Friday Flashback #359

Drivers struck in traffic on Saugatuck Avenue — in other words, all of us — have been intrigued by the transformation of #58.

The tiny brick storefront — home to, at various times, a barbershop, catering kitchen, liquor store and (most recently, but a while back) a pop-up art gallery — has been renovated.

The red brick is now white. The interior and exterior are spruced up. There is still, however, no parking.

A recent “06880” story about the building sparked Ellen Naftalin’s memory.

The 1967 Staples High School graduate (Ellen Barker, then) found this photo —

— and wrote:

“My mother is driving her first car. Her sister Lyn is beside her; my grandparents in the back seat. I don’t know who is sitting on the back.

“The DeMeo family had that house above the store, built in 1922 along with the little store at the edge of the road and the house next door for my grandfather’s brother Luco DeMeo.  Julia M. Gault co-signed for the loan.” (The DeMeos house has also been rehabilitated lately.)

“Many years later, when my Aunt Palma was still living there but had fallen on hard times, I went to the Gaults, who were having their 150th anniversary celebration at the Westport Historical Society where I was working, and asked them to help fix up her 90-year-old furnace to get her through the winter.

“I showed them how their grandmother had helped start the DeMeo family. Not only did they fix the furnace; they also put in a bunch of oil. No charge.

“My grandfather Samuel DeMeo emigrated from Italy. My grandmother Carolyn (Carrie) Chappa was born here.

“Grandpa had a nursery on the corner of Sunrise and Saugatuck Avenue, where the duplex is now.

“He also had a beautiful greenhouse, where I spent many hours watching him poke holes and plant seeds in soil. That gave rise to his store in the photo: SAM DE MEO FLORIST.

“I still have the hand-whittled poker he used to plant his flowers. It’s a treasure of days gone by.”

What’s going in the new building?

That’s up to the owner. Current zoning allows almost any retail use, from another catering kitchen or gallery to a law office, or an artist’s or interior designer’s studio.

Or — who knows — perhaps a florist.

BONUS PHOTO: Andrew Colabella found this 1940 photo of Ellen Naftalin’s mother, Ellen DeMeo, at “Westport’s finest & most modern non-synthetic dry cleaning plant: not far away, on Railroad Place.” The owner was Joel Strauss.

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8 responses to “Friday Flashback #359

  1. Thank you for sharing these amazing photos!

  2. Fabulous photos and wonderful local history! Thanks for sharing.

    When my co-author and I did our Images of America book on Fresh Meadows years ago, we discovered that a number of the best images capturing local history and lifestyle were to be found in the personal collections/albums of residents or former residents.

    Maybe a longtime local history buff such as Mary Gai will lead the way in putting together such a book on Westport—and I am confident the two photos above would be worthy of inclusion in that.

  3. Many thanks to Ellen Barkin Naftalin for sharing the photo of 58 Saugatuck Avenue and the capsule history and to Andrew Colabella for contributing the photo of Ellen DeMeo.

    I’m adding these treasures and Dan’s piece to my documented history of 58 Saugatuck Avenue and 1 & 3 Sunrise Road to be shared at a later date with current and future owners.

    Thanks for the memories!

  4. Also, Dan, for the record the owner’s name was Joel Strauss. It was my fault when I posted the photo in Old Phots of Westport I misremembered his name and thankfully a relative of his corrected me. I think my mother was sweet on him. I’ll send you his photo too.

  5. Thank you Dan for posting/ writing this story!! So great to read about family history. You are a treasure! Julia DeMeo

  6. We used to live close by in a little cottage at 1 Franklin Street, now a parking lot.

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