Friday Flashback #287

Bruce Miller is the Westport Country Playhouse company manager. He is my go-to guy whenever I need to know, say, how many times some newly deceased actor appeared on stage there, in the 1940s.

But this post is not about the Playhouse.

Bruce writes:

Though I’ve been at the Playhouse since 2001, my family has a Westport connection that goes back a couple dozen years before that.

I’ve just found 4 Polaroids from 1975.  My dad, Dick Miller, had recently purchased Welch’s Hardware on Main Street. It’s currently the location of Shoe-Inn.

Dick Miller, with his Welch’s vehicle.

Dad had been on the road as a wholesale salesman to independent hardware stores throughout the state. When he learned the long-time Westport store was available, he and his cousin Chuck Steinbrick jumped at the chance to own their own place.

They joined competitors at Westport Hardware on the other end of Main Street. Both provided the town with personal, knowledgeable service.

Welch’s Hardware on Main Street. Note that traffic was two-way then.

Within a year they also purchased Harrison’s Hardware in Milford. Chuck continued to run Welch’s, while my dad managed the much larger store up the coast.

He also enticed me to leave my teaching career in Ohio so I could join him in retail. Eventually we were joined by my mother, 2 brothers, an aunt, uncle and numerous cousins. Hardware, paint, and plumbing supplies became the focus of family dinner conversations!

The arrival of big box store in the mid-1980s led to the demise of many family owned shops, Welch’s among them.

Until then, Main Street had mostly independent stores. I still shop downtown, and I still find helpful, friendly clerks. But I miss the unique mix of stores and personalities that made Main Street a special place to shop.

Parker Harding Plaza entrance to Welch’s Hardware. (Photos courtesy of Bruce Miller)

7 responses to “Friday Flashback #287

  1. Edna R.S. Alvarez

    SUGGESTION: you should have a donate button on EVERY post – maybe at the bottom. I read your email the other day about making a contribution and got busy and then wanted to do it today. You are providing a service to people and people should acknowledge that service with a donation. I would like to do so. A small one -as 1 I am no longer in Westport – was in the ‘50s and ‘60s and 2. read infrequently – but enjoy when I do.

  2. Peter Barlow

    I remember Mr. Welch at Welch’s Hardware. When I had a flat tire on my bicycle I would wheel it into his store (earliest photo there) and he would fix it. If other customers came in he would get up and wait on them and then come back to my bike. He would charge me 10 cents. I was about 11.

  3. Yes, Main Street was a much nicer place, in my opinion, with local shops selling everyday items. I remember Schor’s Hardware at Compo Center, too.Thank heavens Westport Hardware is still around, and quite an excellent store too.

  4. Bruce, here’s one more pic showing your family’s store in the mid-70s. If you’d like a higher-quality image, I can email you one. Dan has my email address.

  5. Peter Gambaccini

    They (Welch’s) were the sponsors of my Little League team.

  6. There was also Hartmann’s Hardware downtown. I had one of my first jobs working there in the late 60’s and owner Bill Betts was a great guy.