Remembering Stanley Klein

Today it’s Banana Republic — one of 600 in the world.

But for 67 years, 44 Main Street was the site of Klein’s. It was the only Klein’s on earth.

The store opened in 1937, selling small stationery items. Over the years it added records, books, cameras, typewriters, electronics and more. If it wasn’t a true “department store” like Macy’s, Neiman-Marcus or JC Penney, it was the closest thing Westport had.

Stanley Klein

Stanley Klein

From 1937 through 1999, Stanley Klein — who founded the store with his parents, Henry and Ada — was part of the store that bore his family’s name.

He was an old-time merchant: part of a Main Street that was as real as its name is quaint. He was active and engaged, in the store and throughout town.

He supported the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, United Way, Little League, and the library. Klein’s was part of the community, and there was a community feeling in the store. Some of the staff worked there nearly as long as Stanley.

He retired in 1999, handing the reins over to his son-in-law Bob Hertzel. Klein’s closed in 2004, a victim of changing local and national demographics and retail landscapes.

Stanley Klein died on Sunday, after a long battle with congestive heart disease.

He leaves behind his wife, sister, 3 children, 4 grandchildren — and the memories of generations of Westporters, who knew Klein’s was the place to go.

And Stanley Klein was the man who made it so.

Klein's, back in the day -- and before a 2nd floor was added.

Klein’s, back in the day — and before a 2nd floor was added.

29 responses to “Remembering Stanley Klein

  1. Stan was The Man. Always had a smile and a big Hello. Excellent merchant who talked and listened to his customers. When he decided to lease his store, he told me he wanted a very strong tenant. He was successful with that as well. Sad to lose such a good guy.

  2. Carl Addison Swanson III

    I went to school with Carol Klein and my main squeeze in high school worked for Klein’s, so I got to know Stan. What a great guy. Always in a super mood to help any customer in any way he could. One of the Westport legends of the disappearing Mom/Pop stores. Also one super guy.

  3. Sorry to hear this. Two sad stories in one day. Stanley was a kind and gentle soul. May he rest in peace.

  4. Absolutely. We were so lucky to have Remarkable AND Klein’s. Mr. Klein could not do enough for you…..back when you couldn’t get something on your Kindle in 30 seconds….he would special order a book and it would appear in no time!
    And Klein’s would fix your electric IBM typewriter, find the right ribbon, etc.!
    I can still see the place vividly. It was very sad to see them close.
    And of course SALLY in records! I still don’t know how she kept track of everything. I went to her “new” store back in the 90s when my mother was not well, and she totally remembered our family.
    To grow up in that environment was truly fortunate.

  5. Klein’s was definitely a mainstay in town. I think we went there nearly every day after high school browsing around for one thing or another. I’m sorry to hear of Stan’s passing. He certainly lived a long and productive life. (I think it’s 62 years, right? A long time to run a business in any event.)

  6. My condolences to the Klein family. I have so many wonderful memories of shopping at Klein’s. And, speaking of shopping memories, another “department store” favorite was Greenberg’s, accross the street from Kliens. As a kid, I did a lot of my Christmas shopping in those stores and everyone was always so nice to me.

    • Exactly. We were so lucky to know these people and places. I treasure the memories of that childhood and love that Dan let’s us re-live it.

  7. Jill Ross Beres

    Stanley was wonderful to any group that needed to raise $ for a good cause. He always let us put up tables in front of his store and when I was sitting in a very large cardboard “telephone booth?” for Channel 13, he would store it overnight for me.
    My thoughts are with his dear wife and Bob, who did such a great job, carrying on the family tradition.

  8. I just wanted to share one story to illustrate what a great guy Stanley was and how he epitomized the spirit of the mom & pop merchant back in the day.

    Back in the fall of 1996, my book, “The Autumn of Our Lives,” was published. The book had a local angle: it was an account of my having gone back to Staples 25 years after graduation to serve as a volunteer assistant coach on the boys’ varsity soccer team, and about what had–and hadn’t–changed since my high school days, and why that high school soccer experience in 1970 mattered so much to so many of my former teammates who had gone on to a variety of accomplishments in their respective careers.

    So, as a member of a family that had patronized Klein’s for many years, I pitched it to Stanley as a book that I believed had local appeal and I was wondering if he might display it prominently in the store.

    Well, when I returned the following weekend, several copies of my book were on display in the store window adjacent to the front entrance along with a poster-board blow-up of a review, right beside Scott Turow’s latest best-seller! Stanley was indeed The Man!

  9. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    It was the first place I was ever allowed to shop in by myself because my mother knew Stanley had a heart of gold and would always do the right thing. Much less of “Old Westport” left now.

  10. And I meant to add that I, too, was a classmate of one of his daughters. My condolences to her and the entire Klein family. If there is life after death, he’s catching up with Murray Bravin right now.

  11. A sad reality.
    My first real job was at Klien’s as a wrapper in the toy dept during the Christmas season. Later after Staples and during college I was a pinch hitter sales person for all holidays in the toy dept, we had Sally next to us in the record dept and I filled my shelves with art and cookbooks. The beginning of my adult self. I also babysat Stan’s red haired son whose name I can’t remember but an interesting child very into his fish tank!

