In hearing of the passing of the great Stan Beck last week, my heart was heavy, but a smile crossed my face with the memories. Stan Beck’s Florham Park Pharmacy was THE genuine neighborhood pharmacy in my childhood town of Florham Park, New Jersey. Run by Stan with his wife Jean, and son and fellow pharmacist Jim, the pharmacy was much more than crutches and pills. It was a toy store with a play area in the back, it was a gift shop, a card shop, gag gifts, comic books, a seller of collectible figurines like Precious Moments & Hummels, and almost anything unexpected.
As a pharmacy, though, no one cared for the community like Stan. There were times even in my own family where there would be late night medical emergencies requiring medicine, and Stan or Jim would come open the store at any time to provide the necessary emergency meds. This was standard policy at the store, and as I read tributes online for Stan, many others had grateful hearts for this service. However, I have a much more personal tale to tell of the great Stan Beck.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I was ambitious. I wanted to find a way to supplement my fifty cent a week allowance with real money that would allow me to buy comic books and Star Wars figures. With the help of my mother, we baked cookies, and I would go door to door with my little red wagon filled to the brim with confectionary goodness selling them to the neighbors. Occasionally you had to be wary of an excited dog, or the random sprinkler system that would turn on at a most inopportune moment. And I did this alone – in those days, no one thought to be afraid of allowing little kids to knock on the door of strangers to sell them cookies.
One day I realized that all that walking, and the dogs, and the sprinklers were tiresome. People by the hundreds went to stores to buy their food, the stores didn’t bring it to them! How could I get customers to come to me? So I began the search for a merchant in Florham Park to allow me to set up shop in front of their store. At first my ambitions were big by going to the one large grocery store in town. They said “no.” I tried the post office, they said “no.” I asked a host of places, even calling owners of shopping centers on the phone, they all said “NO!” The harsh, cold reality of business was served full force to this kid.
One day I walked into Stan Beck’s pharmacy. His was a large private business, a pillar of the community even. He didn’t already sell cookies, so I had something new to offer. It was worth a shot. Stan raised an eyebrow, asked me a few questions, and with a smile he said “yes” to this earnest kid. That began a friendship and business association that lasted for about ten years.
Each summer I baked my cookies every Thursday and Friday, and Stan allowed me to sell my wares on his sidewalk. While he never asked for it, I paid him rent. Each day I was there, Stan received a dozen chocolate chip cookies. My family got into it with me. My little brother would walk up and down the sidewalk shouting out “Chad’s homemade chocolate chip cookies!!” at the top of his lungs while wearing a sandwich board sign I had made (which he may not have forgiven me for to this day), and eventually my sisters helped me sell them. Even after I graduated from high school, my sisters took over selling the cookies, but I was still the cook in the kitchen during my college years. Stan always got his dozen.
We fell out of touch over the years. I moved away after college, my siblings all scattered to their respective states, and about six years ago my parents sold the place we all called home for thirty-five years and moved to the countryside in another state. By that time I understand Stan had been long retired. I read in his obituary that he had been part of the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department for 59 of his 89 years, which didn’t surprise me. He seemed to just enjoy helping people.
So, it saddens me to hear of Stan Beck’s passing from my home here in California surrounded by all my Star Wars figures and comic books (some of which I bought from him), but I am forever happy and grateful for the generous act of kindness of that man willing to give this kid a chance.