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Long IslandNassau

Oyster Bay's oldest store closing its doors

Photo Credit: Newsday / Sally Morrow

Frank Genovese delivered the news flatly, belying its significance to both patrons and historians of his Oyster Bay pharmacy.

"We won't be here on Thursday," Snouder's Corner Drug Store's co-owner said into the telephone. "We're closed."

Oyster Bay's oldest continually operating business - site of the town's first telephone - shut its doors for good Tuesday after 126 years.

It was a slow-building inevitability. Genovese, who with Eugene King bought Snouder's in 1976, and recently had three employees, said the store had lost money for the past few years.

Nostalgia for the old soda fountain - long replaced by the analgesics shelf - and bulletin board where servicemen's letters hung during World War II did not improve profits.

"We held on for as long as we really could," Genovese said, blaming the general state of the economy more than the presence of a CVS drugstore a mile away.

Town historian John Hammond said that even in its "dying days" the shop was integral to the community.

Andrew Snouder, who ran the store from its 1884 origin, installed Oyster Bay's first telephone three years later. Soon his son, Arthur, was riding a bicycle up Sagamore Hill to alert future president Theodore Roosevelt of important calls for him coming into the store.

Arthur Snouder inherited the pharmacy and ran it into the 1950s. He hired E.E. "Doc" Hubbard in 1939, one of several employees who took part-ownership of Snouder's upon Arthur's death in 1956.

"You went in there after a movie, after church, after a game," said Judith Colwell, 71, of Oyster Bay, Hubbard's daughter who worked at the soda fountain as a teen. "Everybody ended up at Snouder's."

The pharmacy became the kind of small-town establishment where recognizing a regular's face was enough for promise of payment.Genovese and King retained that mom-and-pop feel when they took over the shop. While they restored the exterior, including the Queen Anne tower, to its original moss green, they modernized the interior with drop ceilings and updated fixtures. By Tuesday, near-empty shelves held no more than one or two of any item.

"I'm sorry to hear it, but everything changes," said Frank Flower, 87, of Mill Neck, as he learned of the store closing. Flower's family frequented Snouder's for a century. The store was such a mainstay for them that they moved to New Jersey for 25 years, came back and started shopping there again, he said.

"It was that loyalty to a family business, the people, that I'll miss the most," Genovese said.

The 74-year-old Bayville resident wore a white plastic name tag (Frank Joseph Genovese, Pharmacist), his 1959 Fordham University class ring and a neat part in his silver hair on his last day in the store. He had until 7 p.m. to pass along news of Snouder's demise to as many regulars as he could.

Others, he figured, would find out by the sign alerting them that their accounts had been transferred to CVS.

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