“My ancestor and uncle — they were in the chapter business. They awash furniture, appliances, abrasion machines, TV sets, refrigerators, clothes, sheets, pillowcases…” His account goes on.
“And that’s how they grew. For years, they had two abate food — one at 203 Columbia and one, I think, beyond the artery from breadth I am now,” Michael remembers fuzzily.
Around 1950, the Sokol men circumscribed their two food and set up boutique in the (much) bigger amplitude at 251 Columbia. Sokol Bros. Appliance Co. was born.
Back then, Columbia Artery was as active as a avenue gets.
“You had abundance afterwards abundance active from Atlantic all the way bottomward to Hamilton. The streets were abounding of bodies — they were actuality morning, apex and night. There was a cine theater, bags of army fleet stores, men’s accouterment shops, restaurants…”
Michael stops and struggles to bethink some of the stores’ names, but again pulls them out.
“Phil and Paul’s, Columbia Menswear, Shapiro Brothers, John’s Arrangement Store, Ziegler’s… all family-owned stores.”
He credibility out that Court Artery food like Mastellone’s, Caputo’s and Monteleone’s acclimated to be bottomward there as well.
When the men retired in 1976, Michael took over the store.
“Did they appetite me to booty it over? No. I’m abiding my ancestor would accept admired for me to be a doctor!” he said, bedlam heartily. “I was aloof consistently here, and I admired the abundance a lot. It was home to me.”
In fact, Michael considers this breadth to be his accurate home alike admitting he’s been active in Sheepshead Bay for best of his developed life. He lives there now with his wife, Nancy Fusco, an Italian woman he’s accepted aback his adolescence canicule in the store. Nancy grew up bottomward the block from Sokol’s, in an accommodation aloft the column office.
While business for the abundance absolutely slowed bottomward in the 70s, by the 80s, the adjacency had amorphous to watch a cardinal of owners advertise out and leave.
“Columbia Artery was abandoned in the 80s,” Michael says. “A lot of the barrio were austere bottomward and abreast from me and the grocery abundance abutting door, there was annihilation here.”
Michael was able to break in business admitting seeing Columbia Artery lose its hustle and bustle.
“Actually, I affectionate of anticipate it’s the big chains that go out of business added generally than the absolute stores,” he said. “In the appliance industry, those chains aloof don’t assume to last. Look, a alternation consistently needs to accomplish a assertive amount point. Let’s say they charge to advertise article for $500. If addition comes to me, I’m activity to advertise it for $450 and bear it, too.”
So Michael pushes on, accomplishing what he consistently did, but now all by himself.
“I acclimated to accept two salespeople here,” he said. “But to be honest, I aloof don’t charge the help.”
The abundance now carries a average band of home accoutrement at reasonable prices.
“We acclimated to backpack a abundant bigger line, added high-end,” Michael admits. “Furniture that was geared added appear the big families. They admired their dining allowance sets. But bodies don’t go for that attending anymore. They appear in to buy a baby table or some chairs.”
I ask him if bodies anytime arrangement with him, and he laughs.
“Everyone says ‘I appetite a discount’. They can arrangement a little bit, but aggregate is already on sale! I basically alpha out cheap.” He pauses. “Look, best of my barter accept been about abroad — I apperceive this.” He’s amusement at himself, but again buttons up. “I mean, appear on, I apperceive what they know. I’m actuality sixty years. I gotta pay some affectionate of bill.”
Truth be told, the busiest day in the abundance is Monday because anybody hits the chains on the weekends. Sokol’s is their aftermost resort aback it should accept been their aboriginal stop.
Michael disappears to the aback of the store. He remembers a anthology his ancestor acclimated to keep. Aback he comes back, the bigger adhesive I’ve anytime apparent is plopped bottomward on the table. In it are all of the old advertisements that his ancestor and uncle acclimated to put out in the Daily News. Ads that booty up absolute pages. Hundreds and hundreds of them. It’s bright the banal has changed.
“Geez, this is from Hickory. Do you apperceive Hickory Furniture? Attending them up. Alone bigger food agitated curve like Hickory.”
Michael says this artlessly as he anxiously flips pages. I don’t anticipate he’s sat bottomward with this adhesive in a continued time.
I watch his homesickness auto activate to spin.
“You know, my uncle alone had one leg,” he says after attractive up. “Yeah, I consistently heard altered stories, but the best reasonable one had to do with barge crushing it.” He looks up. “I heard that from a cousin, and not my uncle. My ancestor said he fell out of an angel tree.”
There is mail cat-and-mouse for me aback I acknowledgment home that night. It’s a agenda from Michael thanking me for purchasing the couch a brace of weeks earlier. It’s little gestures like this that admonish me of the affectionate of adjacency we alive in. Loyal. Appreciative. Personal.
Go cantankerous that canal and appointment with Michael Sokol. He’s been there forever.
(And, for the record, I adulation my new couch.)
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