Editor’s note: Stephen Frank Zangrillo, who opened Darien Sport Shop in 1946, died July 8 at his Darien home at age 91.

To the editor,

Mr. Z, you didn’t have to, but you did. You bought the first ambulance for Post 53; you created the annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and replaced the original tree when it came down in a storm. You gave people credit time and again if they couldn’t pay right then or weren’t sure if it was the perfect gift. You’ve let hundreds of non-profits sell their raffle tickets in front of your store; you feature clothing and accessories created by locals. You had that restaurant on the third floor, the proceeds of which went to Stamford Rehab and to the Darien Thrift Shop. You probably could have leased that property on which the service station stood but instead you turned it into a pocket park for all to enjoy. You have sponsored so many events and organizations in town it’s hard to keep track. You didn’t have to but you did.

You gave many people their first jobs in retail and if we didn’t work there, we learned a great deal about customer service from you and your expertly trained employees, a trait that continues to this day under your offspring’s leadership.

We called him Mr. Zangrillo in the 1950s and 60s but times have changed and that’s OK. As Gina said in her dad’s eulogy, times changed but her dad remained the same kind face and strong backbone of the Darien Sport Shop for 68 years, making friends with his customers and making customers his friends. His ability to connect faces to names was remarkable. He always asked after my sister Freddie, a friend of Stephanie’s but also my aunt who didn’t live here but was a kindred spirit, working at Razooks Apparel in Westport. They talked like old pals when she went in.

In those days, many families may have purchased their kids’ penny loafers from Monsieur Michel at Michel’s Shoe Salon and their young daughters’ bathing suits from Mrs. O’Toole at Darien Juniors but we all got our “dungarees” and Keds at the Darien Sport Shop. Eight year old sons wore their first blue blazers purchased from the DSS and for those February Florida vacations, teen girls dressed in Lily “shifts.” I remember when the fashion was for jeans to fit so tight they looked sprayed on. We would take those jeans home and wiggle and bump to get them on only to hear our parents gasp and demand that they be returned. It became so prevalent that finally Mr. Z had his employees call the parents to secure permission for the girls to purchase their jeans as long as they weren’t too tight fitting. (Of course, upon arriving home, we threw those pants into the washing machine ASAP to try and shrink them!)

Old days aside, the trend in family style service continues at the Darien Sport Shop, a regionally recognized and popular store with a small town feel.

Many thanks to you, Mr. Stephen F. Zangrillo and family.

Nina Millett Miller