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The Oldest Businesses in Hoboken

by Lara Cohn
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We’re sure you’ve seen the blue and white HBKN “This Place Matters” signs in Hoboken business windows recently. But if you’re not sure who put them there or what they are for, they were started by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Hoboken Historic Preservation Commission, which participated in the campaign this past May to raise awareness of the value of historic preservation and celebrated what we all know makes our Mile Square so special – Hoboken’s longest-running establishments – from family-owned delis and bakeries to hardware stores and pharmacies.

In a city where shops and restaurants seem to be here one day and gone the next, and brand names are taking over Washington Street {no offense Sephora and Panera}, it’s nice to know that these mom and pop businesses have stood the test of time. 

Find out the must-visit list of iconic places in Hoboken that have been in business over 25 years or more, with one going back over 139 years to 1880. Read on to discover the oldest businesses in Hoboken.

Albini Pharmacy {401 Adams Street}

albini pharmacy

{Photo credit: Google Maps}

Serving the Mile Square since 1880, Bartholomew Albini worked as a clerk before buying the drug store in 1921. Albini named it the Owl Pharmacy until his death in 1951. Today the establishment is run by Salvatore Migliorelli. While the look of the store is almost the same as it was 130 years ago, the technology used inside is state-of-the-art. They say by maintaining a close relationship with their patients and understanding their needs, they provide them with services which cannot be obtained in the chain store environment. Their motto is simple, “The welfare of the patient comes first.”

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Amanda’s Restaurant {908 Washington Street

Amanda’s has been delighting customers for 28 years. Named for the daughter of the restaurant’s original owner, Hoboken native David Roberts {who served two terms as mayor}, he owned the restaurant for two years before selling to Eugene and Joyce Flinn, who worked for David at East LA which he also owned. After 23 years the Flinn’s sold to Juan and Juliet Mendoza – Juliet grew up in Hoboken and Juan started as a server and bartender, manager and now, they are the third owners. Sophisticated wine lovers will enjoy their monthly five-course wine dinners. Highly rated by the Zagat Guide for food, service, and décor, they are proud to have been named on the shortlist of the state’s most popular restaurants. 

Antique Bar + Bakery {122 Willow Avenue}

Antique Bar + Bakery is a restaurant inside a century-old Hoboken institution boasting a 30-ton coal oven built of porcelain brick. Having seen many incarnations since the building was constructed around 1923 including an Italian and French Bakery, in 1987, Ivan Rodriquez created the Antique Bakery utilizing the 400 square foot hearth oven and produced the famous “Hoboken Sticks” for generations. The bread was so prized Sinatra would have suitcases of the stuff sent to him. Since its relaunch in 2017, Chef Paul Gerard has amazed his customers with his coal baked dishes and unique cocktails along with partners filmmaker Joseph Castelo and nightlife impresario Rocco Ancarola, who preserved the Hoboken heirloom to keep the fire burning, saving the bakery and adding a flare of fun with a décor designed around their lasting impressions of the super seventies.

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The menu is even written as a film script, cueing guests to flashback to baked flavors that evoke memories made in the heart of the house.

See More: Hoboken #TBT: The Willow Terrace

Benny Tudino’s  {622 Washington Street}

Known for serving slices that are the size of a small child, Benny’s has been a Hoboken landmark for more than 50 years. They are not just a favorite pizza place, but also a favorite for their delicious Italian dishes. Bahri {Benny} and his wife Zylfije {Sophia}, who immigrated to the United States from Albania, first opened for business in 1968. They started out small, with Benny making the pies and Sophia delivering them herself before becoming a neighborhood favorite. Benny left us in 2015, but the business is now run by his son, Arbend Drishti’s wife, Artemis and sister-in-law Eriola.

The Brass Rail {135 Washington Street}

the brass rail

The two-story French saloon-style restaurant and pub started out as a local watering hole at the turn of the century. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was frequented by many poets, during an emerging literary revival period in Hoboken. The restaurant in the 1980s was owned by Michael Peters and the building underwent a devastating fire, reportedly caused by a careless smoker; the damage forced the building to close down, and Michael Peters sold the restaurant and opened up other restaurants in NJ. By 1989, the Brass Rail was rebuilt and restored to its original 1900’s style. Currently, Isabel Pane and Joseph San Philip have owned the restaurant for 15 years. Plus, the building has a history of some paranormal activity. According to the legend, on their wedding day in 1904, the bride of a newlywed couple had approached the top of the spiral staircase and tripped. She fell from the second floor, broke her neck, and died. The groom, devastated by the loss of his new wife, began drinking heavily. After taking his last drink, he hanged himself in a room adjacent to the staircase. The spirits of the couple, as well as others, are reported to haunt the staircase to this day. 

