Remembering Grand Openings By Jack Coll
They Really Were Grand Back Then!
By Jack Coll
There was a time in this tight-knit community when everybody knew everything about everybody, and I mention that in a good way. Residents in up-town and downtown knew what was going in in the shopping district on lower Fayette Street, they knew if their neighbor’s kids were in the school band, playing football or got into some kind of trouble.
At one time we had two high schools, four elementary schools and ten churches. In the 1930’s and 1940’s the lower end of the borough housed some 240 retail and service outlets including a F. W. Woolworths, a Grants Store, several drug stores and many, many clothes and shoe stores.
Following World War II nearly every resident worked in or around the borough in one of the many factories and mills. The Conshohocken Recorder newspaper was published twice a week, the paper seemed like it was five feet wide and ten feet long just filled with town information.
A resident’s birth or death might have been front page news back then, the big football game, military news and politics might have been front page news. And any time a retail store was celebrating a grand opening, well that was always front page news.
While researching a bit of information for our book “Conshohocken & West Conshohocken, People, Places and Stories,” Volume Two I came across a number of grand opening announcements from the early 1950’s, and my mind drifted back in time, (not that I’m that old), but I imagined a time when the lower Fayette Street sidewalks were crowded with shoppers, parents with their children came pouring out of the Riant Theatre following another excellent horror movie and owners of all the small stores would greet you by name because they lived in the borough, their children went to school and church with your children, and perhaps they belonged to a number of the service organizations that members of your family belonged to.
With all that being said let’s go back to a time when Grand Openings really were grand:
Grand Opening of Masciantonio Plumbing
From The Conshohocken Recorder
December 19, 1950
SEARCHLIGHTS ATTRACT CROWD
New Showroom Opened In Novel Way
Two young brothers in the lower part of Conshohocken hurriedly trudged upstairs in the home early Friday night to get a better view of the pair of giant searchlights sweeping the dull lead-hued eastern sky.
“Joe, those lights are looking for enemy planes,” nine year old Hank solemnly informed the six year-old. Noses pressed tight against the window-panes, the war-conscious youngsters excitedly watched the electrical panorama for a full twenty minutes.
On an upper avenue, a resident quickly alerted a friend, “Look out at those huge searchlights, I’ve never seen anything like them. I guess they’re testing them out to use against the Russians,” she said.
Two men meeting on Fayette Street had still another solution, “They’re lights from some airfield. Just look a little more intense because of the heavy atmosphere,” one explained.
Not only did the big white streamers of quivering light cause much conjecture locally, but they brought dozens of motorist from many nearby communities, and some not so close who virtually “Rode the beam” to find out what they were.
“We saw them in our home community” a Boyertown motorist told upon coming here. “And we tracked the beam right down.”
Other cars came from Lansdale, Roxborough, Ardmore, Jeffersonville, Norristown and Philadelphia. Following the unusual beams to their source—the new $30,000 headquarters of Michael Masciantonio, plumber, at 304-306 West Sixth Avenue.
Arranging to have the big lights flash as part of his opening program Mike Masciantonio had no idea that they would attract the widespread interest they did.
Of eight million candlepower, each was flanked by an auxiliary floodlight of ten thousand watts. Prior to their being placed in full operation from 6:30 to 10:30, they were mounted on a truck and paraded about the borough.
The proprietor of these modern plumbing showrooms is a director of the Masters Plumbers Association of Central Montgomery County.
And that’s the way Mike Masciantonio held his grand opening back in December, 1950.
Mike Masciantonio attracted a lot of attention when he held his Grand Opening in December of 1950.
Grand Opening Conshohocken Federal Savings & Loan Association
From the Conshohocken Recorder Newspaper July 1951
VISITORS THRONG FEDERAL S & L HEADQUARTERS
Over 1,000 Persons Welcomed Tuesday At “Open House”
The Conshohocken Federal Savings and Loan Association, (ConFed) opened its doors to a large clientele in its completely modernized headquarters on the west corner of Fayette Street and Second Avenue on July 24, 1951. A steady stream of visitors walked through the double glass doors from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. The Conshohocken Federal Savings and Loan Association was organized in 1942 with its headquarters located on lower Fayette Street.
