

This ride was enormously important to John. He rode every year to celebrate the life of his late brother-in-law Tommy. His wife Mary Jane often crewed; now his daughter Kelly leads a team of us from Guinan's who ride in his stead.

In lieu of flowers or other tributes to John, the family has asked that donations be made to Braking the Cycle and Team Guinan. (Any donations made to John Guinan, Rider #1 will also benefit Team Guinan.) This link will take you directly to Team Guinan's donation page, or type in:

Many of you are leaving wonderful messages and memories about John here at this spot on this blog. They are much appreciated by all who loved him.

Photos by Clemson Smith Muñiz

Saturday, June 7, 2008

An Irish Memorial for John Guinan

This is the outside of now-closed Guinan's Pub & Country Store yesterday, where flowers, dolls, photos and even a bottle of Harp are being laid in honor of John Guinan who died Tuesday night.

While the store has been gutted and is empty inside, it's still filled with the stories and souls of the people who loved it and the family who kept its doors open nearly 50 years. Today, we will gather to honor John Guinan both in church and later on the shores of the Hudson near the store where so many of us first came to know him.

Photo by Christine Ashburn

Friday, June 6, 2008

Garrison School Blog Spring Edition Launches

"Garrison rocks."
That's what 10 seventh-grade students have to say about their town. Today they launched their Spring edition of the "Cougar Times" online. [NOTE: I'm with them live-blogging from their classroom.]

Included in the edition are book reviews, stories about summertime, articles on school issues, photos and community news about where the 8th graders are going to school next year.

The students have been working for two months under Charlotte Rowe at the Garrison Union Free School District.

Journalists working on the project include: Lianna Culp, Richard Stiehl, Eryn Kelly, Nicklas Clemente, Simon Close, Lindy Labriola, Robby Schartner, Olivia Mennillo, Madison Freeman and Chloe Wareham-Gordon.

Congratulations to them all.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Poughkeepsie Journal Obit for John Guinan

An obituary for John Guinan ran today in the Poughkeepsie Journal. Many people know John mostly from his days behind the counter at Guinan's Pub & Country Store. But reading this testimony to his life sheds light on the many other facets of his character.

For details about the memorial services being held for John, as well as how to reach the family, please see this post.

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 or 845-228-2272.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

John Guinan: 1952 to 2008

John Guinan died last night after a long, and extraordinarily brave fight with brain cancer. He is survived by his wife Mary Jane, children Sean, Kelly and Casey, granddaughter Zoe, his siblings Margaret, Christine and Jimmy and his father Jim.

Your notes and calls to John over the past 18 months have meant more than you'll ever know. Rarely does someone hear such widespread affection from so many corners of the world. He deserved all of the love but took none of it for granted. And he changed many lives, my own included, in big and small ways.

The family will hold a wake from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday:
Clinton Funeral Home
21 Parrott Street
Cold Spring, NY 10516
(845) 265-3333

John's funeral will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday:
Our Lady of Loretto
24 Fair Street
Cold Spring, NY 10516
(845) 265-3781

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to Braking the Cycle and Team Guinan. This link will take you directly to Team Guinan's donation page, or type in:

(You can read more about Team Guinan in these posts)

If you have messages and memories for everyone who loved John, you can leave them as a comment at the end of this blog post.

Cards and notes for the family may be mailed to:

7 Pulaski Road Fishkill, NY 12524