Whenever I returned to Rye, be it after a week-long vacation or a year living abroad, one of my first stops was always Tony and Peggy’s, as my family affectionately called one of Rye’s oldest institutions, T.D’s Rye Smoke Shop.
By Tommy Mulvoy
Whenever I returned to Rye, be it after a week-long vacation or a year living abroad, one of my first stops was always Tony and Peggy’s, as my family affectionately called one of Rye’s oldest institutions, T.D’s Rye Smoke Shop. If I came through town during the daytime, I often stopped to see Peggy before even reaching my parents’ house. And, Tony and Peggy’s was always my last stop on the way out of Rye — to say goodbye and fill up a small brown bag with candies that I can’t remember ever paying for. Sadly, I didn’t realize that my visit this past January, a week-and-a-half before moving to Switzerland, would be my last.
Robin Jovanovich concluded her February 5th Rye Record article, “How Sweet It Was, Smoke Shop to Close” by writing, “To say that the community will miss them doesn’t even begin to tell our side of the story.” Anyone who has ever stepped foot in Tony and Peggy’s surely understands Jovanovich’s point. My “side of the story” began as a 4-year-old in 1981, behind the ancient cash register where, after my mom would drop me off so she could run unencumbered errands in town, Peggy would prop me up on a small chair and allow me to count customers’ penny candies. In lieu of paying me, Peggy would let me play the lotto or rub a few scratch tickets. Tony and Peggy’s was also where, when I was tall enough, I saw my first nudie magazine covers hidden on the top of the magazine rack. It was clear to me from the start that Tony and Peggy’s was a place where dreams were made.
On the wall behind the right side of the counter, where Tony used to run the lotto machine and cigar business, hangs a collection of photographs, news clippings, and other decorations. Next to a decades-old picture of Tony at work is a 30-year-old Duplo blocks advertisement featuring yours truly sporting a classic early-1980s’ bowl cut. Peggy never failed to show that photo to my girlfriends. After the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in ’96, Eddie Olczyk brought the shimmering challis to the store. A picture of Anthony (Tony and Peggy’s son), Eddie, and the cup hangs just above my advertisement. In high school, Tony and Peggy would cut out stories about me from the local newspapers and tape them to the front door alongside the likes of Major League Baseball player and town legend B.J. Surhoff. When I got older and competed in marathons and Ironman races, my finish photos were proudly displayed next to photographs of Joe Torre, Bobby Valentine, and the many other legends that frequented the store. At Tony and Peggy’s, everyone was a star.
Taped across the top of the cigarette display above the register are Christmas cards and photos from just about every family who has moved to Rye since the 1970s. While I don’t keep in touch with many of the folks I grew up with, I followed their lives through the cards and photos that Peggy carefully placed each year. One of them hasn’t moved since 2001, that of my godmother’s son, Ward, who died in the attacks of 9/11.
I always make it a point to send Peggy postcards from my trips abroad. A map of my movements across the globe over the last twenty years, including stops in Dunedin, New Zealand; Johannesburg, South Africa; Chamonix, France; Beijing, China; Madaba, Jordan, and dozens of other countries are taped on the wall behind the counter where Peggy has stood resolutely for more than 46 years. Sadly, I will never get to see the card I sent her last week from my new home in Switzerland.
Over the years, Tony and Peggy’s relationship with my family grew. I remember visiting Tony at Valhalla Medical Center after his open heart surgery in 1992, and in 1995, I tearfully watched my dad give Tony’s eulogy at Corpus Christi Church in Port Chester. For as long as I can remember, Peggy was always invited to birthday parties, going away celebrations, and weddings. Last June, after years of Peggy asking me what I was doing traveling around the world instead of settling down with a nice “tomato,” as she affectionately called my girlfriends, I danced with her at my wedding. And, just a few weeks before I left for Switzerland, I shared cake with her at our going-away party.
Sadly, when I return to Rye this summer, my first stop will have to change. It might now be to see Mike and the crew at Woodrow Jewelers, Patrick at Arcade Books, or Knock at June & Ho. All three stores resemble Tony and Peggy’s in that they have been in Rye for decades and Mike, Patrick, and Knock proudly carry on the tradition of proprietors and longtime shop staff who not only know your name but take the time to talk to you, too. However, seeing a shuttered Tony and Peggy’s will be tough to deal with. But as my family slowly moves out of Rye – my parents to Florida, a sister to Nashville, and me to Switzerland, it seems that another member of my family is simply doing the same.