Carlo’s Bake Shop {95 Washington Street}

Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro, Sr., the original Cake Boss, followed in the path of his father and grandfather, both bakers in Sicily, and bought Carlo’s Bakery from Carlo Guastaffero in 1963 when he was ready to retire after 50 years {Bartolo has started there as an apprentice when he was seven}. He proudly ran the bakery for over 25 years before moving it from residential Adams Street to its current and more central location on Washington Street. The relocation allowed the bakery to grow its customer base and was part of Buddy Sr.’s dream to make Carlo’s a household name {and their lobster tails}. When Buddy was 11, he began working at the family bakery alongside his father. But when he was 17, his father passed away and he became the new Cake Boss, taking the bakery and himself to new heights.  Buddy runs the bakery, with help from his four older sisters, three brothers-in-law, and other assorted family members and friends. Fun Fact: anyone with a Hoboken ID who comes into the bakery gets to skip past the tourists. 

City Paint + Ace Hardware {130 Washington Street}

City Paint + Ace Hardware was founded in Hoboken in 1931. Manny Reyes took over the store from then owner Milton Topel in April of 1978. Manny was exiled from his native Cuba in the fall of 1961. He worked from busboy to manager at the Clam Broth House in Hoboken until 1978 when he was going to open an electrical supply house in Hoboken. While getting supplies to open his business he was shopping in the then City Paint and Hardware. The old owner told him that paint and hardware was a better business and that he should buy his store. Manny did this and became an Ace Hardware store in 1988. This changed the store name to City Paint + Ace Hardware. Manny retired in 2003 and his son Ernie Reyes runs the family business now. Ernie has been in the business since 1978, starting out by working Saturdays and summers. 

Court Street Restaurant + Bar {61 6th Street}

Established in 1981, Court Street was once known as Augie’s Place and was owned by August John Yandoli, who went by Augie Delano back in the day. His son Buddy {Angelo} Yandoli now owns Augustino’s which he opened on Washington Street in 1997 and named it after his father.

Court Street has been offering fine dining in an elegant yet casual atmosphere to Hobokenites and maintains one of the best wine lists, winning Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence for four years in a row.  Their weekly specials and wine tastings are not to be missed, either.

Dom’s Bakery Grand {506 Grand Street}

doms bakery hoboken

Dominick Castelitto has been baking bread in the Third Ward for 40 years. 

Dom’s Bakery first opened in 1979 at 5th Street between Adams and Jefferson. In 1988, they moved to a new location just around the corner at 506 Grand, where they have been ever since. The 100-year-old oven eats a ton of coal every week. Dom delivers bread to many of the local restaurants and delis around town. Dom’s wife Florida and son Joe also work at this family business.

East LA {508 Washington Street}

An institution in Hoboken since 1983, East LA serves Tex-Mex favorites and some of the best margaritas in town. As Hoboken’s first Tex-Mex restaurant, it has been owned by Dave Roberts and his family for over 30 years.

8th Street Tavern {800 Washington Street}

Boasting the longest bar in Hoboken, the 8th Street Tavern is one of Hoboken’s oldest bars, having been family-run since 1941, with now the third generation of the Tucceri’s at the helm. Over the years, the corner pub owners say the biggest changes have been selling local craft beers {they have over 100}. Come for their trivia nights and a free burger on Fridays.

The Elysian Cafe {1001 Washington Street}

Said to be the oldest continually operated bar and restaurant in Hoboken, the French bistro has gone through many changes in its 125-year existence, originally opening in 1895. As early as 1902 Jacob Dillinger and August Jefsen were operating a Saloon at this location and in 1904 applied to the City Council for a House of Public Entertainment License. By 1910 John L. Himes was then operating it as a cafe and restaurant. However, by the time of Prohibition in 1925, local directories show the Nicholas Confectionary operating at this spot, though some say the business operated as a speakeasy disguised as, of all things, a beauty parlor. The longest proprietor of the Elysian, James Quinn, was a WW2 Veteran, business administrator and interim Mayor of Hoboken. By the 80s and 90s, the Elysian was a popular bar where bands such as Hoboken’s own, Who’s Your Daddy, appeared on regularly. Towards the end of this period, the Elysian was the location for the assassination of Kevin Bacon in the 1997 film, SLEEPERS. In 2003, the was Elysian brought back to its Victorian grandeur by local restaurateurs Eugene and Joyce Flinn, owners of Amanda’s. Today, longtime chef, Travis Young and master mixologist Steve Schneider continue the Elysian tradition.

