Tag Archives: Ed Mitchell’s

Friday Flashback #179

In 1958, Ed Mitchell quit his job in New York. He and his wife Norma opened a small clothing store on the Post Road (State Street), near North Compo. (Today’s it’s a People’s Bank branch.)

The original Ed Mitchell’s.

It was a huge risk — and a true family venture.

Ed’s mother was the tailor. Norma brewed the coffee.

Just before the new store opened Ed, his sons Jack and Bill, and their AFS student Per Haarr headed to the train station early in the morning.

They bought up the concessionaire’s New York Times supply, and plenty of coffee. Then they stapled this flyer with a catchy poem to the papers, and handed them to commuters waiting for the train:

It worked. Ed Mitchell’s flourished.

Today it’s called Mitchells of Westport. The family — soon to be on their 4th generation, with Jack and Bill’s grandchildren ready to move up — owns 8 stores, on the East and West Coasts.

And — including free coffee — the Mitchells’ customer service is as special and strong as it was 62 years ago.

Mille Grazie, Rafaella Sforza

Half a century ago, Aldo and Rafaella Sforza left their native Calabria, Italy for America.

Their 1st stop — Rochester, New York — was “too cold,” Rafaella says.

Moving to Connecticut in 1968, she worked as a tailor at Ed Mitchell’s. Her husband — also a tailor — was hired by Pack Roads.

Six years later, Aldo opened his own shop on the 2nd floor in the back of Colonial Green. It flourished. When he needed more help, Rafaella joined him.

Eight years ago, Aldo died. Rafaella has worked alone since then.

Now — at the end of the month — she’s retiring. “I can’t go on forever,” she says. “I hope God gives me a few more years to spend with my wonderful children, and my 2 lovely grandchildren.”

Rafaella Sforza, at her trusty sewing machine. She is surrounded by her beloved Vatican artifacts.

Rafaella Sforza, at her trusty sewing machine. She is surrounded by beloved Vatican artifacts.

Leaving is not easy. “It’s good to retire, but I feel so empty,” Rafaella says with emotion. “This is a like a big family. My customers, they’re good people. They make me feel so good. Everyone is happy. Everyone is so nice.”

Rafaella’s customers are devastated. Carolyn Cohen says, “She did old world- quality work for the most reasonable prices.

“But the best part was getting to know her. She was an oasis in a crazy world. She always had a smile and a hug, including my kids who adore her. She approached them as a kind, caring grandmother. She talked them into lowering their skirt and dress hemlines, which I could never do!”

Rafaella has watched generations grow up, move away, come back and start families. That includes her landlords.

“Please say how much gratitude I have for Mr. Leo Nevas and his family,” she says. “And Mr. Marc Nevas. I knew him when he was in short pants. Now he’s a professional man. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”

Westport, she says, “is like my hometown. But this is life. The time has come.”

Rafaella pauses, overcome with emotion.

“Can you please say thank you to everyone?” she asks.

I can.

But more importantly, Rafaella Sforza: Thank you!