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G. H. Moore’s Store (1920)

Welcome back, Monroe history lovers. This week’s history takes us to Stepney Depot, to Stephen French’s store at the sharp bend on Maple Drive. But wait a minute. Why is French’s store in the first supporting photo labeled as G. H. Moore’s? That’s a great question! You see, Stephen French was but one of many owners of this store, which was well established before Stephen French was even born in 1841. It is documented in Stephen French’s biography that he purchased the store in 1885 from William M. Geer and ran it successfully until his retirement in 1908. It was then sold to William L. Penfield and J. Herbert Craig. Craig unfortunately died shortly thereafter, and Penfield continued on in his absence. The business was eventually sold to G. H. Moore.

Gardner Hamilton Moore - “Gardie” to his family and friends - was born in Bear Lake, Michigan in 1880. He gained his working experience as a young man in various jobs ranging from carpentry, to clerical, to working in a creamery in Brookfield. Gardie saw a unique opportunity when he purchased the Stepney Depot grocery. He knew he had a solid business, but it soon became apparent that the location wasn’t ideal. The once healthy passenger traffic from the railroad was beginning to wane as the popularity of the automobile took off. Less than 800’ west of his store, the Bridgeport and Newtown Turnpike (Route 25) was establishing itself as a major artery of automotive travel, and none of that potential business driving in both directions had a clue about his store over on Maple Drive. Something had to be done.

In 1920, Gardie bit the bullet and built a brand-new store right on the turnpike. It had period charm and every modern amenity for the era. Let’s study the details of the circa 1930 supporting photo. The store’s bold illuminated signage is typical of the numerous billboards that were becoming commonplace along the turnpike at the time. For you car fans out there - and you know who you are - to the far right we see a 1929 Chevrolet Series AC International Coupe. Beside the building stands a 1920s-era curbside gas pump. “On tap” for the passing motorist was SOCONY gasoline, SOCONY being an acronym for Standard Oil Company of New York. And, in the foreground we can clearly see the concrete roadway which was poured in 1927. How many of you knew that Route 25 was originally paved with concrete? Now you know!

G. H. Moore’s had everything a local resident or passing traveler could want or need. Gardie’s investment paid off big and the business ran successfully for years under his and his successor’s management. Moore’s store still stands today hidden in plain sight. Do you recognize it? Stare at it a while. Any guesses? Let me help you out. Since 1960, the building has been the home of L&R Power Equipment, at 122 Main Street. The dealership sells and services a range of name brand tractors, lawnmowers, power-saws, snow-blowers, leaf-blowers, and other equipment essential to Monroe’s transition from a farming community into a community of suburban homeowners with the responsibilities that go with expansive lawns and long driveways.

I hope you enjoy this week’s historic spotlight on G. H. Moore’s stores. Stores are such an essential chapter in our history. From our earliest days, Monroe was dotted with village stores that served our residents’ needs. Everyone knew the owner and the owner knew them. To our residents of yesteryear, these were super markets, not SUPERMARKETS. There is a huge difference between the two. Please share this post with your family and friends, and as always, thank you for your continued support and interest in Monroe’s rich history. Until next time. Meet you at Gardie’s for a Coke.


Kevin Daly
Historian, Monroe Historical Society
Our Past is Always Present

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