Giorgio’s Italian + French Pastry Shop {1112 Washington Street}

In April 1974, Anna Marie and Giorgio Castiello took over the uptown bakery of the Schoening family at 1112 Washington Street and renamed it Giorgio’s. Giorgio, a master baker from Torre Del Greco, had worked as a pastry chef on cruise ships and in Brooklyn prior to coming to Hoboken. This gem is well-known for its cannolis, cookies, and pastries. We lost Giorgio in March of 2019. His daughter Mary Grace Castiello {who grew up in the building above the bakery and worked there as a kid} now operates the bakery today. Note they close at 2:30PM on Sundays so be sure to stop in early to bring pastries for Sunday dinner.

Giovanni D’italia Shoe Repair {266 7th Street}

Giovanni Shoe Repair

For almost 60 years, Giovanni D’Italia Shoe Repair has been serving Hoboken and its neighbors with expert, Italian craftsmanship. At only eight years old, Giovanni went to live with family members in the small village of Saracena in the Calabria region of southern Italy an area known for its leather and wine. At that young age, he began learning the art of shoemaking. With generations of shoemakers in his family, leather and shoe repairs was a way of life for him. Meanwhile, while learning his craft in Italy, Giovanni’s father Vincenzo Perrupato was settling into Hoboken and establishing his business. A year later, missing his son, he sent for Giovanni and together they lived in a small basement apartment on Garden Street. On November 16th, 1960, Giovanni D’Italia Shoe Repair opened at its original location, on Garden Street. Today, Giovanni’s son, Vincent is running the shop at its current location, having to move after substantial damage due to Superstorm Sandy. They offer free pick-up and delivery service and also drop off at many dry cleaners around town.

Fiore’s {414 Adams Street}

Famous for their mozzarella, or mutz as we say here, Fiore’s was started by Alphonse Fiore in 1913. One of Hoboken’s oldest establishments, it is owned today by John Amato Sr. and his son John Jr. You are not a Hoboken native until you’ve tried the Thursday and Saturday’s special — roast beef, mutz, and gravy.

General Lumber True Value {200 Clinton Street}

General Lumber Company has been a part of the culture of Hoboken since the 1930s. Three generations later {formed in Hoboken in the early 1930s by Frank Versaco and Paul Lopes. Mr. Lopes daughter Esther Grauso and her husband Donald run the business today}, they continue to serve the Hoboken community and beyond.  General Lumber has customers throughout Hudson County and the entire New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Starting out as a simple Lumberyard on Clinton Street, today it has a window and door showroom and a full-service True Value hardware store. 

The Lawton-Turso Funeral Home {633 Washington Street}

Family has been the heart of their service and success from the very beginning. Founded in 1912 by Maurillio D’Agostino as D’Agostino Funeral Home, the business set its roots down in Hoboken. In 1928 Maurillio’s son-in-law, Eric Lawton, earned his license and the Home became D’Agostino and Son. By 1948-49, Eric Lawton successfully moved the business to its current location following Maurilio’s retirement in 1941. Before Eric’s retirement in 1969, the Home became The Lawton-Turso Funeral Home honoring the growing family. Subsequently, Eric’s son, Eric Lawton, Jr. took over managing the Home and caring for families in need. Under Eric Jr.’s leadership with his son John Eric Lawton, the home expanded to include its current space and two parking lots. Recent years have seen more improvements and redesigns to accommodate guests, including large viewing screens around the home. Since his father’s recent passing, John upholds the tradition of service as his children continue their studies to take their place in the business.

La Isla {104 Washington Street}

Set right out of Little Havana, a local favorite for authentic Cuban cuisine since 1970, La Isla Downtown features 39 seats in total and does not have a liquor license {BYOB welcome}. Taken over by the Luis and Giner families in 1996, in 2015 sisters Annabelle Luis and Ana Maria Costa and her husband Omar Giner expanded to their Uptown location at Maxwell Place which serves cocktails and has been recognized by Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and other culinary tastemakers. Omar’s stuffed French toast is out of this world.

