Despite Monday’s early morning rain, a group of business owners, elected leaders and residents gathered in the parking lot of the Glen Head train station for a special ceremony. The Gold Coast Business Association held a bench dedication in honor of Charles Gonder, of Glen Cove, who owned Gold Coast Hobby in the hamlet for over 30 years. He died on Oct. 20, 2017.
“At his wake I didn’t realize so many people knew him,” said Gonder’s son, Charles, of Farmingdale. “I couldn’t believe the amount of people that came to see him.”
Gold Coast Hobby, which closed last April, was a hobbyist’s workshop, its shelves crammed with model kits, paints, glues, figures and rows of small ships. Gonder Sr. had always operated the store with his wife, Dot. They started the business after Gonder left his job as director of engineering at Multiwire in Glen Cove. Shortly after the family vacationed in California, where Gonder spent three weeks writing out a business plan for Gold Coast Hobby.
“People came from all over the Long Island to see that guy,” said Tucker Tongue, former president of the business association. “He was pretty well-known in the trade.”
In an interview with the Herald Gazette in April 2017, Gonder said he prided himself on his business acumen when others in the industry had folded. “People ask me what I specialize in,” he had said. “My answer is always customer service.”
Gonder’s bench, donated by Glen Head Hardware, stands in a humble garden planted on a triangle of concrete near the railroad crossing, adding a serene touch to the otherwise bustling main road. It’s also, appropriately, mere steps away from the former site of Gold Coast Hobby.
The association developed a plan for the garden with Papiro Landscaping and Mario Fischetti Nursery two years ago in cooperation with the Town of Oyster Bay. In 2017 the association, then known as the Glen Head/Glenwood Landing Business Association, donated $3,000 to the town’s “Adopt-A-Spot” program to improve “functionality and aesthetics” at the site. As part of its support for the program, GCBA contributes park benches, trees and seasonal plantings around the community for residents to enjoy.
GCBA President Deborah Gordon, of Glen Head, worked with Tongue to develop a special garden plot near the railroad crossing. They enlisted the help of Matt Papiro and Mario Fischetti to sow the land, incorporating a bench into the design.
“I wanted it dedicated to Charles Gonder,” Gordon said.
Local business owners braved bleak weather to commemorate the bench for one of their own, a commemoration Tongue said he believes is well deserved. “We wanted to recognize local business people who have served the community for a long period of time, and [Charles] was known by so many people,” he said. “A couple of generations grew up with him.”
Gonder Jr. was almost speechless when he spoke of the significance of the dedication. “When you think of somebody’s legacy, you never think that one person could impact so many people,” Gonder said, tearing up. “The fact that my dad’s legacy has touched so many people is unbelievable.”
And that legacy, he said, will live on forever.
“Thirty years from now they’ll be kids who never even got to meet him that may ask, ‘who is Charlie Gonder?’,” Gonder said, “And there will still be somebody around that will remember who he was and be able to tell a little bit about my dad.”
Lissa Harris contributed to this story.