The news that not one but two gelato shops are coming to Main Street is mouth-watering. They’ll be packed, and add plenty of life to downtown.
But they won’t be the first such places.
In 1954, the Ice Cream Parlor opened where Brandy Melville is now. It was an instant hit. Fred Cantor found this story from that year:
Several years later, the Ice Cream Parlor moved to Compo Shopping Center, where Cohen’s Fashion Optical is now. Its final location was on Post Road East just past Colonial Green, in what is now an office building.
Generations of Westporters remember the Ice Cream Parlor’s wrought iron chairs, penny candy, ice cream concoctions, and the “Pig’s Trough.” If you finished it, you didn’t have to pay. It was $69.95 half a century ago. That’s serious money.
A small portion of the Ice Cream Parlor menu. “The Pigs Trough” cost $69.95 — but was free if one person could eat it all in 3 hours. Above it was the “Staples Fruit Delight,” a large $2 sundae.
And of course, there was the menu, signed by everyone famous who ever enjoyed the Ice Cream Parlor.
Today’s kids are making their own childhood memories at Saugatuck Sweets — the modern-day Ice Cream Parlor.
Soon, we’ll add gelato shops to the mix. Here’s wishing them long, fruitful lives here.
And if they really want to win our hearts, they should add a Pig’s Trough.
Years from now, kids growing up in Westport today will look back with love on Saugatuck Sweets.
The Riverside Avenue hangout has it all: great ice cream, and plenty of other sweet treats. An inviting, we-want-you-here vibe. A plaza right on the river, with music and other entertainment. It’s a special go-to place for kids (of all ages).
Decades ago, the Ice Cream Parlor played a similar role. Pretending (in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s) to be an “old-fashioned” ice cream shop, it was known for sundaes, a “pig’s trough” (if you finished it all, you didn’t have to pay), and penny candy like dots you licked off wax paper (seriously?).
It was a family spot, somewhere to go after the movies, definitely a date destination.
The pink Ice Cream Parlor on the Post Road, painted by Gabrielle Dearborn. It’s now a non-pink office building.
The Ice Cream Parlor had 3 incarnations. It started on Main Street, on the first floor of the building The Brownstone recently vacated (next to what’s now Savvy + Grace and the former Tavern on Main restaurant — back then, Chez Pierre).
The Ice Cream Parlor moved to the north end of Compo Shopping Center (now Cohen’s Fashion Optical). The final spot was on the Post Road just east of Colonial Green; it’s now a real estate office, opposite Quality Towing & Auto Repair.
In 1955, Seventeen Magazine used the first location for a photo shoot. I’m not sure what the story was. But these images — sent along by Brenda Pool — are either very iconic, or very ironic.
Alert “06880” reader Ann Sheffer sent this along, from the “Exit 18” Facebook page. Lise Krieger wrote it for the Westport News. It could have been written in 2014. But the dateline was more than 20 years ago: March of 1994.
With the imminent closing of The Remarkable Book Shop, downtown Westport, as many of us knew it, is taking its final, dying breath. What used to be a unique town, filled with mom and pop stores, unusual gift and clothing shops, and family restaurants, has succumbed to the latest American disease: “malling.”
The much-loved Remarkable Book Shop. It was on the corner of Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Westporters.com)
Newcomers and younger folks love the new Westport – and why wouldn’t they? It has every chic clothing store chain that dress-alikes love to patronize. It has coffee bistros. It is expensive. Its parking lots are packed with Volvos, Jeeps, and Range Rovers. Westport is the place to shop and be seen. The mall transformation will be complete when a roof is erected over the entire area.
For comfort, I want to blame this affliction on somebody. Is it the fault of the chain store operators for wanting to increase their bottom line? Is it the fault of the consumers who desperately need to conform fashionably? Is it the fault of town government which allows the transformation? Or is it the fault of store owners who sell out?
I guess no one is to blame, really. Main Street towns all over America are dying because they can’t compete with the shopping malls sprouting like chicken pox throughout their areas. Westport is simply staying in the race.
Back in the 1970s, a Mobil station sat opposite what was then Westport Pizzeria. Today, it”s Vineyard Vines.
I grew up in Weston and spent much of my childhood on Main Street. I hardly go there anymore unless I absolutely have to. At the risk of sounding bitter, I hate the crowds, I hate the stores, I hate the entire atmosphere. Yes, nostalgia can be a powerful emotional force. I don’t want to accept Westport the way it is today; I want to remember it the way it used to be.
When my brothers and I were young, my mother shopped for our clothing basics at Greenberg’s Department Store. My brothers got their formal clothes up the Post Road at Paul Zabin’s, and I was outfitted for my party duds at Trudy Gary’s….
Often my father took me to town on Saturdays to keep him company while doing errands. I loved to visit my neighbor, Mr. Messex, who worked at Hartman’s Hardware Store. The worn wooden floor was always neatly swept, and the tools, hardware and garden equipment were always in place. The store smelled faintly of fertilizers and insect repellents. If Hartman’s was out of something we needed, my dad would visit its competitor, Welch’s, up the street.
