Mel Liebmann sold Mel's Army-Navy Center in Pearl River after 57 years so he can retire, but he still loves talking about the business.
Residents, state and local officials and customers stopped by to honor Liebmann during an open house at the story Sept. 15, but the fond farewells were not all that pleased him.
"Things are a little slow right now, but it's going to pick up as we get to October, Halloween and Thanksgiving. We did have a good day that Saturday," Liebmann said. "It was a lot of activity in the store.
"A lot of people congratulated me on retiring. Whether it's congratulations or condolences, I don't know."
Reaction to his retirement has been just as mixed, though for now he is still helping new owner Chris Frawley.
"Some people were not happy to see me go," Liebmann said. "Most were happy to see the store continue. The store is a fixture in Pearl River and they want to see it continue. That was the reaction. No. 1, surprise. No. 2, sorry to see you go. Three, happy it's going to continue."
Mel's Army-Navy drew another set of visitors Saturday, Sept. 22. The Pearl River High School Class of 1967 held its reunion and a large group came in to the store.
"They came to see me and say hello and take pictures," Liebmann said. "There must have been 25 or 30 people from that class who came by and talked about old times."
The news of Liebmann's impending retirement also got people talking on Pearl River Patch.
- "Well done Mel!! I have shopped in your store numerous times over the last few years and always found you pleasant to deal with. That is why I kept coming back. You are one of the reasons that I am glad I moved to this community." - Joan Roache
- "A great guy!! Mel has been a stalwart of this community for many, many years. He will be sorely missed by all!!" - Patrick Rice
- "Mel, the first time I was in your store was January 1967, with Bob Meyer & Bill Ahlmeyer. Just after I joined the Orangetown Police. Over the years you have been a great friend to the people of Pearl River, Orangetown and the Orangetown Police. Back in "The old days" we needed shirts for the softball team and Kenny Moorehouse talked to you and we had them. You were like this to everyone even if it meant you lost a bit of profit.
I'm in Florida, but my kids have been taking their kids to your store for years. You are a "True Original" and great guy." - Charlie Carroll
- "Mel, You were always there when we needed you! You were there for my mom, myself, my children and my grandchildren. No matter what it was your store had it. If not in the front it was always in the back! We shall miss you but will never forget how much you helped us over the years!" - Margaret Skvorec
- "Congratulations to you Mel on your retirement. You have been a true treasure and friend to the people of Pearl River. You always gave the coaches and their wives who shopped there for everything from Christmas gifts to Boy Scout uniforms, the best service and fair price. Thank you from the entire Yorks Family." - Jane Yorks
- "Congrats Chris. Thank you for keeping a piece of Pearl River history and charm alive." - Andrew Wiley
- "I remember when Mel first opened the store, and how he always was and still is a strong supporter of our community. As Andrew commented, Thanks to Chris for continuing the tradition, and best wishes. He has large shoes to fill, both Mel's -figuratively - and mine - not so large, literally." - Robert Dell
- "Mel has always been my go to guy and I'm going to miss him. I remember when he opened his store, I was 12. My friend Dave Pirell said, there is a new store in town called an Army Navy let's go check it out! Well 55 years later I'm still checking it out. God bless you Mel and Best of luck to you Chris." -- Sydney Smith
- "Bless you, Mel. Our family did our Christmas shopping at Mel starting in 1955 when we moved to PR. The kids always found what they wanted to buy as gifts. Mel helped them. The memories are warm and vivid. Mel, gracious and helpful, never rude or impatient, is a model merchant and a successful business man." - Margaret McKee
- "Hey Chris, congratulations from your old neighbor Laurie Leddy. It's great to know you will be carrying on the tradition at Mel's. Welcome home!" - Laurie Leddy
- "One could only wish that all businesses would give the attentive customer service that you always received at Mel's. Mel truly cares about his customers, and will go out of his way to make sure you have gotten what you need. Chris has learned from the best, and I'm sure that he will continue the traditions taught by the master! I wish Mel a long, healthy and happy retirement, and wish Chris much luck with his business venture." - Patricia Farrelly
- "Good Luck Chris....we will see you there. Mel...you will be missed." - Janey W
- "Chris, I commend you for keeping balance and perspective in your life. Mel, the town thanks you for your contribution to the community and will miss you very much. That being said, you couldn't have had a better person and family to continue your legacy. Cheers to both of you." - Mike O
- "I'm so glad this classic store will remain that way! Congratulations Chris, it's comforting to know that Mel's will always be there. Mel, you are going to be sorely missed if you're not there everyday, but you deserve your retirement, and for that I wish you all the best, enjoy yourself!" - Brenda