08 January 2008

History in a Starbucks

Recently, I wrote about a Starbucks that lives on Astor Place at the exact location where the Astor Place Opera House once was, and where, in 1849, a bloody theatre riot (yes, theatre riot) occured. Within a day of posting this item, another article appeared telling how a Starbucks now held the ground where mobster Albert Anastasia got slaughtered while sitting in a barber chair.

This got me thinking. Perhaps the unrelieved visual and spiritual torture of seeing our City pockmarked with kudzu-like chains such as Starbucks would be lessened if we knew something of the history that once took place at the addresses where, today, candy-flavored coffee products are dolled out. Hey, one must find one's silver linings where one can.

You've got to start somewhere, so I'm beginning with the Starbucks in downtown Brooklyn at 50 Court Street on the corner of Joralemon—a particularly busy franchise, as it happens.

On this spot once stood a Chemical Bank and Trust Company branch where, in 1952, was employed a 36-year-old teller named Martin G. Olsen. A judge would later term Olsen an "ordinary" man. But his behavior on Jan. 29 of that year was not ordinary. Leaving for his lunch break, he took with him a plain brown paper bag in which was not a sandwich, but $32,224. With that, a nationwide manhunt began, with the papers breathlessly following Olsen's nifty disappearing act.

By March, Olsen, still unfound, was indicted in absentia. Finally, in July, he was located on the other side of the country, in Los Angeles. The man said debts drove him to embezzle the cash. The money represented 10 years salary for the teller. He was sentenced to two and one-half years in a Federal Penitentiary by Chief Judge Robert A. Inch, who did not give an inch.

So, think, Starbucks flunkies, before you take that extra long lunch break.


Anonymous said...

great stuff

Vannessa said...

Interesting... But I am still a bit confused about what you are talking about... You ARE talking about Starbucks: Fresh roasted coffee right? Heh heh!