Lark Fest 2017
GLENMONT — When Vincent Spinosa’s father bought Van Allen Farms 50 years ago, Spinosa was just 7-years old. Every weekend, it was his job to burn boxes and other rubbish on the store’s property.
“The first few years we had the store, we didn’t have a garbage truck or anything,” he recalled. “We burned the garbage out on the side of the store. Every Saturday, that was my job. We’d have a big fire and burn all the boxes.”
Spinosa has worked in the store since his father purchased it as a simple farm stand in the summer of 1967. The elder Spinosa, also named Vincent but known to all as Jim, was born to a mason but ultimately became a butcher after helping to build his uncle’s meat market in Delmar in the 1920s.
Jim Spinosa purchased the farm stand and about 20 acres from Kenneth Van Allen, a descendant of the old Bethlehem Van Allens who came to the area before the American Revolution. The farmstead on Route 9W goes back at least to Kenneth’s grandparents, when it was known simply as the Stone Road.
According to town historian Susan Leath, Jim Spinosa was a skilled butcher who managed a number of meat markets in the region until finally purchasing Van Allen Farms, which he transformed into a store selling local produce, grocery mainstays and, of course, meats. That first summer, the store advertised ground chuck for 69 cents a pound, Heath Farms eggs for 43 cents a dozen and Hellmann’s mayonnaise for 59 cents for a quart jar. According to Leath, the store could be found “200 yards north of Jericho Theater and a quarter mile south of Heath’s Dairy Farm.”
“I’ve been here since the day we moved in,” said Vincent Spinosa, who is now 57 and, along with “Department Specialist” Michelle Arnold, is one of only two people who work at Van Allen Farms today. He said that his father originally planned to change the store’s name, but “never got around to it.”
“It was quite the store back then,” he said of the store’s early days. “There weren’t any supermarkets around, so the store did huge business. My father used to have five or six people working here on the weekends.”
The younger Spinosa eventually took over operation of the store from his father in 1984. Growing up working in the store, hauling groceries, stocking shelves and burning boxes, he learned all aspects of the grocery and had become an accomplished butcher as well.
Some of his customers have been shopping at Van Allen since 1967, said Spinosa, noting that he has lost some long-time regulars in recent years as they’ve passed away due to old age. “We still have two who come in every day.”
Spinosa still uses his grandmother’s spaghetti sauce recipe and his dad’s secret seasoning for the USDA prime steaks. He and Arnold are proud of the locally grown produce and hormone-free dairy products from Meadowbrook Farms they sell, as well as their quality, cut-to-order meats, like their home-made “best sausage in the world,” and specialty items such as breakfast sandwiches and homemade soups from scratch. They offer lunch specials during the week and are available to cater parties and other events.
Grocery staples still line the shelves at Van Allen Farms. Customers can get a cold beer and visit with Spinosa and Arnold while they make pesto, pizza sauce, sausage or french onion soup. The pair clearly love what they do — and who they do it for.
“Vince always lets you know What Goes Good With This,” commented one Facebook fan.
“The only place I buy my meat,” said another.
Yet another characterized Van Allen Farms as “the home of Quality & Goodness.”
When he’s ready to retire, Spinosa imagines that he will put the store up for auction, as none of his three children are interested in taking over the business.