Monday, November 30, 2009

Sacred Ground

Last summer, Uncle Roland and I met to talk about family history of the Alberts. The topic of Pepere's business came up, I became very interested in the information that he was sharing with me.  That meeting motivated me to want to write a larger piece about "The Men's Shop".  Next time I am in Maine,  I am hoping I can capture Roland's attention again to get a fuller picture and history of this once great family business.
The image below was taken from the 1924-25 edition of the "Directory of Westbrook" (page 204). It lists the clothing businesses operating at that time. Benoit's is the business where Pepere started working as a fourteen year old boy.

I remember when my brothers and sisters used to visit Pepere at the Men's Shop. It was like we were entering sacred ground. Even though we were kids, he'd always greet us like we were VIP's, and was always happy to see us! There was a time I worked in the backroom folding clothes but I hated it just like Pepere did when he first started working at Benoits. Like him, I preferred to be interacting with people.

When I asked some of my students the other day what their earliest memory was, one girl said she remembered ushering as a little girl at her church. She must have viewed going to church as a special place because of the importance her family placed on its role. We viewed the Men's Shop in the same way - a special place where the magic of selling and cultivating customers was going on.
Pepere was president of the Westbrook Chamber of Commerce for a time and around 1960, he received one of the most distinguished recognitions in the clothing industry - the Brookfield Clothing Award. The article shown here came from one of my mother's scrapbooks. The source is most likely the Westbrook American.


Brian Siulinski said...

For those of us that worked at the Men’s Shop in the late 60’s and 70’s I remember getting paid in cash each week on Saturday mornings by Bob Thuotte; one of the owners sons who took over running the finances of the store. The cash (dollar bills and change) would be in a small taped colored envelope with the following items scribbled in pen on the back of the envelope: gross amount, state income tax deduction, federal tax deduction, social security deduction, and what the net pay was (should match the cash in the envelope). Our names were scribbled on the front side of this small envelope. This method of payment saved us from going to the bank to cash a check. What is better than "cash-in-pocket"!? Of course, the answer to this question today is “plastic-in-pocket”!

Paula Lowell Siulinski said...

I remember Mom telling me to go downtown Westbrook on a hot summers day to see Pepere. I always entered the store through the back where all the pants were folded on shelves. After finding Pepere, usually working with a customer, I was always given a quarter to go get an ice cream at Deering. What a sweet memory!