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Alan Ghidaleson

Alan Ghidaleson, left, with his wife Diane. Photo from Alan Ghidaleson

By Aidan Johnson

Mount Sinai is saying goodbye to the beloved pet store Feasts For Beasts, as owner Alan Ghidaleson moves onto the next chapter of his life with his wife, Diane.

Ghidaleson, who has owned and operated his shop since 1977, originally started working in building maintenance in Manhattan. “It was fun in the beginning because it was new, but then it just wasn’t my passion,” he told TBR News Media in an exclusive interview. “What I always had a passion for was pets, especially dogs.”

‘I really had a great time doing what I love.’

— Alan Ghidaleson

The industry was suggested to him by a friend who managed a few pet stores in Atlanta. “He said, ‘This is an industry you would absolutely love,’ and I went for a visit,” Ghidaleson shared. “I did like what he was doing, but said, ‘You know what, I’m a New York boy, so I’m going to do it in New York.’ And that’s what I did.”

Ghidaleson found success in his new business, going from operating a single store to, at one point, running 10 locations including a pet hotel by the mid-1980s. “I really had a great time doing what I love,” he said. 

Among its other professional services, Feasts For Beasts handled dog grooming and dog training.

Ghidaleson described his staff as being “the best staff of employees of anybody in any industry,” taking pride from working with some of them from their teenage years to their 30s. 

He also detailed watching his customers progress through the different stages of life, going from teenagers to parents to even grandparents. 

Over the course of nearly a half-century, Ghidaleson had many fond memories, including participating in the annual Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade. People from across Long Island would come to watch him and his Rottweiler pet riding on his motorcycle.

Ghidaleson also used to raffle off a new car and loved calling people to tell them they had won. “I’d buy a car from Ram, Chevrolet and raffle it off,” he said. “Calling people to say that you won an automobile, I have to say that was very exciting.”

Being in business for as long as he had meant witnessing several tragedies. After Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in over a thousand deaths in Louisiana in 2005, Ghidaleson and a few friends traveled to New Orleans to help out. They managed to save hundreds of dogs over the course of 10 days. 

Ghidaleson’s service to the community did not end at the pet shop. He completed a 68-mile walk from Mount Sinai to Chinatown in 2019 in order to raise money for the New York Warriors, a Long Island-based quadriplegic rugby team. It took him 28 hours to complete straight through, though it may have been shorter if the torrential rain hadn’t forced him to dry his clothes in the bathrooms of multiple Starbucks locations.

Despite his contributions to the community, Ghidaleson only recently realized the effect his business has had through the years. “It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words,” he said. “It’s magnificent.”

He added, “I didn’t realize what an impact that Feasts For Beasts has had on the community until the past month or so, because I get an abundance of people calling and coming in, and crying on the phone and crying in the store.”

Ghidaleson said he will still be around as he and his manager, Nick Kucharski, transition into the real estate business. While the pet store may be closing, Ghidaleson maintained he will still be there for anybody needing pet advice and information.

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Alan Ghidaleson, shown with his wife Diane, is planning to walk 68 miles to New York City to raise funds for the New York Warriors. Photo from Alan Ghidaleson

With his 68th birthday on the horizon, Alan Ghidaleson, founder and owner of Feasts for Beasts in Mount Sinai, decided he wanted to do something to help others. After talking with a business associate, the Setauket resident decided to take on a 68-mile trek to New York City on foot to help those who can’t walk.

The New York Warriors play wheelchair rugby competitively at Stony Brook University and in New Jersey. Photo from Alan Ghidaleson

Ghidaleson said one day while he was talking to his insurance agent Mark Legaspi, he was inspired to raise money for the New York Warriors Wheelchair Rugby team. The squad, made up of quadriplegics, play quad rugby competitively at Stony Brook University and in New Jersey. Legaspi is the New York state chairman of Easterseals, a nonprofit that provides services to those with disabilities. He told Ghidaleson about the Warriors, which the nonprofit sponsors and helps.

Legaspi said it’s exciting to hear when someone wants to donate their time to help others.

“Alan’s drive to help is tremendous,” Legaspi said. “He always goes out of the way to help people.”

With his 68th birthday on Oct. 3, the pet supply store owner decided to walk to New York City. His hope is that his fellow North Shore residents he passes along the way will support the cause by donating. All the funds collected will go toward the New York Warriors to maintain their equipment.

Ghidaleson said he plans to leave Oct. 1 or 2, depending on the weather, and he estimates the walk could take around 28 hours, also based on weather and road conditions. The business owner has already mapped out the trip. He will leave his home in Setauket, walk along Route 347 until it merges with 454 and then Route 25 in Commack. From there he will take Route 25 and pass towns such as Dix Hills, Woodbury, Syosset and Jericho. When he reaches New Hyde Park, he will walk along New Hyde Park Road to Route 25A and then take that west to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. He plans to end his walking journey at the Whiskey Tavern at 79 Baxter St. in Manhattan.

Ghidaleson said he thought long and hard about safety when he mapped out his trip. One of the reasons he ruled out Route 25 in Smithtown is due to a stretch of the road west of the Bull statue where there is no shoulder to walk. He also found that Route 25A would be longer mileage-wise while not having as many businesses and restaurants as Route 25 does.

“Alan’s drive to help is tremendous. He always goes out of the way to help people.”

— Mark Legaspi

While the Setauket resident doesn’t walk regularly, he said he does work out. He has already taken some practice walks, building from eight to 13 miles, and he said he recently finished a personal best of 32. He has a 40-mile walk planned before the big day.

“Once I do 40, then I’ll be prepared to do the distance,” he said.

Ghidaleson said he plans to celebrate the end of the walk at the Whiskey Tavern with his wife Diane, son Todd and his wife Cassie and his daughter Jenna and her boyfriend Mike. The business owner said they weren’t surprised when he told them what he had planned.

“I like doing challenges,” Ghidaleson said. “I like doing things that physically are demanding, and I like helping people. So, it’s a good combination.”

Darren Templeton, a member of the New York Warriors, said a couple of his teammates are also hoping to greet Ghidaleson at the end of the walk and met him recently when he traveled from Setauket to Hackensack, New Jersey, to see one of their games.

Those who are interested in donating to the walk can make checks payable to Eastern Wheelchair Athletes’ Foundation and mailed to the organization at 18 Strong Drive, Kinnelon, NJ 07405, or dropped off at Feasts for Beasts, 45 Route 25A, Mount Sinai.