It’s Tuesday morning in downtown Riverhead and the going-out-of-business sale is unofficially underway at Allied Optical Plan on West Main Street.
At 9:52 a.m., about an hour after store owner Jerry Steiner releases the lock on his front door, the first customer of the day walks in. Marilyn Downs Aldrich, a lifelong East Ender and Aquebogue native, is looking for a new pair of glasses.
“Everything’s half-price,” Mr. Steiner tells her.
One day earlier, the 60-year-old businessman went to contract with a buyer for his building at 20 West Main St. Developer Georgia Malone, who recently renovated the now-sparkling building at 30 West Main, next door to Mr. Steiner’s business, hopes to do something similar with the brick structure that has housed Allied Optical Plan since 1975.
It’s the end of the line for a business that, its owner admits, died years ago.
In the three hours we spent at Allied Optical Plan Tuesday morning, two customers came through the door. A handful of others popped in, but mostly just to shoot the breeze.
Mr. Steiner described Ms. Aldrich an “out-of-habit” customer; her patient card revealed that she first bought glasses at Allied Optical Plan in 1966. She remembers when the shop was run by Mr. Steiner’s father, Selig, better known by the nickname Sol.
The son of a plumber, the elder Mr. Steiner grew up on East 92nd Street in Brooklyn. He helped his dad out as a kid but eventually realized, perhaps because of an incident in which he got stuck in a boiler and had to be squirted with oil to escape, that he needed to find his own line of work. He attended Ohio State University and became a licensed optometrist in 1946.
Mr. Steiner spent the next 14 years working for eyeglass retailers in Brooklyn and Massapequa before venturing east. When he found his first location at 55 West Main St. in Riverhead, he intended to open it as a new store for his employer, Group Optical. His boss had different plans.
“He showed his loyalty to my father and said, ‘It’s yours,’ ” Jerry recalled, saying his dad then moved the family to Northampton.
Mr. Steiner was permitted to tap into Group Optical’s line of credit until he got on his feet. Eventually, he was running Allied Optical Plan on his own.