Port Richmond Street ambiance | Pamela’s Food Service Diary

Staten Island, New York – Thanks to readers’ correspondence, live food broadcasts weekly The Dish at La Botiglia at 293 Port Richmond Avenue. Talk of the section near Post Avenue and Castleton Street, a few blocks north of Denino’s Pizzeria and Ralph’s Ices, has sparked a wave of nostalgia from old Staten Islanders.

Jack LiGreci remembers hanging out in front of Steckman’s, where he could buy a burger or a soft drink. But the draw for him was the social scene in front of the store with his classmates and students from nearby Port Richmond HS. That was in the mid fifties of the last century.

Shopping on the Avenue

Other memories of the shopping district are from a casual poll of those who hooked up—purchasing a communion suit in the late 1950s (only to be smeared on the special day by a muddy trip and a fall home) and a cherished whim of a dress from a store in the 1960s. I can remember buying Tyron shoes in the ’70s – flipping into the 2000s to the present – becoming a regular patron of their Mexican markets and restaurants.

As far as Tirone’s is concerned, the store closed in 2010 and folded its inventory into the Flynn & O’Hara uniforms store of Mariners Harbor. The three Tyrone brothers ran the family business for 61 years.

Joseph, Salvatore, and Lewis, all in their 80s at the time, told Advance, “We decided after 60 years of serving Staten Island in our boots, it was time to retire. It was just a decision and we all agreed.”

The Advance also noted that during the 1940s until the time Forest Avenue Shoppers Town and Staten Island Mall were built–at the beginning of the area’s decline in the late 1960s and early 1970s–there were 12 shoe stores in the area. The record paper also described that “it was then a thriving and thriving business segment that included stores such as J.C. Penney’s, Lobel’s, Garber Brothers, and Archie Jacobson to name a few.”

Former Garber Brothers Store at 281 Richmond Ave. Port Richmond, mid-1960s. (Advanced Staten Island)

The memories of Port Richmond Avenue 50 years ago are fond memories of Joe Tyrone, son of the late Joseph and real estate broker/owner of Compass Estate, Staten Island.

He said, “My grandfather struggled to keep the area alive and felt the stigmatization of the street [as crime-ridden] It was totally unfair in the ’80s. It felt like a really safe place to shop. Was working there every day and felt it was a really safe place to shop. What was thought to be more dangerous were the malls at the time – reports of stolen cars and pocketbooks.”

Joe likens the area to a scene outside of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, especially around Christmas time. The architecture of stores has changed over the years to get rid of display windows as store owners use the square footage for more retail space. Also, the metal gates are now closed through the window – although there haven’t been any in years.

Tyrone explained how cohesive the entrepreneurs are. He said, “No exaggeration at all—the shopkeepers knew each other. They had a very close trade association. Everyone knew each other, and everyone supported each other. There was competition between each other—and there was respect.”

The scene was like Amazon in modern times with a variety to choose from – only actual physical goods.

“I was going to save all my purchases on Christmas Eve. So I would start in the morning and night and go through all the different stores. It was so much fun looking at the storefronts and the lights,” said Tyrone. He wanders around so late in the evening that stocks are minimal.

He said, “The one I wanted was the one in the shop window and they had these tall poles with a clip at the end. They’d hold it by the window and I’d feel victorious because I got like the last one! Everyone was in a good mood. All the storefronts lit up—nothing like it in the world” .

Tyrone concluded that he believed Port Richmond had a bright future. Its location near the water and solid infrastructure bode well. “Port Richmond will never die,” my grandfather said in his thick Italian accent several times as he got older.

Pamela Silvestri is the Advanced Food Editor. It can be accessed at [email protected].

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