Back in the day, there were mom-and-pop stores on Main Street. And 2-way traffic.
My father bought his office supplies at Klein’s and was a regular patron of the record section before Sally moved to her own place. We often perused the bookshelves that sat atop crooked, wooden floors at Remarkable, and Dorain’s Drug Store, recently gone from Main Street, was the only place we knew for our pharmacy needs. My father knew the names of all of the people who worked in these stores, giving the Saturday trips to town a social air, as well.
Before fueling up at the gas station where The Limited now stands, dad would take me to Bill’s Smoke Shop for a treat. We sat at the counter and ate ice cream sundaes, and then I looked at the comic book racks while my father read the paper.
One of our regular dinner stops was Westlake, a dimly lit Chinese restaurant. If we were lucky, we were seated next to a window overlooking Needle Park. That was the name given to the hangout for hippies, and it was therefore assumed, drug-users. It was Westport’s answer to the ’60s counter-culture, and always made for interesting people watching….
Main Street 1976. West Lake (left) had just closed. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
There was a musical instrument store around the corner from Main, and when Baskin-Robbins went in across the street, a night at the movies took on new meaning. While my mother usually shopped for groceries at the less costly Stop and Shop, Westport Food Center and Gristede’s were there for forgotten items.
At night the greatest place to go for a bottle of wine and some live folk music was Grass Roots, which shared a wall with its rowdier counterpart, Ye Olde Bridge Grille. My parents often ate at Chez Pierre, while my friends and I stopped at competing pizza parlors, the Westport Pizzeria and S & M—both of which are still there, thank God….
One of the saddest deaths in Westport was the closing of the Ice Cream Parlor. The big pink palace was special for my brothers and me, a place where we bought bags full of penny candy from the turn of the century candy shop, ate hamburgers and ice cream sundaes in the ornately decorated parlor, and watched old 5-cent movies on the machines that hovered in the corner of the room.
The Ice Cream Parlor was a one-of-a-kind place, the kind of establishment that gave Westport its character. But it’s gone and soon its pink sister, The Remarkable Book Store, will be gone too. While the new Westport generation will have its Gap, J. Crew, and Banana Republic memories, mine will be of two pink ladies and a handful of one-of-a-kind shops.
The Ice Cream Parlor, on the Post Road not far from Main Street.
We searched all week for a photo of the iconic hangout.
Finally, we found one.
This was the Ice Cream Parlor’s 3rd location, next to Colonial Green and across from the now-closed Getty station.
Nelson Morgan — a Staples Class of 1953 graduate, who calls himself a “Westport expatriate now living in Milford” — sent it along.
He said it’s from “the late 1950s or early ’60s.” I think it’s later. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, the Ice Cream Parlor was located first on Main Street (next to what is now Tavern on Main), then in Compo Shopping Center (the current site of Cohen’s eyewear store).
More telling is the sign above the door on the left. It read “The Rage Boutique/Clothiers.”
The shop selling “groovy” clothes was located underneath the Ice Cream Parlor. “Boutiques” were not “the rage” until the mid-’60s.
Penny candy and syrupy drinks in wax bottles upstairs. Fringe vests and go-go boots downstairs.
On Sunday, “06880” reported on the return of an ice cream parlor to Westport. The post was illustrated with a snippet of a menu from the old, much-loved Ice Cream Parlor downtown.
Two days later, I added Tracy Sugarman’s 1950s drawing of teenagers inside the popular hangout.
Now — thanks to Kathie Bennewitz — I’ve got an entire front cover of the menu.
But not just any menu. Kathie — the town’s art curator — says this one was signed by dozens of actors.They performed at the Westport Country Playhouse. After shows, they crossed the Post Road for a treat.
Among the names: Elizabeth Taylor. Mike Todd. Claude Raines. Sid Caesar. Eli Wallach. Kirk Douglas. David Wayne. Dorothy Gish. Gene Tierney. Bert Lahr. Doris Day.
A couple of hours after posting this morning’s “06880” — wondering why there’s a “Remember When?” sign in the storefront of Saugatuck Craft Butchery, which expanded across the street — we’ve got an answer.
An anonymous — but tuned-in — Westporter says the new tenant will be an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor. Serving gelato.
That’s perfect. It brings back the much-loved “Ice Cream Parlor” concept. Its 3 incarnations — on Main Street next to the current Tavern on Main; in Compo Shopping Center where Cohen Fashion opticians is now; finally further west on the Post Road across from the now-vacant Getty gas station — were beloved Westport institutions.
The pink Ice Cream Parlor on the Post Road, painted by Gabrielle Dearborn. It’s now a non-pink office building.
One of the best features of the new Saugatuck Center redevelopment is its emphasis on fun, local businesses — a kayak place, that Craft butchery, restaurants and a new gourmet market. The lone chain — Dunkin Donuts — blends in nicely with the rest of Bridge Square.
But this is not your father’s Saugatuck. Gelato is the new vanilla.
And — mamma mia! — it’s Italian, too.
A small portion of the vast Ice Cream Parlor menu.
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