Officially, I have been a part of the D’Onofrio family for the past 28 years, 37 years if you count the years before marriage.
By Lauren D’Onofrio
Officially, I have been a part of the D’Onofrio family for the past 28 years, 37 years if you count the years before marriage. I first met Tony and Peggy D’Onofrio in the fall of my sophomore year in college, shortly after their younger son, Dean, and I started dating. I was immediately embraced, both literally and figuratively, by the entire family. Soon after, I was “introduced” to the Rye Smoke Shop. I had no idea then of the impact it or they would have on the lives of so many.
My mother-in-law, Peggy, has owned and operated T.D’s Rye Smoke Shop for the past 46 years, the first 25 years of which were alongside her husband, my beloved father-in-law, better known to the community of Rye as “Tony.” For the past 21 years, Peggy and her older son, Anthony, also known by many as “Tony,” have operated The Smoke Shop together.
Over the years, The Smoke Shop has been much more than just a place of business, both for my in-laws and for the people who have been lucky enough to be a part of it. It has been and continues to be a home-away-from-home.
My in-laws opened The Smoke Shop in 1970, one year after the Mets won the World Series for the first time. Little did they know back then that they would have to wait another 17 years for their team to become World Champs again. If you are a proprietor of a mom-and-pop in the tri-state area, it is a given that you will be surrounded by heavy-duty Yankee fans. The Smoke Shop has been no exception. Year after year, my in-laws have thoroughly enjoyed the ribbing they have had to endure from their Yankees customers. (Last year, however, it was my in-laws turn to do the ribbing.)
In addition to the fans, many sports families and stars have been a part of the Smoke Shop as well. Before leaving to manage the Dodgers in 2008, Joe Torre was something of a regular and would pop in to discuss the Yanks’ latest achievement or fiasco. Ralph and Anne Branca, as well as Wellington and Anne Mara and their families, were customers for many years and always brought smiles to my in-law’s faces. Payne Stewart, Pierre Larouche and Nick Fotiu also stopped in. Eddie Olzcyk honored The Smoke Shop by bringing in the Stanley Cup when the Rangers won it in 1994. My in-laws have known B.J. Surhoff since he was in Little League. Peggy and B.J.’s mother, Nancy, attended a few of B.J.’s games when the Orioles played at Yankee Stadium.
While those were truly days to remember, every day has been one. Some have left happier memories than others. The tragic events of 9/11 and the grief that followed will never be forgotten. During those times, the Smoke Shop served, in part, as a place where people could gather to talk things out. Immediately after the passing of my father-in-law in 1995, being in the store was both bitter and sweet. His absence was palpable there, but it was also the place where family and friends came together to tell “Tony stories.” On the day of his funeral, as we all passed by the Smoke Shop on our way to the cemetery, the sidewalks of Rye were lined with people standing in silence to pay tribute to the great man I was privileged to call “Papa.” Mark Mulvoy, a longtime friend and sports celebrity in his own right, was kind enough to eulogize my father-in-law that morning. Mark, his wife, Trish, and their entire family have been, and continue to be, a special source of support and joy for our family.
My in-laws have been privileged to know each and every one of you who has entered the door. Some of you have entered daily, others weekly, still others once or twice a year, but all have added to the life of the shop in one way or another. Since the days back when kids would grab a bag, fill it with candy, snag a comic book, charge it to their personal account, and then sit on the table for a good 30 minutes or more to read about their favorite superhero, The Smoke Shop has enjoyed your company. My in-laws have been proud to sponsor the Girls’ Softball teams over the years and have loved watching the kids paint their Halloween masterpieces on downtown shop windows. Serving as a site for the filming of various TV shows, commercials, and movies has provided Rye Smoke with great material to share with you all over the years. The tradition of displaying your family Christmas cards year-round has brought so much joy, not only to our family but to all those who have entered the shop.
Peggy has had the pleasure of knowing many of you from the time you were very small and been delighted to meet your children, and even your grandchildren.
On behalf of the entire D’Onofrio family, I would like to thank each one of you for sharing a little bit of yourself with my in-laws and for allowing them to do the same with you. The Rye Smoke Shop and you will be missed.