It was reported that forty-two handsome floral gifts arrived at the new streamlined headquarters from local businesses, residents and Conshohocken service organizations. The flowers formed a rainbow-like background as the visitors entered the bank. The seven females of the banking staff wore corsages of purple orchids, when the day finished the employees were treated to a dinner and entertained at Plymouth Country Club.
Included were Mrs. Alice G. Killmer, Mrs. Ellamae C. Loux, Mrs. Jean M. Tweedie, Mrs. John J. Kehoe Jr., Mrs. Edith J. Rowinski, Mrs. Theresa M. Ryan, and Miss Phyliss N. Nasielski. Stanley Gladfelter was also a member of the staff. Two managing directors included George Gunning Jr. and LeRoy D. Todd Jr. Assisting Edwin S. Rockett, executive vice-president and Secretary Harry Buckle.
The first new account in the renovated headquarters was taken out in the name of eight-year old Elaine Culp, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Culp, 236 East Fifth Avenue.
The Association had over 4,000 savings accounts, more than 1,000 borrowers and 1100 Christmas and vacations club members.
Con Fed 2nd and Fayette on July 24th, 1951 Conshohocken Federal Savings Bank “CONFED” hosted more than 1,000 residents at the Grand Opening.
Mary Anna Shop
VISITORS THRONG TO OPENING
Mary Anna Shop Proprietors Happy
On September 25, 1952 the proprietors of the Mary Anna Shop Previously located at 49 Fayette Street made a bold move in 1952 by becoming one of the very first retail shops to move uptown.
After spending more than three years at 49 Fayette Street co-owners Anna Marie Madonna and Mary Diamont, (hence the name) decided to move up-town, way up-town to 804 Fayette Street. The Mary Anna shop carried a full line of nationally known dresses , lingerie, blouses and a custom-made department for bridal and evening gowns. The three day open-house event on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday with hours from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. drove more than a 1,000 visitors each day and the store was forced to close on all three days after 10 P.M. each night.
The Acme Food Store abandoned their long time location at First Avenue and Fayette Street
to move up-town to Seventh Avenue and Fayette Street in December 1952.
This caused a chain of events that involved William Gordon of Gordon’s Furniture Store once located at 108 Fayette Street to throw a massive sale so he could open in new quarters at the former site of the Acme Food store located at First Avenue and Fayette Street, Gordon opened his business in 1949.
Mr. Gordon was born and raised in Conshohocken and was a graduate of St. Matthew’s High School. He was a veteran of five years in the Army having served in Europe and the South Pacific. Upon returning home Gordon married his wife Margaret and they had two children at that time Ann and Billy, they lived at 108 Fayette Street above the store.
As of January 1953, it was reported that Mr. Gordon had started to remodel the former food store building. The building at First Avenue and Fayette Street had been occupied as a bakery, later as a meat marker, then as a chain store. The (then) present building was erected in the late 1940’s. Gordon’s building was later sold to Frank Parker and Jack Light who had started their business in 1943 as Light Parker Furniture. Light Parker Furniture later moved to the opposite corner at First Avenue and Fayette Street where the business thrived for more than half a century. Gordon’s Furniture later moved to Hector and Harry Streets until urban redevelopment forced him to retire.
When the Acme opened their new store at Seventh Avenue and Fayette Street, they simultaneously closed three stores including the market at First Avenue and Fayette Street, Tenth Avenue and Fayette Street in Conshohocken and Front Street near Ford Street in West Conshohocken.
On December 17, 1952 the new Acme Store at Seventh Avenue and Fayette Street with a parking lot to accommodate 100 automobiles opened on the former site of Edwin Harrison’s mansion.
Conshohocken Recorder Newspaper
December 18, 1952
Acme Opens Hour Early
James Perseo Is First Customer
Food retailing became concentrated north on Fayette Street in the opening yesterday of the handsome Acme Super Market at Seventh Avenue. The company probably prevented a clamor by opening at 9:00, an hour earlier than advertised.
James Perseo, proprietor of the Terminal Luncheonette, First Avenue and Fayette Street was the first customer to pass through the doors. The crowd multiplied rapidly and by the announced hour there were scores of customers.
William Kelly, an employee of the company for 28 years and manager of the First and Fayette store for several years is manager of the new store. Edward Smith is the manager of the meat department and Pasquale Giambrone is manager of the produce department.
