In the heart of downtown Glen Cove is a hardware store packed with just about anything residents have needed for their homes since the 1940s. The store carries everything from housewares to plumbing supplies to lighting to paint. Should customers be unable to find exactly what they need, store owner Douglas Goldstein and his wife, Sue, are happy to help, even if it means suggesting another local shop to try.
Douglas, 72, first came across the store as an infant after his father, Fred, began working for its founder, Charles Wherther, in 1948. Back then the business was on School Street, and when Fred Goldstein took over the store in 1958, Douglas, then 10, became part of the new family business.
Although stores have come and gone in the downtown area, Charles of Glen Cove has remained, as the Goldsteins stuck with what worked, personable customer service, even as online shopping boomed. The store not only doesn’t have a website, it also doesn’t have a single computer.
Despite the constant flow of customers, Sue and Douglas have said they plan on closing the store and retiring. After working there for more than 60 years, Douglas explained that he just can’t keep up with the workload anymore.
“When you get to 72 years old and you’re working 10- to 12-hour shifts a day for six days a week, it starts to take a toll on your body,” he said. “The community has always been good to us, and it’s been a good run for my family.”
When the Goldsteins took over the business, recalled Douglas, who grew up in Bethpage and Plainview, his life became centered on the city. He was always captivated by the Gold Coast, and felt that Glen Cove had everything anyone would ever need. So, in 1975, a year before the store moved from its original location at 27 School St. — which was being turned into a parking garage as part of the city’s urban renewal project — to 19 Glen St., Douglas, too, decided it was time to be a Glen Cover, and moved to the city.
And he discovered that it really did have everything he wanted. The year he moved, he met Sue O’Brien. Sue, who grew up in town, remembers frequenting Charles of Glen Cove with her parents — her father delivered kerosene to the shop. One day, Douglas struck up a conversation with her, and asked her out on a date.
“It’s funny,” Sue said, “but our lives really have been tied together by the store.”
In 1976, the business officially moved to a former Salvation Army building on Glen Street. With funding help from the urban renewal project, the Goldsteins renovated the building and expanded their business, which took a year. In 1977, as the work was completed, Douglas and Sue — who was working for Allstate at the time — were married.
After Fred Goldstein died in 1988, Douglas took over the store, and he and Sue ran it with the help of their four children. Sue had left Allstate to raise the kids and help around the store, but by 1999 she was working at Charles of Glen Cove full-time, and it enjoyed more than 20 years of success as a second-generation mom-and-pop shop. Kristin Goldstein, Douglas and Sue's daughter, has been helping her parents run the store for the last 12 years.
"She's a big help to us and one of the reasons we've done so well," Sue said.
The Goldsteins attributed also their success to their vast inventory and their commitment to customer service, something that local businesswoman Mary Stanco can attest to. Stanco, a real estate agent and a member of the Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce board of directors, said their shop is unique, because it has just about everything a homeowner would need — even things that are no longer made. Stanco, who has house keys made at Charles of Glen Cove, added that the Goldsteins always go above and beyond for their customers.
Fellow Glen Cover Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews, whom the Goldsteins helped when he walked into the store on Jan. 31, agreed. “They were helping me figure out how to mount a plaque with predrilled holes, matching the screws and a bracket,” Gaitley explained. “[but] nothing was standard size. In the end . . . they sent me somewhere else to get a custom-made one.”
Douglas said he believed it was his relationships with local residents that had helped his store thrive. Although it will be closing in the next two weeks, he said that he and Sue would be staying in Glen Cove, enjoying their retirement in the city that has shaped their lives.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Douglas said. “It’s hard to look at this city and say you wouldn’t want to live here.”