07 April 2006

Lost City: New Haven Edition, Part II

Continuing my travelogue of my daytrip to New Haven, the reason I trained it to the city in the first place was to pay a visit on Delmonico’s Hatters on Elm Street. The century-old hat shop is one of the last in the Northeast; headgear enthusiasts travel from all over New England to fill their hat needs. The place is on an intriguing little block—a high class, independent men’s wear emporium on the left, an ancient rubber stamp company on the right. The hat shop itself is quiet and unhurried—about 90 percent of their business is done over the internet now. Nonetheless, they have a full stock of felt and straw hats, caps, derbies, top hats, trilbies and berets. I purchased a fine straw panama with a black band and pinched front for the summer.

After that, I doubled back across the village green to the Anchor Restaurant, a classic bar with semi-circular red leather booths, wood-paneled walls and a great old neon sign outside. It’s a place for Martinis and Manhattans, where the guy in Frank Sinatra’s “One for My Baby” might roost to forget his troubles. A few old ladies were enjoying a midday lunch. The help was discussing their hangovers. It was cozy.
Next door was a tobacconist, equally ancient and untouched, called the Owl Shop. Apparently, it was once one of a chain of five, the first founded on Wall Street in 1934 by a Greek named Joseph St. John. The New Haven shop dates from 1937 and is the only one left. Apparently, when the Shubert Theatre down the street was a thriving out-of-town Broadway tryout stop, stage stars would stop in here to buy their cigars. Across the street is the Taft Hotel, now an apartment complex. This is the block of New Haven that mattered to theatre types during the last century, where a scene from “All About Eve” took place. Now, to keep up with the times, the Owl has opened a café in the back. Soon, hardware stores will have a café in the back.

I was too intimidated to go in, knowing that I, as a non-smoker, wouldn’t buy anything. On the train back, I read from A. J. Liebling’s boxing book “The Sweet Science.” He didn’t smoke either, but he would have gone into The Owl Shop. Too curious about life.

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