Tag Archives: Oscar’s Deli

Friday Flashback #187

COVID-19 has given many of us time to clean attics, basements, garages — all those places we haven’t organized in years.

Alert “06880” reader and native Westporter Nikki Zeoli did just that in her parents’ basement. She found this “Townopoloy Game”:

“I imagine it was from some fundraiser years ago,” she says.

“It denotes some cool old Westport establishments, like the Remarkable Book Shop, Quigley Electric, Bambi Lynn’s Dance Academy, Soup’s On, Silver’s, Daybreak Nurseries and CameraArts. Do you know anything more?”

I don’t. I’m guessing it’s from the late 1970s or early ’80s — my reference is point is Masters Sports Cafe, which occupied a cavernous space near the present Michaels Arts & Crafts around that time.

If anyone remembers this game — or any of its now-gone businesses — click “Comments” below.

Photo Challenge #249

I thought last week’s Photo Challenge might be too tough for any “06880” reader.

I did not reckon on Mary Papageorge and Lynn Untermeyer Miller.

Both knew that Amy Schneider’s image of a painted smiling face is located on the back side of the large star sculpture that Howard Munce created years ago. It sits on the bank of the Saugatuck River, in Parker Harding Plaza directly behind Rye Ridge Deli.

The fisherman — that’s what the face is — faces the river. It’s not easy to see — and not too many people actually stroll by there (though it is a nice, beautiful spot).

Mary no doubt knows it because the Papageorge family owned Oscar’s — the long-time, beloved predecessor to Rye Ridge.

Lynn knows it because — well, she sees and knows everything.

Can Mary, Lynn and/or you figure out this week’s Photo Challenge? If you think you know, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Tim Woodruff)

 

Lee Lives!

The death of Lee Papageorge more than a year ago left a hole in the heart of downtown.

He’d closed Oscar’s — the deli he owned for more than 40 years — just a week earlier.

The end of Oscar’s meant more than the loss of a place with great pastrami and pickles. There was now no place on Main Street for a meal with friends — a spot where regulars always sat at the same table, and everyone (or at least the counter guys) knew your name.

Rye Ridge — the popular Stamford and Rye Brook kosher-style deli — signed a lease. It’s taken many months to renovate the site. But the good news is: They’re opening in a couple of weeks.

Rye Ridge renovations are nearly done.

The better news is: Some of Oscar’s old employees may be back.

And here’s the icing on the cake lox on the bagel: The owner of the new deli arranged with the Papageorge family to hang the iconic Oscar’s mural in the same spot it had been since 1982.

The Oscar’s mural — back at Rye Ridge Deli. (Photos/David Waldman)

Many regulars depicted on the wall are gone. So of course is Lee — the guy with the beard and red apron, all the way on the left.

Now he’s back, standing proudly with his friends and customers.

Rye Ridge’s reverence for the past is important. Here’s wishing them a run as long and successful as Oscar’s — and Lee’s.

Andrew Colabella’s Summer

When this story was posted — at 10:20 a.m. — there was 1 minute of summer left. Autumn arrives at 10:21.

In honor of one of Westport’s 4 favorite seasons, “06880” photographer Andrew Colabella sent along these images. All were taken here, late in the day, throughout the summer.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. Enjoy! And don’t forget to mark your calendar.

Summer arrives on June 21, 2017. At 12:24 a.m.

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What Did Oscar’s And Lee Mean To You?

Lee Papageorge’s death yesterday at 65 from lung cancer came just a week after he closed his Oscar’s delicatessen. The events mark the end of a long era on Main Street

As a final tribute, please click “Comments” below to share what the man and the store meant to you. As always, please use your full, real name.

Oscar's owner Lee Papageorge.

Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge.

The Original Oscar’s

As Westport grapples with the closing of Oscar’s — the last mom-and-pop place on Main Street — alert “06880” reader Jim Gray sent along a photo of the original deli, a few doors down.

Oscars - original

Oscar’s next-door neighbor — Westport Hardware — burned to the ground in 1976. It’s now the site of the 3-story Gap building.

Jim recalls:

Oscar’s started out with a real Oscar. Oscar Sisken and his wife, Sally, ran it for many years along with Sally’s brother, Benny. They drove in from Bridgeport, and were open every day from 8 am to 6 pm with the exception of Wednesday.

On Wednesday Oscar came in early, and made potato salad and cole slaw for the week. I believe he also made his own pickles, which he sold for a nickel each! In those days the rolls and bagels were 5 cents each. A loaf of rye bread was 29 cents.

