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News of Otsego County

rudy’s liquor store

Ribbon-Cut On Liquor Store In Time For Winter Carnival

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Ribbon Cut On Liquor Store

In Time For Winter Carnival

Matt Denison, new co-proprietor of Rudy’s Liquor Store on Main Street, Cooperstown, a few minutes ago cut the ribbon to newly launch the establishment, which he and business partner Joe Festa purchased from the Lemisters in December.  From left are Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, Cooperstown Chamber President Jess Lanza and Chamber Executive Director Tara Burke. The ribbon-cutting coincides with the 2021 Cooperstown Winter Carnival.  During the carnival, Matt said, international wines will be 10 percent off and New York State wines 20 percent off. (Jim Kevln/AllOTSEGO.com)
Lemisters’ Downtown Dynasty Ends With Rudy’s Liquor Store
Family Cooperstown Mainstay Since 1952

Lemisters’ Downtown Dynasty

Ends With Rudy’s Liquor Store

Last September, Rudy’s Liquor Store proprietor
Fred Lemister reflects on what would be his final 9/11 window display at the 143 Main St., Cooperstown, establishment. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Among other things, Fred Lemister was famous for decorating the front window of Rudy’s Liquor Store, which he and his wife Karen operated for 48 years.

His final window – the Lemisters sold Rudy’s to Matt Dennison and Joe Festa at year’s end – was the simple crèche you may have noticed walking by 143 Main St. this Christmas season.

A perennial was Fred’s Titanic window. “I’m a Titanic buff,” he said, also noting the local connection: Arthur L. Ryerson, president of Ryerson Steel, Chicago, who owned a summer estate on Otsego Lake, died in the sinking, although his wife Emily and four children rode on Lifeboat Four to safety.

“The one that meant the most to me was our 9/11 window,” said Lemister, himself the celebrated responder to 9,400 calls in a half-century with Cooperstown’s EMT squad. “I always found it extremely hard to put up. Tears would come to my eyes thinking of the young men and women who passed away on that day.”

The Lemister family has been a force on Main Street since 1952, when Andrew Lemister, Fred’s father, bought Sherry’s Restaurant in the three-story red brick block “at the light” where Mel’s at 22 is now.

In 1970, a few years after his father’s passing, Fred’s mother Evelyn married Rudy Omerzu, a local painting contractor.

Fred and Karen Lemister last February when EMTs from around the county honored his 9,400 calls over 50 years, and her sacrifice
that enabled his responsiveness.

Looking for a less strenuous occupation for her new husband, Fred’s mother and her son approached Cyril T. George, who had opened the liquor store, called George’s, in the late 1960s.

George also operated the Hitching Post at 149 Main, next door to the liquor store, where Alex’s Bistro is now, and he offered mother and son a two-business deal: Buy the restaurant now (1970), and the liquor store at a future date.

On Aug. 7, 1972, the Lemisters did buy the liquor store, renaming it Rudy’s, although things didn’t turn out as anticipated. That Christmas, Rudy Omerzu suffered a fatal heart attack while bowling at the Bowl-A-Rama (today’s Price Chopper).

So Fred, his mother and Karen found themselves running three establishments: Sherry’s, the Hitching Post and – keeping the name in Omerzu’s memory – Rudy’s.

In 1989, an electrical fire in the kitchen damaged the Hitching Post, and former Bruce Hall partner Richard White bought and renovated it for his daughter Ellen Weir’s Homescapes.

It became a restaurant again in 2007.

In 2018, the Lemisters sold the former Sherry’s property to restaurateur Brian Wrubleski, who operates Mel’s at 22 there.

So the Rudy’s sale, which includes the building, signals the end of a 67-year family and Main Street legacy.

In an interview, the Lemisters said they plan to put their Eagle Street house on the market in the spring. Son Andy lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and daughter Kim Knapp, near Orlando, so the parents are looking at the St. Augustine area, in between.

The four grandchildren are also a draw: Andy’s twins Addison and Andrew (A.J.), and Kim’s Makenna, 10, and Kassidy, 8.

In addition to the window displays, the Lemisters’ landmark Rudy’s is remembered for Bassett hound Barclay, who in the early days greeted patrons at the door.

When he passed away, the Lemisters commemorated him with a front window display of Bassett hound memorabilia.

“For 14 and a half years, he was the ruler,” Karen remembers.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, FEB. 4
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, FEB. 4

Enjoy Final Day-Long Celebration

Of Coop’s  50th Winter Carnival

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FUN IN THE SNOW! Final day of the 50th anniversary Cooperstown Winter Carnival features snowman building, soup’n’ chili, soccer slushing in Pioneer Park,  the “Fatty Bumppo” bike race ghost tours, wine tasting, a chicken wing competition, the Fire & Ice Bar at The Otesaga, Annie & The Hedonists concert, and the carnival closer.  For full schedule of events, see  www.cooperstownwintercarnival.com/event-schedule

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