Clam Digger Business Stories

We’ve had the same telephone number all these years. We’ve survived the wash-and-wear and machine dry cleaning eras, as well as the Depression and World War II. I love people and I’m with my customers either in the store or when I’m picking up or delivering clothes to them mornings and evenings. I’ve gotten to know most of the people and their families here. – Harry Chernoff, proprietor, Reliable Cleaners

The pizza shop across the street used to be an antique shop. Jafsie Condon was the owner of the shop. He was the liaison between the kidnappers of the Lindbergh baby in the 1930s and the Lindbergh family. – Harry Chernoff

At one time, there were one, two, three, four gas stations going full time up here. At one time right after the war, there were nine marine docks where you could get marine fuel. Strangely enough, now there’s only one. – Leo Keane

But when that shift took off at 4:30 in the afternoon, don’t get in the way because they didn’t’ stop. If there was only one traffic light on the Avenue then, which might have been at Fordham Street, that was a lot. They just flew. – Leo Keane

I worked in the drugstore. It was called Otto P. Gilbert and then when my father died, it was changed to Gilbert Pharmacy, and it’s been that ever since. Well, when my father got this store, you didn’t have your various drugs packaged. You had to package them yourself, like bicarbonate of soda, Epsom salts, boric acid and things like that. It was my job to fill those boxes. My father would come along and spot-weigh them. And I started with that when I was nine years old. Whenever anything had to be done like that, “Elsa, come in, you have boxes to fill…” – Elsa Gilbert Kroepke.

We made our own syrups for the fountain—chocolate, cornstarch, sugar, whatever. Simple syrups. And then we would stretch the regular fruit that we bought from Hungerford. They had the best fruit. And then we’d stretch that with the syrup for the sodas. We’d take marshmallow, thin that out with the syrup. We made our own lemonade and orange juice. It was work. – Elsa Kroepke

Guys from the boatyard would always come in for haircuts. See, like tonight, right, in the 30s you can’t get into the barber shop. It was always full of fellows. They come in, about 30 or 40. There were 14 barbers in City Island at that time. 14 barbers and now one barber can’t make a living. –Louis Filipino

Stores, sure they change because over there before, over there was a barber shop, there was a grocery store, there was a baker’s shop. There was a shoemaker’s. There were two A&Ps at one time, Depression time. They then had Gristede Brothers near Bartow. They come in at night, like they do now. There was a lot of money there in the summer. Then High Island. They had a least 50, 60 bungalows. – Louis Filipino

In the beginning when we took the bakery over, we had a very good business because all of the shipyards were open and then the boats would launch and the stewards would come and buy their merchandise from us. – Kate Laue

You name the stores and we had it, right? Not like today. There was a ten-cent store and there was Mr. Engle’s, where you could buy anything. There was Mr. Carney, the grocery store; there was Dupont’s, a grocery store and butcher at the same time. We don’t have all the stores any more. I don’t think you can even buy a pin and a thread. – Kate Laue


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The City Island Nautical Museum is operated by the City Island Historical Society, a not-for-profit organization, which relies on donations, grants, and membership dues. Admission to the museum is $5 per person (no charge for members and children under 12). We welcome new members as well as contributions to our general fund and to our endowment fund, and all donations are tax deductible. Annual membership dues are: Individual $20; Family $25; Corporate $50; Student $10. Please make checks payable to the City Island Historical Society and send to City Island Historical Society, P.O. Box 82, Bronx, NY 10464.


Open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. and by special appointment.

The City Island Nautical Museum wishes to thank the following City Island businesses that have become Corporate Members.

A-Quality Glass
Barron's Marine Services, Inc.
City Island Beer Company
CI Construction
City Island Pharmacy
City Island Sunoco
City Island Yacht Club
Connie's New Way Market
Consolidated Yachts, Inc.
Eben Hansmire
Charles Mandel
Seafood City
Drs. Robert Seigle and
Audell Ray
Tony's Pier Restaurant

Thanks in part to Councilmember James Vacca, CIHS received a larger grant than usual this year from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. This funding will enable us to mount two important exhibitions in the spring—the work of Mark Whitcombe and images of the City Island Bridge. If you have works of art that you would consider lending to either show, please call to let us know. Ron Terner of Focal Point Gallery will be curator of Mark’s show; call him at 718-885-1403. Bridge artists should call 718-885-0507. The show on the yacht building will remain in place until December 18, when we close for the season.


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