In later years Benny was unable to work so Sally’s nephews, Peter and Harold Epstein, helped Oscar. (Their father, Sid Epstein, managed Maxine Furs diagonally across the stree.) When Oscar was ready to retire he sold the business to Joe Milici, a hair dresser who worked at a salon a few doors down the street.

Joe ran the business from the original location for several years, and hired Lee to help him. When a rumor circulated that Gold’s Deli was considering opening on Main Street, Joe decided to expand before Gold’s came in and took over. That’s when he moved Oscar’s to its present location. When Joe retired and moved to Florida, he sold the business to Lee.

The Last Pastrami

Hundreds of current Westporters, former Westprters and work-in-or-pass-through Westporters streamed downtown today.

They joined employees, former employees and family members of Lee Papageorge at Oscar’s, the Main Street deli/gathering place/home away from home he’s owned since 1971.

Lee is hospitalized, battling lung cancer. Today is Oscar’s last day; it closes tomorrow.

One longtime customer said, “It was a place where millionaires sat next to homeless people. And no one knew the difference. Lee treated them all the same.”

As the large crowd honored the history and heritage of Oscar’s — and the man who, for more than 4 decades has made it a warm welcoming and wonderful place — it was clear that, in a town not known for agreeing on much, one thing is certain:

Main Street will never be the same.

A typical scene, seen for the last time.

A typical scene, seen for the last time.

For decades, this mural has depicted a group of 1970s-era regulars. Lee Papageorge is on the left.

For decades, this mural has depicted a group of 1970s-era regulars. Lee Papageorge is on the left.

Westport's movers and shakers have long gathered at Oscar's. This morning, former 1st selectman and WestportNow publisher Gordon Joseloff chatted with town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz.

Westport’s movers and shakers have long gathered at Oscar’s. This morning, former 1st selectman and WestportNow publisher Gordon Joseloff chatted with town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz.

Oscar's was a regular gathering place for many other Westporters too.

Oscar’s was a regular gathering place for many other Westporters too.

Ali Papageorge -- Lee's daughter -- sported an Oscar's t-shirt.

Ali Papageorge — Lee’s daughter — sported an Oscar’s t-shirt.

A paper plate on the back of the barber chair where Lee regularly sits read, "Reserved for the king."

A paper plate on the back of the barber chair where Lee regularly sits read, “Reserved for our king.”

Oscars - 7

 

 

Shredding Main Street: The Solution?

Yesterday, “06880” tore into the vexing problem of Main Street curbs. Some parallel parkers who scrape strongly against the new granite — constructed to federal standards, to withstand New England winters — have emerged with shredded tires.

Some commenters assailed the new curbs. Some offered solutions (such as: park elsewhere).

A typical Main Street parking scene.

A typical Main Street parking scene.

A longtime Westporter with strong downtown ties has a fantastic idea: angled parking.

In other words, you’d pull in, nose first, at an angle on one side of Main Street. There would be no parking on the other side.

More vehicles could park this way, the theory goes, because angled cars take up less space than parallel-parked ones. In addition, stripes would guide (somewhat — this is, after all, Westport) drivers. Right now, there are no stripes because the road is irregular. That leads to wasted space.

Angled parking in downtown Mamaroneck, New York.

Angled parking in downtown Mamaroneck, New York…

Angled parking would improve traffic flow. There would be more room, and drivers would not have to wait for the car ahead to maneuver back and forth. (Or wait for the tow truck to come to fix a shredded tire.)

Of course, drivers would also be able to see where they’re going, and presumably not barrel head first into the granite curb. (Though based on the number of drivers who plow through storefronts elsewhere in town, this is debatable.)

...and along The Avenue in Greenwich.

…and along The Avenue in Greenwich.

Angled parking would also allow for handicap spots. Right now there are none on Main Street — because there are no stripes.

Other downtowns have angled parking — New Canaan, Greenwich and Mamaroneck, to name 3.

This would not be the first time we’ve changed Main Street’s vehicular pattern. Through the mid-1970s, there was 2-way traffic all the way to the Post Road.

Main Street does not look substantially different in 2015 than it did in 1962 (except for the lack of 2-way traffic). But has the "character" of downtown changed?

Two-way traffic on Main Street. Note the light in front of Klein’s (now Banana Republic).

I envision merchants “angling” (ho ho) to make sure the head-in parking is on their side of the street.

We can let Lee Papageorge decide. He’s fair and impartial. As owner of Oscar’s Deli, he’s been downtown forever.

And he’s sure seen his share of shredded tires.