A Shiny Lemon

In 1929 a well-dressed man approached Tony and Nick Fortunato, owners of New York’s Fortunato Fruit Company. He identified himself as T. Remington Grenfell, vice president of the Grand Central Holding Corporation, and he told the brothers that Grand Central Station had decided to shut down its information booth. If they could come up with $100,000, the first year’s rent, they could take over the booth and convert it into a fruit stand in the heart of the busy train station.

Overjoyed, the brothers brought $100,000 to the corporation’s offices. There they met the president, Wilson A. Blodgett, who accepted their money and gave them a contract saying they could take over the booth on April 1. But when they arrived at the station to begin renovations, they found employees operating the booth as normal, and when they began to argue officials kicked them out of the station. They returned to the Grand Central Holding Company but found an empty suite.

The Fortunato brothers never got their money back, and Grenfell and Blodgett, whoever they were, were never caught. But for years afterward the brothers would visit Grand Central Station regularly to castigate the employees there — a spectacle that itself became a small-time tourist attraction.