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The Joyce Handee Shop (1950s-1960s)

Welcome back, Monroe history lovers. This week’s history takes us to Lower Stepney on Main Street. You know, sometimes it’s funny where the inspiration for some of these Monroe history spotlights comes from, and this week’s history is an example of just how bizarre it can be at times. Just last week, I was perusing the Monroe, CT Residents Facebook group, where I saw that one of our Monroe history lovers had posted and inquiry on where she might rent or purchase a wagon-type bar cart for a friend’s engagement party. See the first supporting image.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where anyone might rent or purchase such a unique item for a special event today, but if I could turn back the hands of time, and we were living in Monroe in the 1950s or 60s, I would send her right over to the Joyce Handee Shop on Main Street in Lower Stepney. See the second supporting image. Any type of woodcraft you could possibly desire was available, and if it wasn’t in stock, the shop’s skilled founder and proprietor Stanley B. Joyce could surely custom build one for you in ample time for your special event.

Stanley Byxbee Joyce (1895 – 1970) was Lower Stepney born and raised, growing up on Judd Road just west of Main Street. When he was a boy of just 11 years old, he was accidentally shot in the leg by his uncle, Jerome Nichols. The bullet remained in his leg for the rest of his life and kept him from serving during WWI. Despite his physical challenges, he was an enterprising and entrepreneurial young man with a hands-on interest in all things mechanical. His love of mechanics began on the family farm and as a founding member of the Stepney Volunteer Fire Company, where he honed his skills in maintaining our town’s first internal combustion powered fire engine.

Stanley married Ruth Beardsley of Upper Stepney in 1922, established the Stepney Garage, and built a new home for his family on Main Street. He was the proprietor of the garage for years and eventually sold it on. This gave him the means, in his mid-50s, to pursue another interest in cabinet making and carpentry. He built a custom carpentry shop adjacent to his home, which he expanded to become the Joyce Handee Shop. It was very popular in its day, selling woodcraft to all the folks buying up the new houses in Monroe during the post-war building boom. Outdoor tables, chairs, benches, carts, trellises, lattice, birdhouses, baskets, bowls, and various other enticing curiosities awaited our new residents and passersby - every bit of it American made!

By now you’re probably curious as to just where the Joyce Handee Shop was located. Do you see Stanley and Ruth’s home in the background of the photo postcard? Do you recognize it? Any guesses? For over 50 years now their home has been the Smithy Restaurant. The former Handee Shop was eventually torn down to make room for the paved parking lot on the south side of the restaurant. It’s sad in a way but this history is a pleasant window into our past to a simpler time in Monroe when various tiny shops dotted the landscape of Main Street from Trumbull to Newtown. Some days it feels like I hardly recognize the place anymore.

I hope you enjoy this week’s historic spotlight on the Joyce Handee Shop in Lower Stepney. 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. Just a quick note. With this post, I’ll be signing off for the summer, planning to return in September when we’ll continue our journey together through Monroe’s past. Until next time. Have a great summer, everyone, and I wish our Monroe history lover good luck in finding a cart for her friend’s engagement party!


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

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