Last week, Peggy D’Onofrio and her son Tony, owners of Rye Smoke Shop, which has graced the corner of Purchase Street and Elm Place for almost 70 years, received a certified letter they would have liked to refuse.
By Robin Jovanovich
Last week, Peggy D’Onofrio and her son Tony, owners of Rye Smoke Shop, which has graced the corner of Purchase Street and Elm Place for almost 70 years, received a certified letter they would have liked to refuse. The letter, from their landlord John Fareri’s attorney, informed them they had 63 days to vacate the premises, and if they did not, legal action would commence.
“We have been on a month-to-month lease for three years,” said Tony. “We’ve known this day was coming, but it is still hard to accept.”
Peg, who bought the business with her husband Tony, nearly 47 years ago, said, “I’ll miss the people. I’ve become so attached to so many families over the years, watching the kids grow up, get married and then have kids of their own.” She added, “I sleep in Port Chester but live in Rye, and I will miss Rye.”
While there has been tremendous community support to Save the Smoke since the D’Onofrios received notice, the day after Christmas in 2007, that their lease was null and void. Mr. Fareri, who’d recently bought the 53 Purchase Street complex (which includes Longford’s, the Framing Corner, and Plush Blow), was within his legal rights. “We’re fortunate we’ve been able to stay this long,” said Tony. “The Recession postponed his renovation plans.”
One of the first people Tony called after receiving the letter was Mayor Joe Sack, but he already knew there was nothing the City could do.
Tony, soon to be 61, wonders what he’ll do with the rest of his business life, which was cut short in April 1992 when he received a call that his father had collapsed. At the time, Tony was a regional salesman for Primerica Corporation — and had just returned from his honeymoon. “While I worked part-time at my parents’ shop from Day One, I never imagined I’d be ending my career here,” he said wistfully. Peg, who is 88, is less concerned about her working future. “I am going to volunteer,” she said matter-of-factly. (We talked about SPRYE, which recently moved its headquarters to Port Chester, being a good place to start.)
From the start, the D’Onofrio family has sponsored Rye Girls’ Softball, and they’ve made lifelong connections over the sale of a newspaper, a cigar, candy, a postcard, a small toy, or a Lotto ticket.
To say that the community will miss them doesn’t even begin to tell our side of the story.