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).
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.”
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 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.
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.
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).
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.