February 2014 Archives

The Marks Brothers Store

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One of my favorite stores on Greenwich Avenue used to be The Marks Brothers Staionery store.  It reminded me of some stores back home with its tin ceiling, wooden floors and candy counter.  They always seemed to have all the odd office supplies like old typewriter ribbons, mechanical pencils, etc. There was always a cashier and someone on the floor to help you find what you needed, as well as a stockboy refilling the shelves.  It was your typical "Mom and Pop" store, run by local residents.  I was saddened when it suddenly closed in 2003.  Chain stores started popping up on Greenwich Avenue about the same time.  It seemed like it was the end of an era.  I thought it might be something interesting to research, so I checked the local newspaper index and Oral History transcripts. 

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PREVIOUS LOCATION OF THE MARKS STATIONERY STORE AT

                               42 GREENWICH AVENUE


The Marks family came from Goris, a town near the border of Russia and Germany.  Their grandfather had come in 1875 with an older son.  An uncle had preceded them, but died on a railroad train.  (Foul play may have been involved.)  Their grandmother came about five years later.  The family went into the fruit business, and opened a store in Port Chester.  (I found a Louis Marks in the 1908 City Directory, who ran a fruit store at 74 Greenwich Avenue.)   Eventually, son Philip Marks (at the age of 12) and his brothers immigrated to the United States. The family moved between  Port Chester, Pemberwick, and Norwalk.

Several years later, Philip Marks bought a newspaper business in Greenwich.  It was primarily a newspaper route, but it grew into a large business.  As a matter of fact, it was the only business of its kind at the time!  Some cousins took over the fruit business in Port Chester, and Philip opened up a store near lower Greenwich Avenue in 1907.  The 1910 City Directory lists a Marks Stationery store at 378 Greenwich Avenue.  By 1922, the Marks ran businesses at the 380 Greenwich Avenue location and 39 Greenwich Avenue.  After 1926, the address is listed as 42 Greenwich Avenue, near Putnam Avenue.

The business was indeed a family run affair.  Sons Irving, Sam and Abe, and daughter Jennie all pitched in to run the store.  Although the boys were paid - they were saving for college - Jennie received no pay,  but she was told she could ask for anything she wanted and her father would buy it.

In the Oral History transcript entitled "Marks Brothers Stationery Store", Jennie Marks Levine describes a typical day at the store during the Depression years.  She states that her father would get up at 2 am to pick up newspapers at the railroad station.  He would bring them to the store, where they were folded.  Then her father and brothers would help deliver papers in Greenwich until 12 pm. At noon, they'd change horses and drive up Round Hill Road and North Street, delivering papers until 6 pm. At first they used a horse and buggy, then eventually had a Ford automobile. The horse was so accustomed to the route that he knew which houses to stop at!  He also knew where the road was - even in the snow!

The downtown store was sold after a smaller uptown store was bought around 1922. They lived upstairs above the store. The routes were also sold, and the operation became strictly a stationery retail business.  The store opened at 6 am and stayed open until 9 pm.  The boys went to college, but returned to help out with the business. Ironically, none of their training related directly to the business.   Philip Marks bought the building and wanted to invest in other real estate on the Avenue, but his sons advised against it!  No doubt he would have been a very wealthy man if he had. 

The Marks family sold the business to Irving Pincus in 1978.  He ran the business for 25 more years, but the emergence of "big box" office supply stores (e.g. Staples) was too much to compete with.   In September of 2003, the business moved to the second floor of the building.  Then, the business was transferred to the Ridgefield Office Supply Company in December of that year.  They operated there for a while, but are no longer in town. 

The Town installed a bronze plaque on the building commemorating the business in 1987.  It serves as a tribute to the spirit of the Marks family, immigrants who moved to this country in search of prosperity.  They worked hard to achieve the American dream.  These people made Greenwich Avenue what it is today - a successful retail center.

SOURCES


Greenwich TimeHearst Corporation

Growing Up in Greenwich and the Marks Brothers Stationery Store:  Levine, Jennie Marks; Oral History Project, 1974.

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Historical Happenings

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Ed Clark: American Photojounalist
February 1 to June 1, 2014
Bruce Museum

This exhibit features 40 photos taken by photojournalist Ed Clark.
They cover a broad range of topics including small town life, movie
stars and workingclass people.  Call (203) 869-0376 for more info.

 

Intermediate Genealogy
Saturday - March 29 - 10:30 AM
Cos Cob Library

Genealogist Anthony Lauriano will discuss how to secure genealogical
records for researching your family tree.  Great program for amateur researchers.

Free and open to the public.

