This piece is a reprint of an article written by The Bronx Traveler, Elisa Valentino, a twice weekly blog featured in HeartOfTheBronx.com. Heart of The Bronx’s mission is to encourage economic growth and to enhance the quality of life in The Bronx County through a strengthened economic impact of tourism throughout the borough.
by Elisa Valentino
May 10, 2019
Do you know what I believe the heart of The Bronx is? The people. Specifically, those individuals who have become part of the fabric of the neighborhood because of their consistent presence and profound impact on the community.
To anyone who knows Thomas Glacken, they will enthusiastically attest to the blessing, he and his family-owned business, Glacken’s Bar has continually been to the residents of the South Bronx.
Glacken’s Bar and Grill has been well publicized as the oldest bar in The Bronx, established in 1940 at its current location on 149th Street in Mott Haven. Serving generations of patrons throughout the past seven decades, to a changing demographic of ethnicities, it has and continues to provide a safe and dependable refuge for belonging and kinship to those of whom frequent regularly.
At the heart of this establishment, the individual who imbues the strong sense of dependability and home is second generation owner, Tom “Pops” Glacken. A fixture in the bar since 1951, when he began working part time for his father, Pops is part of the an older generation who cares not what people look like or where they originate, but rather, their sense of respect, in a no nonsense, quintessential Bronx manner and attitude.
Take it straight from the mouth of Alexandra Maruri, owner of Bronx Historical Tours, who knows Pops well and holds the bar owner in the highest regard as being part of the old Bronx guard, “Pops is old school, no nonsense and embodies the classic Bronx attitude. He has seen the changes in the neighborhood through the years and he welcomes everyone as long as they are well behaved and respectful.”
Pops himself was born and raised in Mott Haven, the neighborhood within which he has worked for the past sixty-eight years, on 134th Street and Willis Avenue. According to Ms. Maruri and a recent between her and Pops, he is quoted as saying, “I run a tight ship – the house rules are, if you misbehave at the bar, for any reason, you will receive a 30-day suspension, a year or a lifetime ban if necessary.”
He goes on to say, “Overall, everyone is well behaved and respectful, everyone is welcomed at our bar and we treat everyone like family.”
And if you are looking for a wide selection of beer, you’ve come to the wrong place! Pops has limited his beer offerings to only two – Bud and Bud Lite. Clearly, an indiction that this bar is built on good company and years of insuring a safe, close-knit and warm environment, where people embrace as home.
Interestingly, and quite characteristically, the bar wall of Glackens’ is very much a time capsule that spans three-quarters of a century, as Pops has managed to collect news clippings, ads and memorabilia that he proudly displays for all to see.
A virtual history book of both yesteryear, straight through to today, which includes buttons, World War II-era items, homage to both NYPD, FDNY, and so much more through the years. It is where Alexandra Maruri was honored a special place to have her tours prominently displayed by Pops’ son, Tommy Glacken, who makes Glackens a third generation family-owned business.
Glackens is clearly a home away from home for so many who have patronized this bar since 1940, and with the legacy that Pops, so deliberately built, it is sure to continue outshining all the rest for many years to come!
Elisa is co-founder of Travelin’ Cousins travel blog, A native New Yorker, Fordham graduate, and world traveler, she is passionate about The Bronx as a travel destination for locals and tourists.
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