In fact, some delivery people had to wheel their hand trucks past police and fire trucks, only to discover that the landmark store was closed.
Now the store has reopened on the corner of 13th Street across from its original location.
While the store had suffered through Superstorm Sandy like many businesses in Bayonne, it could not recover from the fire. Even though the fire hadn’t actually damaged the stock or even the store itself, the building had to be demolished and the stock destroyed. The partners were already thinking how to reopen and where.
“We’re not used to being unemployed,” said Thomas Fienan, a co-owner along with Robert Metro and Ed Durak.
Harry’s was an institution at 295 Broadway since the 1940s, and a place known citywide for its friendly and efficient service.
“People continued to call for us to make a delivery while we were closed,” Durak said.
This was frustrating for all three partners, each of whom had come up through the ranks of the store, starting their careers here as stock boys and eventually rising to manager, and finally buying into the business.
This was as much a family business to them as it was to the public who said hello to the familiar faces of the sales staff regularly.
The store employed 10 people, all of whom, Metro said, were familiar faces to the public.
Fortunately, the business also owned a small warehouse across the street at 297 Broadway, close enough to the original location so that customers would not be confused.
The hard part was getting the new space ready.
First, they had to deal with the legalities of transferring the liquor license from 295 Broadway to 297 Broadway. Durak said the city was very helpful, but still this meant dealing with the municipal ABC Board and the state.
Second, there were physical challenges of converting a warehouse into a space suitable for a store. This meant clearing it out, painting, and installing a new glass front door to replace the garage-type door there originally.
“Fortunately, City Glass is right across the street,” Durak said.
The large arched glass door allows a lot of natural light into the store, illuminating the wine racks, stacks of beer cases, and the refrigerated sections.
Electrical issues became another problem to solve.
“When we started we only had two outlets in the whole place,” Durak said.
The process from start to finish took about 20 weeks to accomplish, the whole time each of the partners as anxious for it to open as the customers.
“We kept getting calls for us to make deliveries,” Metro said.
The store traditionally provides delivery service from the southern tip of Bayonne to the northern tip at Country Village. Many people were unaware for a long time that the store had closed and called.
The big concern came when the calls stopped. Although able to get the store open again, getting the word out to customers is a huge under taking. People coming into the store are delighted to find it open. But some of the people to whom the store delivers, such as senior citizens, may not have heard, and the three owners want to reach them.
The store still offers the items offered prior to the fire: beer, soda, lottery tickets, ice, wines, and other alcohol. But Durak said the store may add some more refrigerated units and may rearrange the racks.
“We plan to stay in this location for a while,” Metro said. “Most likely we’ll be here for a couple of years.”
The store is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Deliveries run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. The phone number is the same, (201) 437-2337.
“The last four numbers spell beer,” Metro said with a laugh.
Fienan said he wanted people to know that the store is up and running again. “We’re back and we’re well respected in the community,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.