 

Greenwich Landmark Series
Online Resource
Greenwich Historical Society

Greenwich Time reporter Susan Nova has a blog on the GHS website
that covers historically significant houses in town.  You can access it at:

http://www.hstg.org/pres_greenwichlandmarks.php

The Greenwich Olympic Connection

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Since the 2014 Olympics is currently underway in Sochi, Russia, I thought I would write about athletes from Greenwich who competed in the international games over the years. Greenwich has been well-represented in the Olympics.   Some athletes were born here, and others lived here.  Some are well-known, and some are obscure.  So I decided to research the subject, and post a blog, which I hope will interest you.

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I discovered that James Stillman Rockefeller won the Gold medal as a member of the 8-man rowing team at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. He worked as a banker in New York, and had a mansion in Greenwich.   He was married to Nancy Carnegie, grandniece of Andrew Carnegie,  

The next name I came across was that of Bob Swenning.  He was born in Greenwich on July 25, 1924.  His specialty was figure skating, and he and his partner, Yvonne Sherman,  took fourth place in the 1948 Olympics in Los Angeles.  Bob passed away on November 8, 2012.

Donna de Varona, born in Greenwich on April 26, 1947, participated in the 1960 Olympics preliminaries for the women's freestyle relay, but did not participate in the finals. The team won the Gold that year.  Donna returned to the 1964 Olympics and won a Gold medal for the 400-meter individual medley, and another Gold for the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay.

Favorite Dorothy Hamill was born in Chicago in 1956, but grew up in Riverside,  She won the Gold medal for figure skating at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck. She skated with the Ice Capades from 1977 to 1984.

Carlie Geer, a Greenwich native born in 1957, won a Silver medal in rowing in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Riverside resident Gillian Wachsman (b. 9/19/1966) and Todd Waggoner competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in pair skating.

British skater Charlene von Saher, who spent most of her life in Greenwich, represented Great Britain in the 1994 Winter Olympics. 

Peter Leone was a member of the US Horse Show Jumping Team that won the Silver medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Courtenay Becker-Day won a Bronze medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in sailing.

Greenwich resident Tricia Byrnes participated in the 1998 and 2002 Olympic snowboarding competition at Nagano, Japan, and Salt Lake City.One of the better-know athletes,

Sue Merz, born here on April 10, 1972, competed in the 1998 Olympics in women's ice hockey, and won a Gold Medal.  She returned to the 2002 Olympics and won the Silver.

Stacey Blume competed in freestyle skiing at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Greenwich-native Helen Resor (b. October 18,1985) was a member of the Women's Ice Hockey team, which won a Silver medal in 2006.

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss competed in rowing during the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, China.  The twins attended Harvard, where they developed a social networking website similar to Facebook.

This year, 2014, Kevin Shattenkirk, who was born in Greenwich in 1985, is competing with the Men's Ice Hockey team in Sochi, Russia.   Hopefully, he and his Team will put in a good showing and bring home the Gold!

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LINDA AND HEATHER WHITE HOLDING THE 1984 OLYMPIC TORCH.

In 1984, the Olympic Torch was run through Greenwich along the Boston Post Road (Putnam Avenue, Route 1) on its way to Los Angeles.  The runner stopped at West Putnam Avenue to hand off the light.  I was working close by at that time, and called my wife to bring our year-old daughter, Heather, along to see the torch.  The runner allowed my daughter to hold it while we took a picture!  That's the photo above.

Greenwich has also been the site of another well-known torch run.  Runners for the Special Olympics used to carry the torch much like the International Olympics. The Greenwich Police would meet them at the Port Chester line and escort the runners to the Stamford line.  Greenwich resident Paul Morrell often carried the torch.   Greenwich Library was very often a stopping point.  One year I had the pleasure of working as a volunteer at a snack bar at the Special Olympics held at the Yale Bowl.  I was very impressed with the sportsmanship, courage and dedication of these young athletes.  They were athletes in the true sense of the word.

All these Greenwich athletes should be commended for their courage, determination and persistence.  They put in endless hours training for a chance to compete in the Olympics against athletes from all over the World.  For one brief moment, they joined hands in the spirit of  Good Will, cooperation, and sportsmanship.  It certainly makes for a better World.

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Historical Happenings

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Hamilton Avenue School Quilt Exhibit
February 5 to March 16
Bush Holley Historic Site - Cos Cob

The exhibit features 13 quilts created by third-graders from 2010-2013.
A quilt by Mary C. Adams, which chronicles Glenville history from 1756 to
1976, will also be on display. Call (203) 869-6899 for more details.

 

African-American Connecticut Explored
Saturday - February 15 - 2PM
Greenwich Library

Editor Elizabeth Nomen talks about the book of the same name,
which is a collection of 50 essays by prominent historians on
the experiences of African-Americans from 1630 to the 20th
century in the Nutmeg state. Free and open to all.

 

Family Music Program
Thursday - February 20 - 7 PM
Byram Shubert Library

Dan Clark will present a musical Salute to America with
historical songs.  Free and open to all.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2014 is the previous archive.

March 2014 is the next archive.

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