The checkers are Rose Kelly, Margaret Murphy, Dorothy Pishock, Frances Woyden, Doris Taylor, Maris McMorrow, Gertrude Markland, Janice Carpenter, and Ann Barr.
A Few Of The Opening Day Bargains at Acme Markets
Peanut Butter-creamy or crunchy 89 cents for a 12 ounce jar
Farmdale Peas (large-sweet) two-sixteen ounce cans for 29 cents
Pineapple Juice Two 12 ounce cans for 25 cents
Gold Seal Pancake Mix 40 ounce package for 25 cents
Rib Roast 7 ounce cut 69 cents—10 ounce cut 59 cents per pound
Fresh Flounder 37 cents per pound
Rock Lobster Tails 89 cents per pound
James Perseo was the Acme’s first customer when the store held their Grand Opening on December 17. 1952.
In the spring of 1952 long time Automobile repair shop, the John Brothers, advertised they were your All-Year-Round Toy Store located and Fayette Street. Congratulations to the John Brothers founded in 1917, currently celebrating 100 years of service to the community of Conshohocken.
Laudato’s Bakery, Borough’s Newest Business Place, Marks Opening Today
July 28, 1944
Conshohocken’s newest bakery is today inaugurating its formal opening. It is Laudato’s Bakery, located at Fayette and Marble Streets at the entrance to the Matsonford Bridge, presenting a neat and attractive appearance both inside and out. Rocco Laudato is proprietor of the bakery and he is giving the business his personal attention.
Mr. Laudato opens the business here backed by 35 years experienced. He learned the trade in Philadelphia after which he opened a store in that city and conducted it successfully for several years before removing to Norristown, where for fifteen years he has operated a business with routes in Norristown, Bridgeport and this borough.
He purchased the building at Fayette and Marble Streets from the First National Bank, made extensive alterations and repairs and is now using it exclusively for his business. Bread, rolls, pies, cakes and other pastry are made daily and are sold oven-fresh. Sandwiches are also sold in the ice cream parlor.
The building in which the bakery is located is one of the oldest buildings in the business section of the borough but the improvements that have been made gives it the appearance of having only recently been erected. The exterior has been plastered and repainted while the interior has been remodeled. Tilling to a height of six feet with a quarter-round boarder had been placed on the sidewalls of the store and from there to the ceiling the walls have been painted an attractive blue. A new metal ceiling has been installed from which are suspended electric lights of modern design. Windows on three sides makes the room bright and cheerful.
New fixtures including three square and one round booth and a new fountain have also been installed.
The ovens installed some years ago during the ownership of another baker have been completely overhauled and renovated. The second floor has been made into a living quarters and are occupied by the Laudato family. Mr. Laudato is being assisted by his five sons, Rocco Jr., Harry, Patrick, Theodore and John. With this force satisfaction is guaranteed in every branch of the service.
Flocco’s Opening In Lafayette Hill
September 18, 1952
A new cancellation shoe store together with a repair shop offering repair service while-you-wait, will be offered to residents in the Lafayette Hill Shopping Center beginning Saturday.
The Flocco Cancellation and Shoe Repair Shop will be located in the basement of the Whitemarsh Cut Rate Drug Store, Germantown Pike and Joshua Road.
Vincent Flocco, proprietor of the Flocco Cancellation Shop in Conshohocken, will conduct the business, offering famous make shoes in a wide range of sizes for children and adults. Free gifts for children and adults. Free gifts will be distributed to kiddies on the opening day.
Conshohocken Recorder newspaper advertisement
September 4, 1952
COME IN & SEE OUR LIVE ALLIGATOR
TROPICAL FISH SHOP
6th & Maple
Tropical Fish and Supplies
Pottery, Dish Gardens
Open Daily 1 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.
6:30 P.M. to 9 P.M.
Saturday 10 A.M. to 9 P.M.
Conshohocken Recorder Advertisement
August 3, 1953
Elm and Maple Streets
Tuesday, August 4
Come In And Get Acquainted
Pat Tomczak, Proprietor
RUSSELL FUNERAL HOME
April 10, 1952
FUNERAL HOME TO OPEN HERE
Edward Russell Will Move To New Location
Funeral Director Edward B. Russell has purchased the property at 107 East Fourth Avenue from Dr. Leon H. Weissman and will transform it into a funeral home, removing his business from 411 Ford Street, West Conshohocken to the new location.
