Friday Flashback #263

No bygone business has been mentioned more in “06880” than the Remarkable Book Shop.

The Main Street/Parker Harding corner store was a beloved, comfortable, meeting place. Whenever I need a reference point for a locally owned, customer-centric shop: Bingo!

But the Remarkable comes up in other ways too. There’s the Remarkable Bookcycle, a three-wheeled, mobile homage complete with the same pink color and logo.

There’s the Remarkable Theater, our downtown drive-in theater that takes its name directly — and fittingly — from that long-ago other entertainment option.

More recently, Cold Fusion Gelato — located opposite the former shop — hung the wooden “Remarkable Guy” inside, looking out on his old haunt.

And now Local to Market has opened on the book shop’s old site, offering food and crafts in a down-home way reminiscent of its predecessor.

But in all my references to the Remarkable Book Shop, I never knew that it was also part of a very popular children’s book.

The other day, alert “06880” reader Kerry Long spotted a Remarkable reference on Instagram. A user posted 2 images from Richard Scarry’s 1968 Random House classic, What Do People Do All Day?

There in the lower right corner — below drawings of a poet, artist and writer — was the Remarkable Book Shop.

A close-up shows that Scarry included the name of the proprietor: E. Kramer.

That would be Esther Kramer — the actual owner of the Westport store. (Regular “06880” readers know that the “Remarkable” name comes from “Kramer” spelled backward.)

So — decades later — the Remarkable Book Shop still lives. And not just on “06880,” but Instagram too.



14 responses to “Friday Flashback #263

  1. Wendy Kramer Posner

    Dan – the reason that My Mom’s beloved Remarkable appeared in What do People Do all Day, is that Sidney Kramer, for many years was Richard Scarry’s agent! I believe that Scarry, his wife Patsy and son Huck lived in Westport for a while. Richard included the graphic hat tip as a “gift” to his good friend Esther Kramer, Prop.

  2. Love this remarkable tidbit of Westport history!! Smiling! Thanks ♥️

  3. Richard Scarry lived on Bradley St., I think the second house in from the beach road. I got to know Dick and Patsy and their son Huck after first meeting them at the harbor where they had a small sailboat. They were delightful people. Patsy was vivacious! I visited them at their house where Dick also had his studio. You wouldn’t know how successful they were by their easy-going manner. After a couple of years here they moved to Switzerland where they stayed.

  4. Isabelle Breen

    Back in the 1990’s I went to an open house on Bradley st. ( I believe it was the 2nd from the beach) and the realtor showing the house said Richard Scarry used to live there. My kids loved his books, so I was glad to hear about it.

  5. i was listening to an NPR piece the other day about the retail real estate glut, and the reporter mentioned that one bright spot was the resurgence of the independent bookstore, along with other local specialty merchants. Maybe someone should try it now that the rents have declined? I realize it’s tough with Barnes & Noble in that fantastic new location, but Westport once supported two bookstores on the same block: Remarkable and Klein’s. To really go back to the future, how about combining books with stationery, office and school supplies — a la Klein’s. I for one would be delighted to avoid the horrible experience of going to Staples.

    • Eileen Lavigne Flug

      psblau, you might want to check out the delightful new Westport Book Shop at 23 Jesup Road, right across from the Library. It’s a nonprofit, used book shop employing adults with disabilities and benefiting the Library. They have a monthly local art show to boot!

  6. You are making me cry! Oh so wonderful. Now I will order that book for my grandchildren and be able to share the back story with them. Remarkable in all ways.

  7. Isabelle Breen

    If memory serves me there was even a Waldenbooks store on the west side of Main st.

  8. Alicia Merritt

    Remarkable at the top of Main and Ships Tavern at the bottom with Klein’s, Gristedes, and, of all things, a gas station in the middle. They sold me on settling in Westport in 1985. The town’s charm was definitely diminished when they closed.

  9. Bonnie Bradley

    HOW BRADLEY STREET CAME TO BE: In 1682 David Bradley purchased land for his onion farm on what became the south/east corner of Appletree Trail and Compo Beach road. The Bradley farmhouse still stands on that corner, I believe. Along with the onion fields, the beach in its entirety was included in the purchase.. yes, all the way, including from Soundview to the cannons. David was allegedly a cranky old man who grew angry at the townspeople who walked, or fished, or wanted to launch a small boat, whatever, from “his property.”in addition, he erected his own “bath houses” for public hire. The bath houses were shacks, horrible eyesores. Finally the townspeople of Westport rebelled and took David to the highest Court in Connecticut. The sentiments were against David and the Town prevailed. Compo Beach was awarded to Westport. David received a financial pittance.

    David had twin sons, Ernest and Irving. There was still a remaining section of the land which belonged to their father, a parcel which they developed into plots of land for small houses. Bradley Street became the anchor of this land, creating a border to the Bradley farm from south to north. Identical streets were created from west to eastand given names of other local towns. The twins may have built the first homes themselves but I’m not sure.

    David Bradley was my great, great, great grandfather.

    Bonnie Bradley

  10. Wendy Kramer Posner

    As long as we are strolling down Memory Lane (Bradley St.) here’s a bit more info about Richard Scarry.
    He was inspired by illustrations and amassed a very large collection of visual reference and children’s books from all over the world. My kids were just learning to read when the Scarry’s left Westport, Much of that library was shipped to Chicago for Ben and Dinah, the Kramer grandchildren.
    The collection was well used and then stored in my basement, where the dogeared volumes rested for over 30 years.
    These boxes re-surfaced during COVID housecleaning. I’ve given many of the books to my young neighbors, including a few that were signed by Scarry signifying his ownership. I think Richard would be pleased to know that both his own works and those many slim volumes are still in circulation.

    Another note: It was from Richard that I learned about the Duden Pictorial Dictionaries. (I believe that Duden are the German Webster’s.) One of their successful lines (perhaps later sold to Oxford Press?) included Dictionaries that showed specific objects/people/animals, etc. (I’ve tried to post an example but had no success .)
    Richard often worked from Duden drawings to correctly garb and fit-out his animal kingdom. This link shows some of how he did his research.

  11. The Remarkable Book Shop was my after school job from May, 1964 to June, 1966 (shipping and receiving plus janitorial). I was hired and managed by the most remarkable Barbara Stearns, a woman who has remained close to my heart all these years. The building on the corner of Main and Parker-Harding was originally a house that dates to the Revolutionary War. Once. in the basement, I noticed the floor joists were anchored with wooden pegs rather than metal nails or screws. The character on the outside of the store, a dancing cat in a top hat and striped scarf, was also from a children’s book.

  12. Huck and I were good buddies in elementary school (Saugatuck). Even at a early age he was a talented artist and I remember being amazed at how good his drawings were. Appletree Trail reminds me of the Jones sisters, Judy and Pam. Where are they now?