Yesterday’s announcement that J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy did not affect many Westporters. The chain’s closest locations are in Trumbull and Danbury, and it’s been fading from public consciousness for years.
But there is (of course) a local connection.
When the founder of what was then a retailing behemoth died in 1971, age 95, the New York Times obituary noted that into his 90s he commuted 3 days a week from Connecticut to the store’s 6th Avenue headquarters in New York.
He lived for many years on Beachside Avenue, just south of the entrance to Greens Farms Academy.
The Times added this anecdote:
His conviction that merchants should exert themselves to serve their customers reached an inadvertent extreme a few years ago. A new resident of Westport, Conn., needed some paint in a hurry and looked up J. C. Penney in the phone book.
When a man answered the call, the potential customer asked, “Does the Penney Company sell paint?” The man re plied, “I believe we do, but let me confirm it.” He was heard dialing and then speaking on another phone. Returning to the inquirer, he said, “Yes, we do.”
What the caller did not know until later was that he had not been speaking to someone at J. C. Penney store, but to James Cash Penney, the founder, then in his late 83’s, who was also a Westport resident.
(For the full obituary of J.C. Penney, click here.)