Louis Taxin and the Furnald Grocery

In the green patch of grass in front of Furnald Hall, there is a small plaque in honor of Louis Taxin CC 1928. The monument celebrates Taxin’s wisdom and kindness – “an outstanding inspiration to all” – and it was commissioned by the students of Furnald Grocery. From 1976 to 1989, the Furnald Grocery was a student-run, non-profit grocery and convenience store in the basement of Furnald Hall.

Louis H. Taxin ’28 1908-1982 | For his wisdom and kindness | An outstanding inspiration to all | We shall miss him | The students of Furnald Grocery

The idea was simple: save students money on groceries. The plan was to open a store on campus for students to be able to buy groceries at a minimal markup, just enough to cover operating costs. The store would not only provide affordable food at a convenient location, but would also create student jobs. It took over a year of planning, negotiations and fundraising for David Brown CC 1976 to open the Furnald Grocery in March 1976 (and a packed opening too).

While still in the planning stages, the Alumni Association reached out. Brown recalled that he expected to be introduced to a “retired proprietor of some mom-and-pop corner store.” Instead he was put in touch with Louis Taxin CC 1928, the founder and retired chairman of the Daitch-Shopwell supermarket chain. Taxin helped the students obtain equipment for free or at a discount, provided invaluable advice (thus avoiding costly errors), and even negotiated for the students. Brown would later say of their alumni advisor,[h]e knows so much about the retail food business that he astonished even the craftiest vendors.” And the admiration was mutual: “Between you and me,” Taxin confided to Columbia College Today in 1979, “I was really impressed with these guys. They got me excited about the grocery, but you know, they really put that store up themselves.”

Furnald Grocery entrance. Columbian 1980, page 17, Scan 5296, University Archives.

On March 3, 1982, Lou Taxin passed away while on vacation in Florida. The students of the Grocery dedicated this small memorial near the store’s entrance to the man who helped them start it all. The student-run venture, with its own bodega cat, ran successfully for over 12 years. Years after it closed its doors in 1989, alumni still mourned the loss of quirky store and the “Friendly Furnald Grocery Gang (FFGG).”