Neil Presser – Avondale Liquor & Wine Family Business

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

Jacksonville and its beaches have always drawn Northerners eager to leave the cold behind for sunshine and better opportunities. That was exactly what motivated the first of Neil Presser’s relatives to relocate to Jacksonville during the Great Depression.

“My late mother, Lillian Fink Presser, had two brothers, Ben and Charlie Fink, who moved to Jacksonville during the Great Depression to start businesses. They were drawn to the warmer weather and lower cost of living compared to New York. Plus my Uncle Charlie loved to go fishing and the Jacksonville and Atlantic Beach piers quickly become favorite spots. Ben opened a swanky downtown men’s clothing store and Charlie opened a chain of liquor stores…the brothers were happy and successful here,” Presser, 78, said.
Because of his brothers-in-law and their success in Jacksonville, Presser’s late father, Mac, also decided to relocate his family from New York with a plan to start a business in Jacksonville.

“My dad was selling men’s hats for a chain of stores in New York City and part of his job was to travel to open new store locations. As the Depression worsened, his job became terribly difficult because he was then responsible for going back to all those stores and closing them down,” Presser said. “In 1937 he moved us to Jacksonville for a new start, where the family would be reunited and could help one another through the difficult times if necessary. We lived in the Riverside area near Park Street and the whole family worshipped together at what was at that time the Jacksonville Jewish Center downtown. Dad opened Avondale Liquor & Wine and mother helped by doing all the bookkeeping. It became a very successful business where he worked every day for the next 25 years.”
There are many happy memories of those years when the Fink and Presser families were building their lives in Jacksonville. Presser fondly recalls that, just like his uncles, his mother and father loved to go fishing at Atlantic, Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra beaches. He vividly remembers the thrill of fishing from the piers and staying in a small dilapidated “shack” at the beach during long, lazy summers.
“Mom would take us boys straight to stay at the beach for weeks right after school let out and dad would come weekends or whenever he could…those were wonderful times,” he said. “I caught a lot of trout but didn’t like hooking those catfish; they were so dangerous and can sting…not my favorite seafood!”

Presser and his older brother Edwin graduated from the Bolles School and the University of Florida. The brothers both served in the military. Neil was a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve where he served as a communications officer aboard the ammunitions ship USS Mauna Loa. He completed many transatlantic crossings between the U.S. and Europe, with wonderful experiences exploring Europe, particularly Spain and France. Edwin served in the U.S. Army.

The brothers went on to enjoy successful professional careers in Jacksonville: Neil as a certified public accountant who founded the accounting firm Presser, Lahnen & Edelman, from which he retired in 2008. Edwin was an attorney with Goldman, Presser, Lewis & Nussbaum until his death in 2004. They were very close, worked long hours and during free time especially enjoyed going out in Edwin’s boat, Eupohria – his pride and joy – onto the St. Johns River together.

Presser is especially proud of his children: Sheryl Presser, an attorney in New York; Pamela Presser, a drug representative in Jupiter Beach; and Jeri Presser, owner of a graphic design studio in South Miami. Besides enjoying his family, Presser is a keen tennis fan who likes to walk through his neighborhood down to the St. Johns River. He is a classical music buff who spends time reading and attending cultural performances: Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Alhambra Dinner Theatre, Theatre Jacksonville in San Marco and movies.
A lifetime member of the Jacksonville Jewish Center and founding member of the Jewish Community Alliance, he continues to serve on their investment committee. Presser also serves on the Jewish Community Foundation of Northeast Florida Board of Directors.

For 11 happy years, Presser’s best friend was his Sheltie, Rusty, who passed away in 2008. He said they did everything together and Rusty is greatly missed.

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