Monday, May 04, 2009
I admired the fading sign on this old three-story storefront on Franklin in a post a few months back, but on Saturday I stopped for a chat with Stanley Jones, the proprietor, who sits outside with a few boxes of clothing for sale when the weather allows. Jonesy, as he introduced himself, has owned the building since 1963, when he bought it from a Jewish family called the Meltzers. As he tells it, "I was a young many then, working in shipping from a shop on Sterling and Rogers. One day the woman from the shop came by to see me, and asked how much I was paying in rent. I told them I was paying $204 a month, cheap in those days, and she told me she had a place for sale on Franklin that she would sell to me, because, she said, she had never seen a young man work so hard." A few days later, he met the Meltzers at their home on Eastern Parkway and Washington Ave, and they confirmed their willingness to sell the shop to him. It had been a grocery (as evidenced by the fading "Groceries, Flour & Feed" banner painted between the windows), but was then in use as glass shop.
The young Jonesy, who was working double shifts, went to the bank that stood on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Franklin (now replaced by a giant hole that may one day become condos), and asked the clerk to check his life savings. The answer came back that he had enough to buy the place, and he went back to the Meltzers to confirm the sale. They did one better than he expected, offering not only to hold the mortgage privately, rather than going through the bank, but to let him pay it off as quickly as he could, thereby reducing their profit from interest. With a laugh, he adds "and they only asked for $50 at the closing!"
Jonesy has been there ever since, and the store looks exactly as it did when he bought it in 1963. "I can't change it" he says, "because it's an historic building." Around him, Germans, Irish, and Jews have moved out, and successive waves of western-hemisphere immigrants, first Jamaicans and Trinidadians, than Guyanese, and then Panamanian, have moved in. An old man now, Stanley Jones doesn't plan to go anywhere. "I've worked hard, and I'm doing fine," he says. "When I need help, I'll ask for it."