In light of the imminent closing of the Smoke Shop, the Rye Historical Society has made considerable efforts to preserve and document the shop’s small town flavor, as well as some of its more iconic architectural items.
By Gretchen Althoff Snyder
In light of the imminent closing of the Smoke Shop, the Rye Historical Society has made considerable efforts to preserve and document the shop’s small town flavor, as well as some of its more iconic architectural items. Rye Historical Society President Mark Keegan said that they walked through a typical “day in the life” at the Smoke Shop with Peggy and Tony, taking numerous photos and interviewing customers to preserve the shop’s place in Rye’s history. In addition, Keegan spoke with John Fareri, the owner of the building, to request that some of the historically significant items, such as the hand-painted glass signs and the pole out front, be saved from demolition and donated to the Rye Historical Society. According to Keegan, Fareri was amenable to the idea of salvaging and donating some items prior to the renovation, recognizing their historical significance as well as their personal value to Rye residents.
Rye Historical Society Director Sheri Jordan also stressed the importance of these iconic items and their place in Rye’s storied history. These images, says Jordan, are what immediately come to mind when people think of the Smoke Shop. Although Jordan and many others would love for the entire entryway of the Smoke Shop to be preserved, the step up off the sidewalk is not ADA-compliant and therefore cannot feasibly be left as is during renovations.
In addition to the glass signs and the pole, Jordan would also love to save the glass and wood counters inside, as they are “so evocative of what all stores in small towns used to be like.” And although not specifically discussed with the owner, Jordan would love the Historical Society to have the phone booth from the back of the shop. It really is a throwback to earlier times, said Jordan, and “the day will come when no one even knows what a real phone booth looks like anymore.”
Jack Zahringer, Chairman of the Landmarks Advisory Committee, strongly agrees that the glass signage and other items have historical significance for Rye and should be preserved. “I’m proud of the fact that we are a historic town – it’s part of Rye’s charm, and one of the reasons I moved here 50 years ago,” he said. According to Zahringer, renovations to the building are scheduled to begin sometime in April. Despite the unfortunate loss of the Smoke Shop, Keegan and Jordan noted that the proposed renovations are consistent with other buildings along Purchase Street. Both have seen the plans and concur that adding windows along the Elm Place side of the building, and moving the unsightly trash cans (currently crowding the sidewalk) inside the building, will improve the overall aesthetics of that corner.
Jordan requests that residents keep their eyes out during renovations to help ensure that the glass signs are in fact saved from demolition, and urges residents to call the Historical Society should they notice any unintentional destruction of these historical items.