The End of An Era – The closing of Publix Shoe

When Tony and Lou Rossetti opened their shoe store in Winthrop Centre in 1947, it really was not all that difficult to imagine that they still might be in business 63 years later.

Winthrop’s business environment was a far different place then than it is today. There were four or five car dealerships within our town limits; numerous grocery stores (including an A&P); clothing stores for men, women, and children; TV (which appeared in the late 1940s) and appliance stores; and stores for just about anything else that was sold in America in those days. In short, you could buy everything for yourself, your family, and your home right here in Winthrop.

That was the way it had been for 60 years and there was every reason to think it would be that way for the next 60 years.

The same could be said for every other small city and town in the country. Although the automobile already had made a huge impact on the American way of life by 1947, the two car family was a rarity. Everybody shopped locally, except for special occasions when a trip to downtown Boston to Jordan’s or Filene’s was called for.

But within a generation, by the 1960s, most housewives had their own cars. In addition, shopping malls began to appear everywhere. Together, those two socio-economic events conspired to kill off small town business centers.

So from the perspective of 2010 looking backward, and seeing all of the retail businesses that have come and gone in those 63 years here in Winthrop, it truly is amazing to think that Tony Rossetti has continued to ply his trade at Publix Shoe. (His brother Lou passed away in 1999.)

The only explanation that comes to our mind as to why Tony is the last of the dinosaurs, so to speak, is this: We recall as youngsters going to Publix Shoe at the beginning of every summer with our parents for a new pair of sneakers (kids didn’t wear sneakers to school in those days) and it was a big event, for not only did we beam with pride at walking out with a new pair of PF Flyers (yes, this is the same writer who won the Horribles Parade prize at the age of 10 in 1964 in the above editorial), but also because Tony and Lou made such a big production of it, with their warm greeting (they never forgot a pair of feet!) and affable manner.

That sort of personal service is something a mall never has been able to duplicate (and never will), but it is the reason why four generations of parents have been bringing their children (and themselves) to Publix Shore for all these years. Publix Shoe truly was a Winthrop institution, as were Tony and Lou Rossetti themselves. We know we join with thousands of their customers in wishing Tony a wonderful retirement.

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