The Planning Commission authorized a major renovation plan for 53 Purchase Street, home of The Smoke Shop, presented by David Mooney Architects on behalf of owner John Fareri October 6.
By Tom McDermott
The Planning Commission authorized a major renovation plan for 53 Purchase Street, home of The Smoke Shop, presented by David Mooney Architects on behalf of owner John Fareri October 6. Due to the extensive size of the renovation, which will create apartments on the second and third floors, the building must become ADA compliant.
The Smoke Shop owner Tony D’Onofrio, who attended the meeting, asked what will happen to the existing tenants while the building is under renovation, noting that the work might force his shop to close. The Commission told D’Onofrio that “he should discuss this concern with the building owner.”
But, according to D’Onofrio, neither Fareri nor building manager Cindy Jenereaux have shared any information with him regarding the renovation, which the City wants to coincide with a major overhaul of the Purchase Street-Elm Place intersection in the spring. As far as the space currently occupied by The Smoke Shop is concerned, being ADA compliant seems to call for removal of the step by the doorway and lowering the shop floor six inches to be level with the sidewalk.
Other building tenants, The Framing Corner and Plush Blow, already have entrances and floors level with the sidewalk; the currently unoccupied Sundae Fun Day storefront must also be renovated to comply.
D’Onofrio told the paper that lowering the existing shop floor could be prohibitively expensive for the owner, because of the custom displays and humidors. The Smoke Shop has been without a lease for three years, and Tony and his mother Peggy are worried that the owner will not be open to more manageable alternatives such as having a ramp lead into the shop, which would not necessitate lowering the floor.
This is just the latest chapter in a long saga. The Smoke Shop has been in the center of Rye’s village since 1927, and the D’Onofrios have operated the shop, serving generations of Rye children candy, since 1970. In 2012, over 5,000 residents signed a petition to save The Smoke Shop, asking the City Council to protect the building under the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. In 2014, the City Council approved a “special permit for Historic Preservation,” championed by Mayor Joe Sack, to allow Fareri to lure a bank as a tenant as long as certain conditions were met. That permit had a three-month sunset provision, and expired without the owner making an application.
Tony D’Onofrio believes that there are less drastic and expensive ways to make the shop ADA compliant, and would like to work with the owner and the architect to find a solution. But, so far, there have been no indications of intent from the owner.
Jenereaux, of Greenwich Premier Services, declined to comment on the situation, saying that she was not authorized to speak on behalf of Fareri, who did not return a call to comment by press time.
What happens if time finally runs out for The Smoke Shop at the corner of Elm and Purchase? “There’s no way to move the displays and humidors from the shop; they’d just have to be destroyed,” said D’Onofrio.