While I Was Selling A Sofa
By Andrea Aurichio
My parents owned a furniture store on Main Street in Greenport, a village punctuated by offbeat, funky Normal Rockwell moments.
My father used to call it Puerto Verde when he took a ride through the village in the evening to check on the store and see what was going on which was usually nothing and everything depending on the time of year.
In the winter the streets were deserted after five p.m. and my father said you could go bowling on Front Street. In the summer, action was based on the number of people at the bar at Mitchell’s, the boats docked in the marinas and the cars in the parking lots at local restaurants.
Minor vandalism was the big event when I opened up in the morning and had to clean up paper plates, pizza crust and soda cups left on the Rotunda of our building built in 1896 known as The Greenport Auditorium home of the Goldin Furniture Company.
We opened our doors at 9 a.m. and closed at 5 p.m. six days a week all year long. The curtain went up and life happened all around me in this former vaudeville emporium with a full stage, a balcony and a Quiet Please sign.
The furniture company got its name from Oscar Goldin, a former mayor of Greenport, who was an antiques dealer, appraiser, real estate broker and auctioneer.
Oscar, as we called him, held court across the street in his antique store located in E.J. Warner’s building. My father had a law office down the block on Main Street. One day he heard of a guy who owned the carpet company located in the Auditorium owned by Oscar Goldin. My mother got the idea to take over the failing business and relocate my father’s law office all at the same time. My father moved his office to the top floor of the Auditorium and put his desk in front of the windows in the turret. My brothers and sisters participated in the move carrying law books along Main Street from one building to another. From that day until my father died, there was an honest lawyer one flight up.
My parents paid rent to Oscar who said he would have the building and the failing business back in six months. My mother never forgot that. Neither did my father. Somewhere in this story a twenty five cent bet was made between Oscar and my Dad.
More than 20 years later as my father was dying, he told me to give Oscar an envelope with a quarter in it and tell him we won the bet. The business was still there and my parents owned the building free and clear. Oscar had sold it to them years before when my mother walked across the street and made a deal going from tenant to property owner.
I worked in the store. I had the time of my life. My father was a fun guy and a great lawyer. My mother was a brilliant woman known for her business acumen, her gracious personality, her beauty and her fashion sense. She was famous for her clothes. Customers came to the store to see what she was wearing. My brother a great golfer, champion windsurfer, avid boater and sport fisherman, was without a doubt one of the most unusual company presidents and Chief Executive officers in the country. He was and still is a meticulous craftsman and a devout perfectionist.
I sold sofas amidst this galaxy of stars and listened to stories all day long. It was amazing how much happened in this town where there was nothing to do and nowhere to go.
One day a man came in to buy a mattress and told me a story about his boyhood trips from Mattituck to Greenport in the family’s model T Ford. The trip took all day. They packed a lunch and his father brought fresh chickens from their farm to trade with Mr. Katz for back to school shoes for the kids from Katz’s store.
Time stood still and moved on as in the case of the seventy year old daughter who brought her 95 year old mother in to buy a recliner. “Just tell her everything is $50.00”, the daughter said, “and I will pay the rest, otherwise she won’t buy a chair.” We worked it out, a sale was made, a chair was delivered and everyone was happy especially the 95 year old woman who could put her feet up at a price she could live with.