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Prohibition? No Problem

The Art of Wine prevails in Pleasantville.

The art of whine is an established practice frequently exhibited by a handful of growing children. The however, is a long established business that has been operating in Pleasantville for almost a century, albeit under a variety of names.

And it’s been in one family for that long, as well.

Although a gentleman named Edward Macy opened a grocery store on the current premises around 1911, by 1915, he was out of business. Meanwhile, a young Mayer Goldstein decided to hop on a Harlem line—then part of the New York and Harlem Railroad—train from Manhattan.

When the locomotive pulled into Pleasantville, he got off the train and said, “This looks like a nice place,” according to Goldstein's great-grandson—and current owner—Mike Goldstein.

The elder Goldstein had been travelling around on business for years and was looking to create a stable home and environment for his family, which included seven children. He finally settled on Washington Avenue and took over the Macy business.

During the early years of the 20th century, grocers were able to sell both food and liquor in the same establishment. In fact, liquor was bottled on premises. Many artifacts from this period and process are displayed throughout the shop.

If customers didn’t have a “private label” for their personal stock, they simply arrived with the receptacle of their choice, and desired quantities of liquor were dispensed using copper measuring tools of varying sizes—also on display in the store.

No cash, no problem.

“In groceries and general stores, no one ever paid cash because they didn’t have cash,” explained Goldstein. “If you go back far enough, bread was three cents a loaf, and people had three cents. For the most part, purchases went on their tabs, and when the old man got paid at the end of the week, the tab was paid off.”

Prohibition? No problem

During Prohibition, it was legal to sell a product called near-beer, containing 3.2 percent alcohol, “since it was not an instrument of the devil,” according to Goldstein. And sell a lot of near-beer they did—especially since they were delivering barrels full, via horse and wagon, to a nearby immigrant boarding house.

During the Goldstein tenure throughout the Depression, the business continued to survive.

“We ate, but others had problems,” shared Goldstein. “The store carried long-term bills for people who couldn’t afford to pay, the last of those bills being paid off in WWII.”  

From bread to booze

Once prohibition ended, new licensing laws were put in place, requiring segregation between grocers and liquor stores. The Goldsteins simply added a a door on Cooley Street to the Bedford-Road facing establishment, and a wall dividing the two types of wares. The grocery entrance remained in the front. 

During the early 1950s, small family-run grocers were losing business to bigger stores, which were more efficient and offered broader choices, Goldstein said.

By 1953, the shop became known as The Goldstein Liquor Store. 

Goldstein’s then-wife was an artist, and they changed their business model to incorporate artwork into the store. They couldn’t name the shop Art and Wine—since licensing laws prohibited the sale of anything but liquor in a liquor store—and so they became the Art of Wine. Artwork is no longer available in the store.

Now, Graeme, Goldstein’s son, has worked at the store off-and-on for many years, and now manages the shop. He represents the fifth generation of Goldstein to manage the establishment.

Architectural details abound

The shop retains its original tin ceiling, metal façade and wood floors, and is ornamented with many of Goldstein’s grandfather’s antique collectibles.

Even an interesting, carved wooden “hut,” which was once used for bookkeeping, graces the interior of the store. Goldstein’s grandfather purchased it 1915 from a previous owner in Chappaqua.

“I would guess it was some kind of retail business, more than likely a grocery or its equivalent,” speculated Goldstein.

Its many architectural details included hand carvings, beveled glass, oak framing, and three doors.

“Now it’s used for heating coffee and eating lunch,” he said.

Though Goldstein admits celebrities have walked through the doors of The Art of Wine, he adds, "but I wouldn’t mention them by name.”

___

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Martin Clark January 04, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Who knew?! Great insight into the history of a local business. Thanks.
Bob January 04, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Patch, interesting fact I didn't know and I'm surprised to learn... 3.2 is Army beer. It will give you a buzz.. "During Prohibition, it was legal to sell a product called near-beer, containing 3.2 percent alcohol,"
Honora Firth-Jones January 06, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I love these kind of stories of local lore!
Carol Doolittle January 07, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Yes, local lore gives a break from the reality of today. I wish we could buy wine where we buy our food in grocery stores all over New York. I didn't know New Yorkers could do that before Prohibition.

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