Friday Flashback #306

I have only a vague recollection of The Separate Shop. That’s okay — I was not the women’s clothing store’s target audience. Plus, it opened before I was born, and was in my early teens when it was sold.

I have better memories of The Ice Cream Parlor — a teeny bit in its first location (most recently, by Tavern on Main), much better after it moved to Post Road East (next to Colonial Green, opposite Salsa Fresca).

The Ice Cream Parlor, on the Post Road.

But those memories pale compared to Butzi Moffitt’s. She owned them both.

And at 94, she talks about them as if those 1950s and ’60s days were yesterday.

Butzi’s Southport home is filled with photos. (And — in the kitchen — an actual wrought-iron Ice Cream Parlor table.)

Those photos include Butzi with Marilyn Monroe. She was great friends with Milton Greene, the Weston photographer who helped make the actress famous.

“She was sweet, caring, gentle,” Butzi recalls. “Not a tough cookie at all.”

Marilyn Monroe (right) and Butzi Moffett (left), at a New York party. (Photo/Milton H. Greene)

Butzi became a store owner in 1952. She worked for a woman who owned an “unsuccessful” dress shop.

“I thought women’s sportswear would be more popular,” Butzi says. The Separate Shop opened in Sconset Square — then called Sherwood Square — and soon there were “lines out the door.”

At Christmas, customers filled out “want books.” They told their husbands just to go to The Separate Shop; Butzi and her staff would pick out what the wives wanted.

The store delivered too — via horse — within a 1 1/2-mile radius.

The Separate Shop, in Sherwood (not Sconset) Square.

The store’s name comes from her plan to sell items — skirts, blouses, etc. — “separately.” She had always found it difficult, as a “short-waisted woman,” to buy a one-piece dress without alterations. She realized that a wardrobe of separates could solve problems of those who were “too tall and long-waisted, the top-heavy, the large hipped, the too round and too thin,” a Westport Town Crier story said.

It added: “One of the first of the so-called ‘country stores’ to combine high style with more conventional items, the Separate Shop is often referred to in the garment business as ‘the grandmother of the trade.'”

An undated story in a retailing magazine noted, “The Separate Shop now does $200,000 woth of business a year and has achieved etailing fame as a major launching point for such now-established items as Shetland sweaters, Bermuda shorts, car coats and, more recently, the long ‘at home’ dinner skirt.”

Marilyn Monroe was a regular customer, Butzi says. She bought cashmere sweaters in 3 sizes — 32, 24 and 36 — to wear in different seasons.

The Ice Cream Parlor opened in 1953. She and her then-husband, Robert Beach, could not find good old-fashioned ice cream around here.

They learned of a country store going out of business in Saratoga Springs, New York. The bought what they needed, and brought it to Westport.

The concept was “nostalgia” — in the 1950s, for an earlier time. The old-fashioned ice cream parlor featured a marble soda fountain, wire-backed chairs, nickelodeon, penny candy and syrup in wax bottles.

Outside the Ice Cream Parlor …

It boasted that its “ice cream concoctions” were part of “the pomp and splendor, the gaudy, gay and garulous [sic] of an era past and a child’s wildest dreams come true.”

It was an instant hit, Butzi says.

… and inside. (This is from a 1955 Seventeen magazine photo shoot.)

The Separate Shop and Ice Cream Parlor were not Butzi’s only successes. She owned the Pack Roads men’s store, opposite Remarkable Book Shop at the Main Street entrance to Parker Harding Plaza (near where the Separate Shop relocated in the 1960s).

Pack Roads, near the second locatio nof the Separate Shop. (Photo/Peter Barlow)

Butzi also helped design costumes, and the scrim, for the Westport Country Playhouse.

She owned an apartment one block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and spent 50 years as a docent.

Butzi married Peter Moffitt in 1962. She sold the Separate Shop 2 years later, when their twins were born.

Noting the closing, the Town Crier wrote: “While wishing the new owners of the Separate Shop all sorts of luck and Butsy [sic] Moffitt a happy retirement, we have a sneaking suspicion that her boundless energy will probably take her out of the house and back into the business world before long.”

Nearly 60 years later, the Separate Shop, Pack Roads and Ice Cream Parlor are part of Westport’s long-ago past.

Less than 6 years away from her 100th birthday, meanwhile, Butzi Moffitt, still has plenty of energy.

And many, many memories.

Butzi Moffett in her Southport home. She put the earrings on the portrait of Judy Garland. (Photo/Dan Woog)

18 responses to “Friday Flashback #306

  1. Dallas Kersey

    Wonderful story, well told

  2. Michael Boyle

    Butzi is a wonderful neighbor and we have spoken to her and her aid Christine several times as they perambulate around the library area in Southport. Great article and a nod to her three daughters and several grandchildren all in the area.

  3. mary schmerker

    This post is full of wonderful memories for me. I remember all the stores and locations. As a teenager of course the Ice Cream Parlor was the absolute best. I think I even remember the Seventeen picture. But perhaps what I am remembering is not seeing it in the magazine but seeing it reposted elsewhere. Please tell Mrs. Moffett that she added so much pleasure to my teen years in Westport.

  4. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    Wow Dan, this story takes me back. I definitely remember the Separate Shop as my father would take my sister and I along when he went to shop for my mother for various holidays. I also recall the Ice Cream Parlor (but my parents preferred Carvels) as well as Pack Roads. Thanks for sharing Butzi’s story.

  5. When my family moved here in 1963, I remember going to the Ice Cream Parlor—it was in the corner of the Compo Shopping Center (a few stores past Gold’s). What year did that move happen and how long was it located there? Thanks.
    PS—Great photo of Village Square by Peter Barlow.

  6. Celeste Champagne

    I would to hear a talk by Bugzilla. Perhaps at the Library?

    • When I worked at the Ice Cresm Parlor in about 1973, the owner was a widow named Phyllis. Her husband had only recently passed. They lived in the apartment above the store on the Post Road. They must have bought it from the original owner.

  7. Maggie Moffitt Rahe

    Photo of Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland by Milton H. Greene!
    Great article! Thank you Dan…

  8. Cathy Barnett

    I was a frequent customer of Separate Shop back in the early 70s. I worked at Famous Schools and they had a dress code for gals, ,no slacks
    at work. So I bought mostly skirts and blouses and sweaters at SS.

    Just wondering how did Pack Roads get its name?

  9. Susan Huppi

    Many many years ago I was a waitress at the ice cream parlor. And I visited with my family there too. I remember r the nickelodeon …stepping right into cool

  10. Don’t forget the rockin’ disco on Wednesday nights! It was great!

  11. Wonderful, thank you.

  12. Butzi is a true living legend and the Sopkin family loves her dearly!!

  13. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    1966,I was at Norwalk Hospital getting my tonsils out ,ugh. Next day, my parents brought
    me a bag of goodies from Ice Cream Parlor 🙂 (..with those tiny ‘waxy’ flavored? soda bottles..
    the tiny round candies,’pasted’ on paper..:-)

  14. Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

    A life well lived adding to the wonderful fabric of Westport for years. Thank you Dan and thank you Butzi.

  15. Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

    and one last comment… a night to remember was at the Ice Cream Parlor when Barry and the Remains rocked that place off its foundation…

  16. Stephen Dickstein

    Nice one, Dan! Do you remember Viva Zapata in an old car wash building across from crest in where playhouse square parking lot is currently?