Turning back the clock on East Main Street

06/13/2015 2:30 PM |
A 1964 photo depicting the grand opening of the former Montgomery Ward Catalog Store in downtown Riverhead. (Credit: Suffolk County Historical Society)

A 1964 photo depicting the grand opening of the former Montgomery Ward Catalog Store in downtown Riverhead. (Credit: Suffolk County Historical Society)

Vines & Hops occupies the space today, but more than 50 years ago, 127 East Main St. in Riverhead became home to Montgomery Ward’s Catalog Store, which opened in 1964 to a “huge crowd of local shoppers,” the Suffolk County Historical Society said this week.

The historical society released this photo from its archives on Friday — a practice they do each week, releasing something different from throughout the county because, as it points out in a John Steinbeck quote, “How shall we know it is us without our past?”

According to SCHS, Montgomery Ward’s was launched in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward, a traveling dry goods salesman who began selling to farmers using a one-page catalog list. This practice allowed him to keep prices low because it meant he could bypass “small-town shopkeepers and itinerant salesmen,” SCHS said. (He also coined the phrase “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.”)

Before it housed Montgomery Ward, 127 East Main St. was home to a store called House of Music. The building was constructed in 1938 by Al Sigal, a Riverhead developer who kept his offices on the second floor. None of the structure’s original facade, which SCHS included green and black carrara glass panels separated by chrome strips, remains today. Neither does the red marble that once lined the building’s entrance hall.

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