Opened around 1907 (some sources place the date up to 7 years later), Newkirk Plaza is one of the oldest open-air pedestrian malls in country. It’s been home to a number of memorable shops, including Ebinger’s Bakery and Grillo’s Seafood. But if we’re being honest, the plaza’s history isn’t all happy memories. Lost City remembers the old nickname “Newcrack Plaza” from its days as a regular haunt of dealers, muggers and more.
Today, the plaza is in better shape. The Flatbush Development Corporation and several neighborhood associations, local businesses and individuals can claim major credit in turning the long-stalled dream of Newkirk renovation into reality.
Throughout all those ups and downs, the only business to survive the century from the plaza’s opening is Almac Hardware.
Now owned and operated by Paul Goldman, the hardware store has come to represent the tradition of “mom and pop” neighborhood shops in Ditmas Park, serving anything from small, individual jobs to major industrial work.
Paul is a neighborhood native, having attended Wingate High School in Flatbush. After school, he first got his hands dirty servicing big ships and tankers in New Jersey. After the oil embargo of the late ’70s and then the opening of Alaskan oil pipelines shortly thereafter, he witnessed the end of the oil business in New York harbor.
He began working as a local locksmith in 1982 and, in 1984, he heard that Almac was on the market. So at age 37, Paul became the third owner of Almac, seeing it as an opportunity to expand his locksmith work. Soon, business was mushrooming as neighbors came to him for more and more work.
Paul Goldman and Javier Saez.
“They’d say, ‘Hey, while you’re here, why don’t you fix my faucet?'” says Paul. “And we did every little thing they needed us to.”
Javier Saez, the manager and the Almac’s heir apparent, likes the way neighbors put it: “Lowe’s doesn’t do that.”
Paul’s seen more than just Newkirk Plaza change. The entire neighborhood has transformed in his 65 years. Through much of that time, he’s been on the Board of Directors at FDC, an organization he gives a lot of credit to in the upgrading of Newkirk.
“FDC is very proactive,” says Paul. “Newkirk never would have changed without the FDC. No one else could have brought together all the city agencies required and then pushed back when the Department of Transportation denied that they even owned the plaza.”
The recession was no easy go for Almac. Even as it donated money and supplies toward Newkirk’s many upgrades, Almac saw a stagnation in revenue that continues today.
“If we’re being honest, though, many other people in this business saw revenue decline,” says Paul, “so even though revenue didn’t rise, we were in a better place than most.”
In 2008, during some of the worst months of the recession, New York magazine awarded the store a plaque, noting that Almac was one of the “Best of New York” and proving just how well loved the business remained.
Today, Almac is working on solidifying its local business, expanding into industrial work and combing the two whenever possible. When a new apartment building recently went up in the neighborhood, it was Almac that supplied key parts such as towel bars and mailboxes.
There seems to be a bit of everything in the store, from tools and gardening supplies to basketballs and baking dishes. If you’re one of the few in the neighborhood with a pool, you’ll find nowhere better than Almac to help you build and maintain it. Every aisle has something that must be useful somewhere in Ditmas Park.
“If it’s not here, you probably don’t need it,” says Paul. “And on the off chance you do, we can order whatever it is and have it in the store in two days.”
When asked about the future, Paul points to Javier as the next probable owner of the store. For his part, Javier nods and says that he hopes to continue the “mom and pop” tradition that Almac has always represented, passing from one neighborhood patriarch to another.
Almac Hardware is located at 2 Newkirk Plaza, and it’s open Monday to Friday, 8:30am-7pm; Saturday 8:30am-6pm; and Sunday, 10am-5pm. You can stop in or call 718-434-1736 to learn more about their services.