“We rarely see each other and we ended up laughing and catching up and spending a very rowdy, naughty evening together,” said Cora in her noticeable Irish brogue.
“We all thought this would be a great thing to do annually, just invite old friends to get together at P&Gs,” added Donna Dietz. One year went by and they never acted on it, and then, just two weeks ago, Donna called Cora and said, “Let’s do it. We’ll call it the ‘Old townies’ night out.”
A flurry of e-mails were sent, inviting people to an old townie get together this past Saturday.
“This is not meant to be exclusive in any way,” cautioned Cora and Donna. “We just didn’t have a lot of time. It’s for everyone who wants to come and next year we’ll be more organized and try to put posters up and get the word out earlier.”
Still, with little notice and a few e-mails, the back room of P&G’s was like an old-home week -- a reunion that crossed generations.
There was Bruce Dubois and his wife, along with Pat Copeland, John and Jean Thomsen, the entire Dietz clan, the Rommels, Melinda Balantzian and dozens more New Paltzians.
They swapped stories on the various political goings-on, their kids and grandkids, days past and where they’re headed now.
“We visited our son in Boston, then my brother-in-law, headed here to meet up with our old friends and tomorrow we’re heading to Manhattan for a wedding of Jean’s friend from the seventh-grade’s child,” said John Thomsen, who now lives with his wife in both Florida and North Carolina.
“New Paltz is always important to us,” he said. “We lived here for more than 40 years … turns out that the town we live in, ‘Holly Springs, NC’ is also where Ralph and Ingrid Fogg live!”
It appears that New Paltzians, even when they fly away, can’t stay too far from one another.
Another New Paltz figure, Kathy Frizzell, owner of Convenient Deli in the village, said she was just happy to “get out and see people and socialize … I spend so much time working it’s nice to get out.”
Kathy is a local Horatio Alger story herself. She left home at 16 and began working, enrolled at SUNY New Paltz as an art student and found a job working the counter at Convenient Deli, which was owned for many years by Gary Haas.
“I saw how happy my boss was owning his own business and running it that I thought that’s what I would want to do when I ‘grew up,’” she said laughing. “That really made no practical sense since I was an art student interested in business, but I kept doing my art and working at the deli.”
She admits that for whatever reason, those that work at Convenient Deli, end up staying there for a long time, or in her case, until they become the owner.
“I worked there for years and became a trusted, loyal employee and when Gary decided to sell the business in 1998 it made sense to him that I be the person to take over. As a business owner, when you’ve invested so much time and so many years, you can’t help but want to pass it on to someone you trust. It made for an easy transition.”
Asked why a convenient store has become such a local landmark and institution, she said “I don’t know how that happened. I’m on the orientation committee for SUNY New Paltz and on their agenda is a ‘visit to Convenient Deli’ for a snack.”
“We’re very student friendly, we hire students and we also are open all night long and try to provide good, decently priced food that can be prepared as quickly as possible because people are busy. Our service is also why we have loyal residents and workers who are here every day.”
In regards to many of the counter workers who have blue hair, or multiple piercings or tattoos, Kathy just smiles. “Just because someone has weird hair or body piercings doesn’t matter to me. I hire good people. Regardless of their dress or body ornaments, their all good people, great workers and they stay for a long time because I treat them with respect. I worked there too as a college student, I’ve always worked and I understand what it’s like.”
While the theme was centered around long-time New Paltz folks, Melinda and Donna and Cora encouraged everyone to come. A relative “newcomer” to New Paltz was Joanne Secky, a mother of two boys who moved here in 2000 after “a wild night of bar-hopping. True story.”
“We had friends who thought we might like New Paltz and so they took us out and one of the places we had a great time in was P&G’s. Within a few weeks, we were building our house here and moving in to town.”
A professional comedian, Secky added that “I like New Paltz because it’s passion. I’m passionate about cornflakes and so is New Paltz. I also, on any night of the week, have to have access to sushi, a raw bar, a rare filet and the uptown-small town feel with McDonalds and a strip club. What could be better?”
Donna was quick to point out how great Mike Beck, owner of P&G’s, was to them. “We gave him some money and he and his staff put out a great spread, they let us reserve the back of the room and he, as always, just bends over backwards for these type of community events. We can’t wait to do it again next year.”