In 2004, the NY Times ran a piece on Albert Cabbad, 78, owner of the R & A Discount Center on Fifth Avenue. In the spring of that year, Cabbad had broken his leg, and during his stay in hospital, most of the store's inventory had been removed by his family. Undeterred, Mr. Cabbad, who couldn't tolerate retirement, had gone back to the store anyway, and, amidst the dusty remains of his merchandise, continued to work the till, selling only one thing. Lotto tickets. According to the Times back then, he was set to retire in '04, as a son had plans to put in new businesses and condos, but that didn't happen. At 85, a sharp-witted and talkative Mr. Cabbad is still there.
I stopped by for a quick hello yesterday and stayed for almost an hour. I recommend that you pay a visit too, because Albert has a lot to say. He'll tell you about the ups and downs of Fifth, the family empire, the three building department store he opened in '67, and the family owned bike center across the street. He'll talk about Libya, the sub-prime loan mess, and the Armenian Massacre. He'll talk about the photographs and clippings up on his walls - everyone from Churchill to Obama - and tell you about his meetings with Arafat and Sharpton. Occasionally, the conversation will be broken by someone coming into the store. It might be a son, coming in to check on him, perhaps, or an old Yemeni friend, hanging out for a bit, and just every so often, and rather beside the point, it might be someone actually looking for a ticket.