Link To Story: AJ Willner Auctions Harding Pharmacy and Liquor Auction in the News

RIDGEWOOD — Reading glasses, New York Jets key chains, nutritional supplements, cash registers and lots of wine. If it was inside the former Harding Pharmacy and Liquor on Thursday, it was up for grabs.

But it was a coveted liquor license that drew the most attention at an auction staged inside the 70-year-old store — selling for $255,000.

It took 10 bidders less than 5 minutes to battle it out for the right to sell booze to Ridgewood’s residents.

Ultimately, the liquor license went to Jonathan Davis, who said he was at the auction representing Maple Avenue Liquors.

Davis is a senior vice president at Woodbridge’s Onyx Equities, a real estate investment firm which owns several office and retail spaces in Ridgewood and is spearheading The Enclave, a 52-unit housing development proposed for East Ridgewood and North Maple avenues.

Under its terms, the license can only be used within Ridgewood’s borders for retail alcohol sales.

With its winning bid, Onyx Equities agreed to assume $33,000 in outstanding liquor bills, accrued by the Clifton couple who operated Harding Pharmacy and Liquor for the last three decades.

Davis was required to pay a $50,000 deposit upon winning the license, and Onyx Equities has until Saturday night to pay the balance.

The former store at the intersection of East Ridgewood and North Maple avenues was shuttered in November.

According to the store’s previous owner, Myron Lesh, Harding’s business suffered in recent years from reduced reimbursements from insurance companies and with the proliferation of large pharmacy chains like CVS and Rite Aid.

When asked if it was bittersweet watching the remnants of the business he devoted 32 years of his life to sold off bit by catalogued bit, Lesh — standing some distance from the auction action, towards the back of the store — only nodded.

Later, he would brush off reporters approaching him for comment.

For several minutes before the start of Thursday’s bidding, some 30 people — business owners and bargain shoppers alike — traversed the store, perusing its contents which were all marked and ready for the auction block.

The store appeared frozen in time, looking just as it did when it closed in mid-November, with several Christmas items still prominently displayed.

“I’m here to see if I can get some cheap makeup and perfume,” admitted one primly-dressed woman, who would not provide a name but admitted she called out of work that morning to make Thursday’s auction.

Among the hundreds of items being picked over: stuffed animals, wind chimes, batteries, candles, nail clippers — even the pharmacy’s coin-operated copier.

“I don’t think most of these people are here for the Beanie Babies,” a Hillsborough businessman who refused to provide his name said before the auction.

The second biggest draw during the court-ordered auction was the store’s remaining wine inventory. More than 630 bottles went for $2.50 a bottle — or $1,500.

Auctioneer Michael Sklar managed all of Thursday’s bidding.

Passaic resident Raymond Gonzales modestly bid on several lots, winning a number of times.

“Whatever I win, I give to people who need it,” Gonzales said. “I will give these things to people in my community who don’t have much.”

Sources in the village claim the space, when empty, will be transformed into an eatery — a Jersey Mike’s Subs shop.