From Busytown To Downtown

“06880” has been buzzing recently with news and comments about a variety of Westport connections in books, movies, plays and TV shows.

A Westport Historical Society exhibit opening January 29 looks at Our Town in TV and films in the 1950s, through the eyes of writers who lived and worked here.

Now comes this, from alert “06880” reader Larry Perlstein:

This may be common knowledge, but I just noticed that on the inside cover of Richard Scarry’s “What Do People Do All Day?” is a picture of downtown “Busytown.” There in all its glory is the Remarkable Bookshop — with “E. Kramer, Prop.”

The Remarkable Bookshop -- "E. Kramer, Prop." -- is in the lower right corner.

If you’ve just fallen off a turnip truck — or moved to Westport yesterday, or never read “06880” before — you should know that the Remarkable Book Shop was for decades a downtown icon . It was in pink building on the corner of Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza (today it’s Talbots).

(Today it’s also become a flashpoint for “06880” commenters. Some lament its demise, calling it a symbol of the loss of mom-and-pop shops. Others say, “Get over it. That’s the way the world works.”)

Oh, yeah: Remarkable was owned by “E. Kramer.” (The name of the store is a play on Esther’s last name, spelled backwards.)

Larry asks: “Is this well known? Does anyone know the connection between Scarry and Westport? I can’t find anything on the Wiki.”

I can’t answer that. But I’m sure “06880”‘s remarkable readers can.

13 responses to “From Busytown To Downtown

  1. I worked at Remarkable for five years when I first came to Westport. It was a great way to become a “townie.” Local authors were always shown respect and treated with great warmth — and they reciprocated. Richard Scarry was a regular customer, and all his books were prominently displayed in the “kids’ room”.

  2. Esther Kramer was your dream bookshop owner and hostess. She was a reader and knew her clientele’s tastes. She was a cook, and knew her recipes and cookbooks. She never made a promise to a customer that she didn’t keep. It may have been her system of scotch-taping her notes to her purse, one by one. (This was before Post-Its). I loved working at Remarkable.

  3. I am told that — according to Google — Richard Scarry moved to Westport from Ridgefield in 1959.

  4. I worked at Remarkable in the mid-1960s.
    That makes me…mature.

  5. Sidney and Esther Kramer fostered the careers of many authors in all aspects of publishing. Sidney has been a publisher of and, I believe, remains as author’s representative for Richard Scarry.

  6. If my memory is correct, I believe Richard Scarry lived on Bradley Street.

  7. Sidney Kramer is Richard Scarry’s representative. Their friendship is decades old. I met the Scarry’s in the 70’s at Remarkable, they were guests of Esther and Sidney…I think they were living in Gstaad.
    Ben McFall

  8. Yes, the Scarry’s lived on Bradley Street. Now that Art’s Deli is back, maybe Remarkable will return courtesy of one of Esther’s chidlren!

  9. mary ruggiero

    There’s lots of space along Main St – and other nearby streets and alleys. Let us hope – our one bookstore is WAYYYYY across town.

  10. When I was a kid here in the 70s, Richard Scarry signed books for Kings Highway students, as did P.D. Eastman and Hardie Gramatky. I’m sure that at the time I didn’t understand how special that was!

    • Linda Gramatky Smith

      It was so special for the author/illustrators too, Nina … to meet the kids and teachers who loved their books. Phil Eastman’s books (Go Dog Go, Are You My Mother, Big Dog Little Dog and lots more), my dad Hardie Gramatky (Little Toot books) and all the Scarry books that were favorites of my children are still in print. And I believe that Eastman’s son (Tony Eastman, a current Westport resident who’s written & illustrated the popular Fred & Ted Go Camping series) goes out to schools to sign books. Westport is still amazing this way!

  11. sarah kerstin gross

    way back in the day – my mother Flora Gross had a gallery called
    “The Illustrators Gallery” above Gristedes on Main Street when it was down at the beginning of the st where Greenbergs Department store had been – right ? Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak, Eric Blegvad and the like were represented there. My mother is no longer with us and I have just asked my 90 year old book agent father, who has told me Sydney Kramer, husband of Esther Kramer of Remarkable Book Shop Fame – a lawyer, agent, publisher himself, represented Richard Scarry – So this is probably at least one of the reasons he has had a Westport presence. Sydney is still with us – so he might know more.

  12. Richard Scarry owned a house on Bradley Street. In 1966, I think, I purchased it from him. At that time he lived in Switzerland so I never met him. The house was number 17 and the front door, with the fan light above it, appeared in many of his books.