  12. Jill Ross Beres

    my clarification, my thoughts are with Stanley’s daughter who is Bob’s wife.The whole family was wonderful to me and my family.

  13. Denny Davidoff

    When Jack Shailer and I started Shailer/Davidoff Advertising in 1967, having been summarily fired from C.A. Smith & Co. at Brooks Corner, I phoned Stanley in a panic because I had rented a suite of offices but had no furniture. He loaned me a suite full of furniture the very next day until we could buy what was needed. Sent it up to 1701 Post Road, Fairfield by truck. Typical of Klein’s service to its customers. It was another world.

    Denny Davidoff

  14. Claire Curtis

    One thing that always astonished me about Stanley Klein is that he remembered me, and would remember my name — years and years after I left. One time, after college, maybe even after grad school, I went into the store. Stanley greeted me by name and asked if I needed a new ribbon yet for the Olympus manual typewriter I had gotten in 4th grade, for the after-school typing class at Burr Farms. He was amazing.

  15. Stanley Klein was the epitome of a “mensch”. RIP, pal.

  16. In 1952, I moved to Westport and needed an after-school job. Stanley hired me, stocking shelves and making deliveries. My Mother-in-law, Mary Dennert worked at Klein’s for many years, along with cousin Virginia Randholm. My Mom also worked there for a few years. My wife Mary Anne was the baby-sitter for Carol and Susanne. Stan was a mentor and a role model. Stan sold me my first two 35 mm cameras and taught me the basics on how to use them. When I think of Stanley Klein, the memories are all good. – – Dick Alley

  17. Sad loss … so many of us frequented this store. Not only do I remember Sally’s record area, but remember to the left of that was the toy section… and for some reason I recall a great selection of GI Joes (although I was a Barbi chick at the time).

  18. Time seems to go by so quickly, and our fate is to endure the loss of such interesting people, like Stanley, who impacted our lives in ways both great and small. My parents used to buy me Pelham Puppets at Klein’s. They were gorgeous hand made wooden marionettes in the form of classic fairy tale and Disney characters. I spend countless childhood hours playing with them on a puppet stage I created down in my basement at our home on Rockyfield Road. I will never forget the anticipation of our trips “downtown” to see “Sally,” and the youthful deliberations I endured around which puppet I might ask for at holiday or birthday time. Which “witch” would I choose? The green faced one, or the old crone who carried the broom stick? Would it be Pinnochio or the skeleton whose bones would scatter into what seemed like a million pieces? These glorious puppets are not made anymore, and are now collectors pieces. I wonder where mine went? Lovely memories…. Many thanks to Stanley Klein and his marvelous store of absolutely EVERYTHING….

  19. Penny Miles-Baker

    I remember Sally…Klein’s was the first place I purchased an “ALBUM” Sally was so excited to talk about music… Good memories ! Thanks Dan, for the your work

  20. Lisa Kimball

    I have so many memories of Klein’s. My parents wouldn’t let me buy comic books but I was allowed to charge books at Klein’s. It was a always a destination. RIP Stanley.

  21. So sorry to hear of your loss, Carol…. Your dad and my dad, Herbert Gladstein (owner of The Linen Closet”) were one of the few original owners of those wonderful “Mom and Pop” shops on Main St. Coincidentally they both lived in the same condo complex in Florida many year later. We were so lucky to have experienced our home away from home there on Main St. Such wonderful memories. My dad lives on but is living more in the past in his mind. We often talk about the old days and your dad and Klein’s are often discussed.

  22. I remember working in the camera department in high school, I used to wait on Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward, they only trusted Kleins with their vacation pix & family photos, cuz it was such a family oriented business….
    it was an awesome place to work, as he made sure he knew all his employees, making them feel like he cared about them, I’m sad to hear of the family’s loss, as well as such a valuable piece of Westport history is no longer there….+

  23. harriet wolfson flehinger

    I bought my first Field Guide to Birds and Field Guide to Minerals bought with my allowance at Klein’s in the late 50’s. RIP Mr Klein

  24. Meredith Klein-Hertzel (granddaughter of Stanley Klein)

    Dan, thank you for posting this. It was a wonderful blog post and my family has loved reading the kind words and comments left about my grandfather. While we know we can easily print this out, we were hoping that we could get a hard copy of this from you for my grandmother, Phyllis. Please feel free to contact me at the email address I provided. Thank you again!

  25. Look what I found the other day. I was a 1964 graduate from Staples. I am the redhead. The girl in the bangs is Pinky Ogilvy, don’t remember the other ones name. I think it is Leslie. They were a year ahead of me so had to be class of 1963. This was the older Mr. Klein in the store.

    Alida (Lidy) Engel

    Alida Engel CCC-SLP, BRS-FD*

    Center For Speech and Learning

    801 Edgewood Ave.

    New Haven, CT 06515

    203-397-3224

    *Board Recognized Specialist in Fluency Disorder

    CenterForSpeechAndLearning.com

    http://www.CenterForSpeechAndLearning.com