Bruce Miller is the Westport Country Playhouse company manager. He is my go-to guy whenever I need to know, say, how many times some newly deceased actor appeared on stage there, in the 1940s.
But this post is not about the Playhouse.
Though I’ve been at the Playhouse since 2001, my family has a Westport connection that goes back a couple dozen years before that.
I’ve just found 4 Polaroids from 1975. My dad, Dick Miller, had recently purchased Welch’s Hardware on Main Street. It’s currently the location of Shoe-Inn.
Dad had been on the road as a wholesale salesman to independent hardware stores throughout the state. When he learned the long-time Westport store was available, he and his cousin Chuck Steinbrick jumped at the chance to own their own place.
They joined competitors at Westport Hardware on the other end of Main Street. Both provided the town with personal, knowledgeable service.
Within a year they also purchased Harrison’s Hardware in Milford. Chuck continued to run Welch’s, while my dad managed the much larger store up the coast.
He also enticed me to leave my teaching career in Ohio so I could join him in retail. Eventually we were joined by my mother, 2 brothers, an aunt, uncle and numerous cousins. Hardware, paint, and plumbing supplies became the focus of family dinner conversations!
The arrival of big box store in the mid-1980s led to the demise of many family owned shops, Welch’s among them.
Until then, Main Street had mostly independent stores. I still shop downtown, and I still find helpful, friendly clerks. But I miss the unique mix of stores and personalities that made Main Street a special place to shop.