Longtime Merchants, Part 3
By Paul Hicks
This is the last of three articles about businesses that have been owned and operated in Rye for more than thirty years by the same individuals or family members. The first part included eight that have lasted 60 or more years, while the second part featured ten in business 40 to 60 years.
To understand why so many merchants have lasted so long in Rye, I talked with Gena DiDonato, a real estate broker, who has been involved in the Rye commercial market for over 20 years. She noted several factors that are unique to Rye and its main shopping area, starting with its compact layout.
Shoppers may come only to buy a cup of coffee, but walk past stores on Purchase Street, which are too tempting to ignore. “Downtown” is also less than a mile away from many Rye homes, whereas Larchmont and Scarsdale, its closest comparisons, are more spread out. On a rainy day, you can buy almost all you need at stores from one end of Purchase Street to the other. It is also impressive how well those in the Milton area have done as well.
To complete this local mercantile history, here are highlights of businesses that have operated in Rye for 30 to 40 years.
Poppy’s Café (38)
In 1984, Gerri Piovesan and her father (“Poppy”) opened Poppy’s Café on Purchase Street. Their many fans agree that they provide a fun, family-friendly atmosphere and good home cooking, starting with great breakfasts.
Central Barber Shop (37)
After leaving his native Italy, Frank Blasi found work at Central Barber Shop Rye in 1959. If you had a haircut on Saturday afternoon, you got to hear the Metropolitan Opera broadcast on the radio. Frank took over the business in 1985, and some of his longtime customers even come from Connecticut.
Charlie’s Shoe Repair (37)
Charlie Nam’s nook of a shop has helped preserve some of Rye’s village charm for nearly 40 years, but it is his expert cobbler’s service that has made him a downtown mainstay.
Great Stuff (37)
Lori Friedman started her women’s retail clothing business in Scarsdale and opened a Rye branch in 1985. Great Stuff is one of the largest family-owned specialty boutiques in Westchester and Fairfield counties. They pride themselves on creating a warm and personalized shopping environment with excellent customer service.
Rye Country Store (37)
Claire Hassi and Chris Colalucci purchased Rye Country Store in 1985 and moved it from one side of Purchase Street to the other. After working together for many years, Claire became the sole owner about five years ago. One of their many satisfied customers wrote: “This little slice of heaven is a small store that offers everything at a good price and with lots of great quality.”
Woodrow Jewelers (37)
Robert and Michael Woodrow followed in the footsteps of their grandfather, who was a jeweler. When a jewelry store was for sale on Purchase Street in 1985, they didn’t think twice before buying it. One of their many fans wrote: “The staff is knowledgeable, patient, and always extremely helpful. It’s a treat to shop in a family-owned store and know the owners take pride in their business.”
Falcon Cleaners (36)
Aram Atmaca opened Falcon Cleaners on Purdy Avenue in 1986. He takes pride that “the work is done on premises, which allows for thorough inspection of imperfections.” His most memorable day on the job was when he had to deal with an ink explosion. “I learned a valuable lesson that day: check every pocket!”
Frank’s Rye Barber Shop (32)
Following his father’s lead, Johnny Aiello has been Barber-in-Chief since 2005. Frank, Johnny’s father, purchased the business in 1990 from the original Frank, so the name never changed. One dad wrote: “Johnny is the best! Especially with young kids.”
Longford’s Own Made Ice Cream (32)
If ever someone worked her way from the ground up, it’s Christine Vita. She first started working behind the counter in 1995, while attending Rye Country Day School. In 1997, while a student at Manhattanville, she moved up to managing the store. Two years later, she bought it. Of the many glowing reviews, this one stood out: “Place is the best. Ice cream is insane. Get the mud pie or gram slam. So delish. Longford’s is a factory of awesomeness.”
Corner Stone (30)
Liz and Gary Stone met at the Culinary Institute of America and opened a small gourmet food store down the road from Milton Harbor 30 years ago. While Corner Stone is still owned by the couple, they have ventured into organic farming and winemaking at a property upstate they acquired some years ago called Red Maple Vineyard, which has become a much-in-demand wedding venue (www.redmaplevineyard.com). Longtime staff run the shop and have added a delicious assortment of new menu items.
Rye Grill & Bar (30)
In 1992, the Pearl RestaurantGroup renovated the old Mug Ale House and opened Rye Grill and Bar. According to their Facebook page, Rye Grill has a rating of 4.4 out of 5, based on the opinions of 264 people. We attended a birthday party there for a former Rye resident, who flew in from California for the event.
Scissors on the Sound (30)
Linda Angarano and Susan Myers opened their shop on Milton Road, across from the Rye Marina, in 1992. A review by one of their male customers said: “Scissors is a friendly and small shop where you are remembered and treated like you belong. Men, women, and kids are welcomed. I wouldn’t know trendy if it bit me, but it’s just really good.”
Congratulations to all these great merchants and to those that have operated just short of 30 years. Cut? Perhaps another of these series will be published in five years.