Monday, September 14, 2009

I present to you...The Last Malts....

In 1914, on the lower east of Manhattan a malt shop opened. It was called Gastonies. Gastonies was founded by Joseph "Papa Bear" Gastoni (given the name because of the layers of arm, neck and back hair that hid his skin) and his younger brother Peter "the Prince of malts”. For over 95 years Gastoni's was THE place for malts in New York City. It was a neighborhood stalwart, an icon. Many years have passed since Papa and the Prince passed the cities finest malts to everyone from the newspaper kid on the corner to every mayor of this city since the turn of the 20th century...The tradition was passed from the two founders, then to their kids and then their kids and so on...Today, its still all in the family.. A true NY tradition...Gastonis is run by Frankie (five chins) Gastoni, and his wife's brother, Richey. Frankie got his name for obvious reason; the chins were a result of taking down more malts than all of his customers combined. Frankie, to his defense, does make the best malts and he believes in his product. Richey doesn't get a nick name because he married in to the malt business.

Sadly, times have changed in the neighborhood and the place just isn't what it used to be...Sure, the Gastonis have seen it all, first the great depression, then the roaring 30s, then World War II, Vietnam, the hippies, the junkies, the hipsters, the junkets, the junk man and even once the pro wrestler The Junk Yard Dog came in for a malt. Now, in this the greatest of all recessions, Frankie’s depression and greatest fear has set in. They weathered it all over the last century and they took their blows standing up, against all odds. That’s just the Gastoni way...

But this change was different. The Gastonis are feeling the pinch. Recent news of an expiring 95 year lease, sprung on them by their lawyer telling em to sell to HIS BROTHA IN LAW Shimon in Brooklyn, coupled with the fitness/workout revolution and people buying less malts, they are between a rock and a hard place. While cleaning the back store room on ave A a few days ago Frankie discovered something that had been placed under the original linoleum on the floor. As they moved the freezer they removed some of the floor tiles.

..What they found would shape this family, this shop, and this neighborhood forever.

The note was scribbled on an old ice cream container sheet that read "five gallons of chocolate swirl'." It read, "To whoever finds this note, know that i will always be watching down on this malt shop when i go. The gates of my heaven lie just above 2nd ave and ave A, and forever there, i will remain. ..You all i know i wish for the malt shop to remain in the family, but most of all i want it to remain in your hearts and in your minds. Do not let the Malt die...
Signed "Papa Bear, Sept 26th, 1924.”

Frankie sat down, not sure if he was having his fourth heart attack or if the words he had just read were burning into his soul... Either way, he needed help. He showed it to Richey, who dismissed it as "anyone coulda put dat dere' Frankie”. Typical statement as the dumb fuck that he is...Richey was a mutt, but he was Frankie’s sista Gina's mutt. But to Frankie, this was no passing moment; this was a milestone in life. And man doesn’t get many milestones in life to pump the brakes, take stock of the winds and the air around you, inhale and plot your course. Move forward...Frankie knew this all too well .He missed some milestones in his life before. Like the time Tommy Carvel himself walked into that malt shop when he was a kid and he begged his dad to sell. His dad said he felt an obligation to the place, a duty. The other time when Richey had the boys from Jamba Juice calling about buying them out for "100000x what you have invested." Frankie remembers thinking "invested?” "What the hell does some geek in a glass office tower know what i have, no, what WE, the GASTONIS have invested in this place?" Like i said, the Gastonis have seen it all, and through it all the y kept the shop. It was as much a part of him as his own flesh and he wasn’t letting it go.

Frankie slept on Papa Bear's note and thought it over for the night, not mentioning nuttin to his wife, or anybody else. He felt the weight of mounting bills, having to lay off employees, less malts coming out the machine, the expiring lease, his own health, having to sleep w a 400 lb woman on a regular basis, Frankie had a lot on his plate. Maybe selling the place to his lawyer’s brother in law really was best. This whole malt thing was a tough business. Maybe those guys were right, maybe he needed to diversify, maybe offer wraps and some cool jazz infused hipster vibe. He was having second thoughts.

