Friday Flashback #179

In 1958, Ed Mitchell quit his job in New York. He and his wife Norma opened a small clothing store on the Post Road (State Street), near North Compo. (Today’s it’s a People’s Bank branch.)

The original Ed Mitchell’s.

It was a huge risk — and a true family venture.

Ed’s mother was the tailor. Norma brewed the coffee.

Just before the new store opened Ed, his sons Jack and Bill, and their AFS student Per Haarr headed to the train station early in the morning.

They bought up the concessionaire’s New York Times supply, and plenty of coffee. Then they stapled this flyer with a catchy poem to the papers, and handed them to commuters waiting for the train:

It worked. Ed Mitchell’s flourished.

Today it’s called Mitchells of Westport. The family — soon to be on their 4th generation, with Jack and Bill’s grandchildren ready to move up — owns 8 stores, on the East and West Coasts.

And — including free coffee — the Mitchells’ customer service is as special and strong as it was 62 years ago.

17 responses to “Friday Flashback #179

  1. Chip Stephens SHS 73

    The Mitchell’s have always been the most professional, accommodating and kind business family anywhere, Back in the day, Bill actually opened the store on a Sunday, then closed on Sundays, to allow my brother and I to get suits for our departed Grandfathers funeral the next day. Always giving, allowing car washes for team fund raising in their parking area, and the offer to allow parking with the Temple on Hillspoint to allow its construction.
    The kid area, the attention to detail, and the professional friendly staff. No wonder this Mom and Pop has grown, thrives and keeps giving.
    Thank you Mitchell family !

  2. That’s great.

  3. Mitchell’s is more than a family business. It is a case study on how focus to service and quality leads to success. It is difficult to consider what Westport would have been had Ed Mitchell not chosen to stop riding the train! The Mitchell’s have given so much to Westport

  4. A great success, a great family, a Westport icon.

  5. Wonderful Store Wonderful Family! Such a great success story.
    Well deserved!!!

  6. Charles Taylor

    My first crew neck sweater – fall 1958 fresh from Western KY

  7. Phil Bancroft

    Our family loves the friendly faces and amazing customer services we always receive when we step into the store. Thank you all.

  8. Charlie Taylor

    Love the Mitchell’s. I played football with Billy and we graduated together in ‘61

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  9. Per Haarr, unfortunately, died in an accident in Norway in 1961, when he was 22 years old. Per an 06880 entry he was a track star.

  10. Dennis Poster

    wonderful story
    terrific family
    good good

  11. David "Jonesy" Jones

    These guys are the real deal!
    CONGRATULATIONS!

  12. Peter Kelley, Centerport NY

    My favorite Ed Mitchell story: When I got out the USAF and returned from New Mexico in September 1965, I’d stopped to visit my girlfriend in NYC on my way home to Westport. The next morning in NYC, I went out to my car and found to my horror a broken car window and all my clothes and uniforms stolen. A common occurrence in NYC those days, as I unfortunately learned. Arriving home, I was in a real quandary with literally only the clothes I had on my back to my name! In a day or so, I went to Mitchells armed with the assurance that I’d be covered by my parents homeowners policy for the theft. Mitchell’s had by then relocated westward down the hill to a store across from the Congregational Church. I was welcomed by Bill and his Dad along with Frank McBaron (?) the owner of the shoe concession inside Mitchell’s. They allowed me, a poor and recently discharged veteran to open a charge account without question. From that day and with their expert help, I quickly became a well-dressed civilian again, with a full brand-new wardrobe, to which I continued to make more additions over that Fall. And the coffee pot was always on. I still have a few favorite ties, a tweed sport coat, and a pair of wingtip shoes in my closet, over 50 years later! And believe it or not, they still fit— sort of! Although I don’t live in Westport today, Mitchell’s has now expanded, and is but a mile away from me, right here in Huntington NY, just about 8 nautical miles across the Sound from Westport! Don’t need much in clothes in retirement but I’ll have to stop in one of these days….

  13. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    My first charge account and source for my favorite Lacoste shirts as a Staples student. What a great store.

  14. Peter Gambaccini

    I didn’t realize there was an Ed Mitchell-Per Haarr connection. I learn new things here, Dan.

    • A very tight connection. Jack Mitchell was the first AFS student ever from Staples. The next year, the Mitchell family hosted Per Haarr — the legendary Norwegian athlete, who could have been an Olympic decathlon star. When he died a couple of years later (he drowned while running from his home to his military base in Norway), Jack went to the funeral. The Mitchell family remained close to Per’s mother for years afterward.

      • What I remember about Per Haarr is that he broke the Staples school record in the high jump long held by our neighbor George “Nook” Powers. It took a guy from Norway to top Mr. Powers’ record. I thought Haarr’s record should of come with a Roger Maris style * since he was only a one year exchange student. LOL.

  15. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    Away for the weekend I am just now seeing this post. Mitchell’s was and is the best. I was in the same Staples class, 1958, as Per Haarr and remember him and even the reports of his tragic death but I did not know that the Mitchell’s were his host family. Wonderful story and connection.