[This is the first installment in a four-part series “Matriarchs of Main & Elm,” profiling the women behind New Canaan’s great business families.]
Audrey Bailey Stewart had recently married Walter Stewart, Sr. when the young couple moved in with her husband’s parents—Walter Stewart, who had founded his eponymous food market on Main Street in 1907 and his rather formidable wife, Nellie, New Canaan’s first woman elected to the state legislature—at the Hoyt Street home that’s still in the family. A smart, strong-willed woman in her own right, Audrey didn’t always have an easy time living with the in-laws and “she didn’t always get along with Nellie,” family historian Karen Brockway Izzo said, recalling one funny story from her grandmother. “Once, Nellie told her that she didn’t like the color purple,” Izzo recalled. “Grandmother apparently had a bit of a rebellious streak, and after a disagreement, painted her entire apartment purple. Even the bathroom.”
After meeting her would-be husband through a chance encounter after taking in a movie at the (then relatively new) New Canaan Playhouse on Elm Street while still a teenager, Audrey Stewart would go on to immerse herself in one of the town’s most important and civic-minded business families. From humble beginnings and acquainted with tragedy even as a young girl, Audrey Stewart would go on to forge a definitive and direct positive impact on the family business during a crucial period of growth, while rearing and raising an entire generation of Stewarts well known to locals.