...It was at this thought that Frankie awoke from a bad dream...He was sweating, but he always sweat, he was a Gastoni for Christ sake...this sweat was different. Made him pauses think twice about what he had just dreamed....
It made him sick, he couldn't sleep.

Frankie got up around 330 AM and went down to the shop. He fired up that malt machine and starting mixing his potions...Frankie took a stand that morning....and he is never going to look back...

What follows is a dialogue between Frankie and the three employees at the shop. Its 9 am. Frankie’s been there six hours and the place is humming like an old ford factory (pre 1980s)...the 3 employees arrive and all are a little taken a back. The shop had been slow and this much activity was atypical. They thought they may be losing their jobs or maybe that Frankie had lost his mind...at least one of them really needed that job...
The shy Chinese kid from the Chicago who is going to cooper union on an engineering scholarship knows enough to not ask questions of Frankie, he’s smart. the other guy is a hard working Mexican who is lactose intolerant and doesn't care what Frankie makes or how he makes it, he just wants TO MAKE IT too, he too is smart enough to not ask questions, especially since Frankie will slap him if he speaks Mexican. The third one is a skinny jean wearing, thin as a rail want to be junkie who gives hand jobs for pleasure, not even for the drug money. And Frankie really doesn’t like him. But of course, he’s the one who starts in...

Hipster-"excuse me mister gastoni, is everything alright? You look like your sweating pretty badly, everything alright"
Frankie-"Sweating pretty bad huh? Is that what you said?" (His edge was palpable and he looked like an 18 wheeler doing 80 in second gear...)
Hipster-"no, no i was just"
Frankie -"you don't know the first thing about sweat kid... i been sweating all my life, since i was 5 year old i been making fraps, malts, shakes, everything you can suck through a straw i made it!! My old man made it. And his old man and his old man before it. We are Gastonis!!! and i will be damned if nearly a hundred years of history is going to be passed on to the likes of you, and the other punks in this neighborhood. While your daddy was sucking things through straws up his nose and smoking pickle at prep school i worked full time, 7 days a week. I made my bones while your daddy was swallowing them.
Hipster-.(Takes three slow steps back as the Mexican and Chinese guy began moving away from him...he’s scared, and he should be.)(

Frankie -"listen boys, what we got here is a good old fashion stand off...i don't plan on shutting this place down like people expect me to, i plan on fighting this thing all the way to the end. They are going to have to pry that last malt from my cold dead fingers, but i will go out in Gastonis, this malt shop, one way or another. My question to you chree right here, and Chang (he Asian kid from Chicago), i need you to listen up and translate this to the Mexican...”i want you guys to fight with me to keep this place open, to keep the Gastoni name alive... (Tears well up, he is red, sweaty, and the boys sense he has labored over this decision more than most and that he is "all in")
Chang- "hector said he’s down, i think im in too mister gastoni, i mean, what do we have to lose???" "This shop is all you have.”

Knowing that the hipster (Craig) is too scared to speak Frankie leans in and puts the note on the table and motions the boys over to the table...he pulls the bulb dangling from the light string above and reads it to the boys. They now grasp the weight that Frankie has been walking around with. .they didn't know about the lease or the lawyer or Tommy Carvel or Jamba Juice or anything else, they just knew Frankie and what the malt shop is today... they know nothing about the history, other than the black and white photos of Papa Bear and some other old employees there was no written history. Like many long time New York City establishments, it just was. It was, is and will always be "Gastonis Malt shop."

Frankie -"papa bear is up there looking down right now boys, and i think we just gave him his answer....lets get to work." (He slams his hand down for a group shake and they all agree, it’s them against the world and its time to make some of the best malts this city and world have ever tasted.

End of scene 1

The following story is a fight to keep Gastonis open, to make it even bigger and better than before. To make it the best damn malt shop the world has ever seen. Frankie always has been a dreamer. Let’s see where this dream takes us...

I present to you


The Last Malts.......

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