and the Celebration of Life 

Part of the pleasure and satisfaction derived from researching our hometown is when I get the opportunity to connect with the multi-generation offspring of ancestors long gone, the old-timers that left their mark on Valley Stream. 

Mystery invitation

I had just that opportunity this past Monday, when I received by post, from Germany, an invitation to attend a Zoom “Celebration of Life.” Although, at that moment, when I first opened the elegant, softly hued invite on matte stock (which included a photo of the woman being honored), I didn’t know whose life I would potentially be celebrating. 

My first reaction was that it was for someone connected to our Dresden office at my place of employment―Photronics. But, I couldn’t remember ever giving out my home address. Next, I did a family tree search to see if any of the names noted on the invite matched up. They did not. 

Fortunately, there was an email address included on the invite. I replied: “Yesterday, I received your lovely invite to Cassie's online Celebration of Life in May. I am embarrassed to admit that I don't know who this beautiful woman was.” 

The next day I received a reply from the inviter: “I found your name and address in my aunt’s phone and was just assuming that you two knew each other. The notes she had in her phone about you were “Hoffmann family tree.” Both my aunt and my uncle, who passed away in 2021, were working on the family history and I think you might have helped them in the process or might somehow be related to my grandmother. I apologize for the confusion my card caused. I just wanted to make sure I did not leave anyone out when I sent them.” 

Ah! So, it happened that I was on the right track, by checking my family tree, but I shouldn’t have stopped there. I should have poured over Streamer trees that I have created over the years. Although none are as long as my 62-page family tree, they are typically built out enough to include extended family members, who, in one way or another, have left their mark on Valley Stream history. I found Cassie’s name in the Hoffman family tree (the second ‘n’ was dropped when the first immigrant came to America). The Hoffman’s operated a popular roadhouse/nightclub/restaurant in the late teens and early twenties. 

Years back, I corresponded with Cassie’s older brother Jim, first via our historical society website, then email, then regular mail. Jim sent me the ancient photo (not a postcard!) included in this post. He shared family history and we pieced together his great-grand-dad’s life. Jim helped bring to life a man who passed away almost 100 years ago―George died July 1924. Although Cassie is noted on the Hoffman family tree, we were never in direct contact. I knew her in name only. 

The invite was sent by Cassie’s niece, the daughter of Cassie’s and Jim’s oldest sibling. (Jim passed away in 2021.) In my reply to Cassie’s aunt, I thanked her and after expressing my sympathy for her losses, I shared a few more tidbits of Hoffman family information, ephemera, that I never had the chance to pass on to her Uncle Jim. I praised her great-grand dad and told her how important he was to Valley Stream's nascent entertainment industry. I didn’t rehash (although she probably knew) the tragic circumstances of George’s death. 

George Hoffman Achille

In 1866, George Hoffman was born in Paris. He immigrated to the US in 1887, the same year he married Sophia Blank (a New Jersey native) in New York City. He lived on West 40th Street. Lauded as a “celebrated restaurateur,” his first venture was on W. 82nd Street. By 1910, he was running Murray’s on Broadway and 34th Street. 

In 1915, Hoffman was living on South Ocean Avenue in Freeport. In 1917, he moved to Valley Stream, where he opened a successful nightclub―Hoffman’s Park Inn (Hoffman’s), which he ran successfully, despite the implementation of Prohibition in 1920, for seven years. Hoffman’s, located on the northwest corner of Merrick Road and Central Avenue, which boasted a seating capacity of 800, was billed as the “Most Beautiful Place on Long Island.” French cuisine was served alongside entertainment which included, at various times: a cabaret, a 10-piece orchestra, vaudeville, and Broadway celebrities. During Prohibition, the restaurant (don’t call it a roadhouse or nightclub!), had the challenging task of staying in business, despite its alleged lack of alcohol revenue. The family lived at the establishment, which, although not a hotel/boarding house, had accommodations for the Hoffmans and their staff. (Hoffman Street, to the north of Hoffman’s, is named after the family.) 

Prohibition and the fatal sting operation

In July 1924, during the height of Prohibition, two Federal agents conducted a sting operation at Hoffman’s. They gained George’s trust, became his friends, and one evening, inquired where they could buy a case of Scotch. George tipped them off to a residence on Benedict Avenue. A few days later, after the agents made their Benedict Avenue Scotch purchase, they returned to Hoffman’s and arrested George. From the shock and stress of hearing this unfortunate news, George fell promptly to the ground, unconscious. He was pronounced dead a few days later. 

Hoffman’s Brooklyn Eagle obituary described him as the “typical continental restaurateur, who was well liked in [all] the world’s capitals. Generous, humane, broad-minded and tolerant… Everyone was his friend and many kind, unadvertised deeds were credited to him. He had been in this country [for] more than 40 years and was widely known.” 

Charles, George's son, took over the family business. In 1925, Hoffman’s suffered a major fire. The chef, Michele Giliotti, a native of Italy who made his home in the Bronx, perished. Giliotti, age 48, was married and had four young children. The venue was rebuilt. 

Hello Sucker

In 1928, Texas Guinan (Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan), the Texas-born actress and popular nightclub impresario, rented the place seasonally for the next four years. She coined the catchphrase “Hello, Sucker” (translation: come in and leave your wallet at the bar). Ironically, Guinan died of amoebic dysentery on November 5, 1933, exactly one month before the end of Prohibition. Handel’s Merrick Inn (they served duck dinners), Charles Pepi’s El Patio (previous host of the Pavillon Royal located further west on Merrick Road), and Will Oakland (stage and radio star), also called Hoffman’s their home. In 1932, the newly formed Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra, honed their bandstand skills at Hoffman’s. 


By the mid-1940s, the chapter, which defined the northwest corner of Merrick Road and Central Avenue as an entertainment hub for close to thirty years, came to a close. In 1949, Sun Oil Company opened a service station where the demolished Hoffman’s once stood. Although the original infrastructure was torn down in 1971, the site has remained a Sunoco gas station for 75 years! Wow! 

I told Cassie’s aunt to please save my contact information, so we can keep the connection, conversation, and history alive in Valley Stream. And yes, I will attend the Zoom memorial out of respect to George Hoffman and family, who are forever woven into the fabric of Valley Stream.

Hoffman's Park Inn and the Celebration of Life