Ghost signs are old and fading advertising signs painted on the exterior building walls, often remaining in place well after the business has closed. Ghost signs can be found throughout the Catskills and across the United States. The ghost signs seen here advertise for Al Cohen’s Sport Shop and the legendary Roark’s Tavern in the village of Monticello, New York.
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The long gone Al Cohen’s Sport Shop was located at 246 Broadway in the village of Monticello. The popular store sold a wide range of sporting gear, tennis and golf equipment, fishing equipment, fly rods, hunting rifles and much more. Newspaper advertisements in 1965 boasted that the shop was “Sullivan County’s Largest and Most Complete Sporting Goods and Sports Wear Store.”
Milton Kabak (1926-2010) managed Al Cohen’s Sport Shop for 27 years and after worked at the Sullivan County Courthouse in Monticello for 17 years. Kabak was a veteran of World War II, having served as a Forward Scout in the Army, serving a majority of his time in the Philippines. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. Kabak had served as president of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). He passed away at the age of 84 in 2010. He was survived by his wife Charlotte Kabak, his son Stuart Kabak, of Swan Lake, and his daughter Stephanie Suarez, of Liverpool, New York.
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Legendary Roark’s Tavern on Landfield Avenue in the village of Monticello first opened its doors in 1932 during the height of the Great Depression.
William “Bill” Roark (1892-1947), a Monticello native, started the tavern. He was the son of Michael Roark (1845-1925), a well-respected farmer, and Bridget Carroll Roark (1857-1929). He attended the Monticello schools and was a star basketball and baseball player. Prior to the tavern he had worked at a bakery and at the Monticello Inn. William was active in the community, being a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Elks and president of the Monticello soft ball league. William passed away at the age of 54 in 1947 at the Hamilton Avenue Hospital. Services were held at Saint Peter’s Church and he is buried at Saint Peter’s Cemetery in Monticello, New York.
After William Roark passed away in 1947, the tavern was briefly operated by Ted Dowd for 1 1/2 years.
Roark’s Tavern was then taken over by the well-known Clement “Clem” Leffer, who operated it from 1948 to 1971. Leffer was the son of Nathan Leffer and Mary Schneider. The Leffer family, originally from Brooklyn, moved to Sullivan County when Clement was 15 years old. Clement married Madeline V. Leffer (1913-2001), daughter of William and Anna Karlberg McGuigan. Clement was a veteran of World War II, having served in the US Army during its Africa campaign. Clement died at Delray Beach, Florida in 2007 at the age of 95.
The following advertisement for Roark’s Tavern was published in 1948.
Roark’s is the place where old friends meet,
To better their service would be a fete,
So for fun and cheer, to set you “aglow,”
Then it’s Roark’s; the place to go.
Likely taking over from Leffer, Roark’s Tavern was then operated by Tony Cellini for many years until 1984. Cellini later served as the Town of Thompson supervisor for over 20 years and then as Security Supervisor at the Monticello Motor Club. He served in the US Army Military Police from 1958 to 1961.
Interestingly, famous musician Gavin DeGraw, a nearby South Fallsburg native, got his start playing local bars around Monticello, including Roark’s Tavern and the Nowhere Bar.
Roark’s Tavern, with a motto of “Saving the world one beer at a time,” continues to be a longtime mainstay of downtown Monticello.