Mr. and Mrs. Russell and their daughter Janice Elaine will reside at the Fourth Avenue address. The new funeral home will be open for inspection Easter Sunday afternoon from 2 to 9 P.M. when the Russell’s will hold open house to greet the public.
The business was started late in July 1949 at the home of Mr. Russell’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Russell at the Ford Street address.
A native of West Conshohocken Mr. Russell attended West Conshohocken High School and graduated with honors in 1940. Following his graduation he was employed in a clerical capacity in Philadelphia. Shortly after the start of World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Force, went overseas to the European Theatre and served with distinction with the Eighth Air Force in England. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
Russell Funeral Home
February 16, 1956
FUNERAL HOME OPENING ON FAYETTE STREET
The Edward B. Russell Funeral Home will remove Monday from 107 East Fourth Avenue where it has been located for four years to 925 Fayette Street, the former property of the late Fred Phillips, furniture dealer. A graduate of Eccles College of Mortuary Science, Russell had been a funeral director for seven years conducting an establishment the first three years in West Conshohocken.
William Wallace Buys Fayette Street Store
November 4, 1924
William Wallace, manager of the Righter Jewelry Store, 27 Fayette Street has purchased from J. Bressen the store and dwelling at 113 Fayette Street, which is now occupied by Mr. Bressen as a tailor store and dwelling.
Mr. Wallace will take possession of the property and open a jewelry store on January 1. He will resign as manager of the Righter store and go into business on his own account. Mr. Bressen stated that he would remain in Conshohocken and will open a store in another location.
(William Wallace eventually opened another store at Second Avenue and Fayette Street before retiring to Tampa Florida where he passed away in 1978 at the age of 90)
William Wallace opened his first jewelry store in 1924 at 113 Fayette Street before moving to 200 Fayette Street.
A couple of Grand Openings from 1972
April 18, 1972
Young’s Mkt. Will Open Tomorrow on Fayette Street
Young’s Market will open tomorrow with a host of special values at 114 Fayette Street. Featuring quality meats, poultry and cold cuts, Young’s new building features a stylish Colonial motif, rich paneled interior, and ultra-modern storage and display facilities.
Nearly 100 feet of counters and cabinets unfold before the visitor to the new store, and the large interior allows for browsing through the various poultry, meat and cold cut departments.
August 8, 1972
Sergio’s Tailor Shop Has Grand Opening August 11
Sergio’s Tailor Shop, 117 Fayette Street, will hold its grand opening Friday and Saturday with fantastic values and great prize drawings.
Proprietor Matt Sergio is offering his Conshohocken neighbors a special 15 percent discount on all dry cleaning and alterations during these two days. Refreshments will be served and candy will be available for the youngsters.
Five lucky patrons will have a chance to win some prizes in a special drawing at the end of the opening. First prize winner will receive a pair of knit slacks; second place will receive a shirt; and third, fourth and fifth prize winners will receive ties.
The local tailor had been operating out of his home on West Sixth Avenue and got too busy and decided to open this new store.
January 14, 1965
New Theatre For Plymouth
(The beginning of the end for the Riant Theatre)
The Plymouth Township Planning Commission has approved the application of Plymouth Square Inc., owners of the Plymouth Square Shopping Center, Ridge and Butler Pikes, for an 810 seat movie theatre.
The Sampan Corp., Philadelphia, will be the operators. They presently hold an interest in 23 movie houses in the Philadelphia area.
The proposed one-story structure will be built in the shopping center, next to the row of stores on the Butler Pike side. It will be 60 x 147 feet, constructed of steel and concrete.
The present parking capacity for the shopping center is over 900 spaces.
This is the way they announced it in the Conshohocken Recorder in 1888
June 23, 1888
The undersigned would respectfully announce to the residents of West Conshohocken and vicinity that he has opened a
and PROVISION STORE,
CORNER OF CEDAR AVENUE AND WILLIAM STREET
Constantly on hand Also all kinds of
On Thursday afternoon and Friday of every week. FULL LINE OF ORANGES, LEMONS
(Yes, that’s the way it was spelled)
Fresh Home Made Pies Every Day
The above goods will all be sold at the lowest cash price.
John T. McKenzie
And That Folks, Is The Way It Was All Those Years Ago!!