DOWNTOWN PEOPLE: Down Memory Lane:
To talk with Addie DeCrescenzo is to riffle through the pages of Rye’s historical archives.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
To talk with Addie DeCrescenzo is to riffle through the pages of Rye’s historical archives. At 71, she has lived in Port Chester all her life and worked here for almost 50 years, the last 20 as the warm and neighborly receptionist at Milano’s Hair Salon.
About Purchase Street of yesteryear, she said wistfully, “We had policemen patrolling the town on foot. Officer Joe Klaus would give his own mother a ticket if she did something wrong. It was nice and he kept the town safe. If he were around today and saw people on their cell phones while driving, oh, Lord, Rye would make a lot of money.”
DeCrescenzo also remembers when mom-and-pops defined our downtown, a time when Lester’s was an old supermarket, Ruby’s was Feinsod’s Hardware, and Le Pain Quotidien was Woolworth’s.
Recalling the pioneering five-and-dime store, she said, “They had a soda fountain and you could pick everything up there. Woolworth’s had a 100-year lease here and when it was sold, the town started changing. They say it’s progress, but I liked it better before.”
Back then, there were three butchers in town. DeCrescenzo’s father, Vincent Ballantoni Sr. became one of them when he bought JD Market from its original owner Jimmy Dreves in 1966.
“We had the most wonderful patrons at the butcher market. We delivered every day,” noted DeCrescenzo, who worked there as a bookkeeper. “I see people now who were babies when my dad would give them a slice of bologna. Now, they’re married with children of their own.”
JD Market, located for 30 years at 33 Purchase Street, where All Paws is today, was part of the Lyceum Building built in 1883. DeCrescenzo recalled her father and his pal Rocco Macri buying it for fear it would be condemned. After installing aluminum siding and making repairs, the Lyceum was deemed safe and its place, as one of Rye’s most notable structures, remained intact.
The edifice has since been sold, but DeCrescenzo’s feet remained firmly planted at the Lyceum Building, which has been home to Milano’s since it moved from across the street 31 years ago. DeCrescenzo and John Passerelli, the salon’s owner for 46 years, have a long history.
“John and I have known each other forever. We grew up together. He was the lead singer of the Don-A-Tones,” she said nostalgically about his six-member band. “He has his moments,” she added with a smile, “but I like working here. We’re like one big family.”
Indeed, most of Milano’s crew has worked together for decades and are going on third-generation clientele. At Milano’s, a beauty parlor of the traditional ilk, employees do everything from hairdressing, coloring, highlighting and perms to manicures, hair removal, and ear piercing. There’s DeCrescenzo’s sister-in-law, Sylvana Ballantoni, Lucile Smalley, Carol Pellegrino, Iris LaMardo, and Cecilia Mera. And they still set hair in curlers for more volume than any new hair styling tools can muster.
“We really care here and we have great patrons,” she said. “The place is spotless and they know we have coffee, tea, and toast in the back.”
Putting in his two cents, Passerelli quipped, “I’m going to trade Addie in soon. Actually, she’s the heart of the store. The first person you see is the receptionist and she’s a good one.”
DeCrescenzo is not going anywhere, except perhaps on a Caribbean cruise next year to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary. “Bart and I have two wonderful daughters, a great son-in-law, and four grandchildren. I am truly blessed and I want to take them all with us.”