Leo’s Grandevous {200 Grand Street}

leo's hoboken

Since 1939, they say you haven’t been to Hoboken until you’ve eaten at Leo’s. Leo’s Grandevous is not only one of the oldest and best-known Italian restaurants in the city, but it is also the best place to come to appreciate the music of Frank Sinatra and the classic style of Hoboken. Celebrating 80 years of exceptional service, Leo’s has been serving great Italian food within walls that captured the spirit of the town so long ago and never let it go. Leo & Tessie founded Leo’s Grandevous on one simple but important principle: to provide good food and good service to everyone who walks through the door, one customer at a time. 

Losurdo Brothers Italian Deli + Bakery {410 2nd Street}

Family owned and run by brothers Nick and Danny Losurdo since 1975 shortly after emigrating from Altamura Bari, Italy in 1971, Losurdo’s has grown into a full-service deli with a hot bar, fresh-baked goods, and specialty imports. In addition to their Italian delicacies, they serve homemade focaccia and bread. At their sides are sons Nicholas and Michael carrying on the family tradition.

Moran’s {501 Garden Street}

Moran’s has been home to the finest pint of Guinness this side of the Atlantic for over 25 years. Before opening Moran’s, owner Len Hehir cut his teeth in the fine dining scene in NYC — first as a bartender at the power-lunch epicenter of the city, the prestigious Four Seasons Restaurant, and then as Captain of servers at the famous steakhouse Gallagher’s. Len hails from Limerick, and was on track to become a teacher before he fell in love with a Jersey girl and moved to the States. In August of 1989, after co-owning a previous restaurant in Hoboken, Len opened the doors to Moran’s Pub on the corner of 5th and Garden Street, overlooking Church Square Park. At the end of 2015, Moran’s teamed up with young, innovative chef Vinicio Lantigua to transform the beloved bar into the first true gastropub in Hoboken. 

Muller Insurance {930 Washington Street}

Muller Insurance enjoys a proud and rich history that dates back over a century and now carries through to the third generation of Mullers. The story began when a 17-year-old John Muller immigrated to Hoboken from Altona, Germany in 1903. John Muller not only wanted to find the American Dream, but he also wanted to live it. He began to do that just three years later when he started Muller Insurance in 1906. Still owned and operated as an independent insurance agent by the founder’s family, the company is currently run by grandchildren Roger and Erika. In May 2012, a year before R. John Muller passed away, the entire Muller family was honored for years of dedication to the community when the City of Hoboken renamed the corner at Washington and 10th Streets as John Muller Way.

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Piccolo’s Famous Cheesesteaks {92 Clinton Street}

piccolos cheesesteaks hoboken

Whipping up a traditional Hoboken dish since 26 years old, Joseph “Sparky” Spaccavento, who moved to Hoboken from Molfetta, Italy, returned from the Korean War in 1955. Joseph’s son Pat “Patyboy” keeps the tradition alive serving their family recipes and world-famous cheesesteaks.

Sparrow Wine + Liquor {126 Washington Street}

The company was founded during prohibition in 1922 as Sparrow Cigar Company in bustling downtown Hoboken. By the start of the war, the store had become one of the leading tobacco retailers in the state and had expanded into liquor. Placido and Rocelia Luis bought the store in 1977, by which time liquor was the bigger part of the business. When sons Armando and Lazaro took over the operation in 1986 the emphasis shifted to fine wine and the store joined the pioneering Wine Source group, the leading retailers in New Jersey during the 70s and 80s. During the 90s the store was acclaimed as one of the finest wine shops in greater New York by major wine and food publications. In 1999 their flagship store opened on the renovated Hoboken northern waterfront at the old Bethlehem Shipyards with 6000 square feet. The grandsons, Jackson and Lazaro Jr. are following in the family footsteps. Rocelia, at 92, can still be seen around the downtown location.

Vito’s Italian deli {806 Washington Street}

Born and raised in Hoboken, Vito started working at the tender age of 14 as a deli clerk. That’s when destiny took its course. After high school, Vito continued to work, mastering all the tricks of the trade. After many long hours of hard work, Vito set out to fulfill his dream of owning a deli right in his own neighborhood. On September 22nd, 1986 Vito’s Italian Deli opened and over the last three decades Vito’s has grown just as rapidly as Hoboken has. The basic recipe for his success is simple. The determination to use only the finest quality food, combined with a dedication to great service and topped off Vito’s own personal touch, have indeed made it the premium deli in Hoboken.

Willow Pharmacy {900 Willow Avenue}

Since 1921, Willow Pharmacy {also known as Seligman Pharmacy} has occupied the corner in Hoboken. Opened by Eli Selgman and then his son David, the pharmacy continues serving the neighborhood with current owner Frank Lavinio.

What’s your favorite old school spot in Hoboken? Let us know in the comments! 

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