Carl Franco’s first thought on unearthing the stash of curled, cracked back-and-white photographs 15 years ago was that they must’ve been taken during a long-ago Memorial Day Parade. He’d been cleaning out his house—which has been in the Franco family since the 1940s—in preparation for a renovation, and came upon the photographs in the attic.
Then he saw that they were dated. “So I knew it wasn’t May,” Franco said. “It was in September 1919. So I looked it up, wondering what parade would it have been.”
The photos were taken in downtown New Canaan on Sept.
On a muggy Monday afternoon, I stepped into Franco’s Wine Merchants, an Elm Street mainstay that has been in operation since 1933. Franco’s specializes in fine wines, single malt scotch and other spirits. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there for a drink – instead I was there to find out their favorite New Canaan product or service for NewCanaanite.com’s “Biz on Biz” feature.
I was greeted by refreshingly cool air, and Carl Franco’s warm smile. When asked what local business he thought deserved recognition, Franco didn’t hesitate before launching into a glowing recommendation of Family Britches, the well-established clothing store on Main Street, where he has been shopping for at least 25 years. “I’ve always liked their personal touch that they give every day when you walk in there,” Franco said.
As we enter the end of July and August, many New Canaan residents will bear the beach, mountain, and city traffic for annual summer vacation trips. With the decreased foot traffic, many merchants routinely describe business as slow during this time. NewCanaanite went around town to some local businesses to see how they actively avoid the end of summer sales slump. Phil Williams, New Canaan Music
“How do we deal with the New Canaan Business Clear? We’re staying open our regular hours, a lot of businesses close for a week or reduce their hours, but we keep our lessons going year round.
The winter storm that whipped into New Canaan before dawn Thursday dumped an estimated 10.4 inches of snow on the town, as gusting winds blew high snowdrifts and dozens of local businesses and organizations were forced to close with road conditions rapidly deteriorating. New Canaan Public Schools will be closed Friday, too, officials said, while district offices will open on a 2-hour delay. Town Hall will open at 10 a.m.
New Canaan Police confirmed two storm-related motor vehicle accidents on Thursday afternoon while firefighters responded to multiple reports of frozen pipes, as sustained low temperatures continued throughout the day, hovering between single digits and the mid-20s. Police Lt. Jason Ferraro, the department’s public information officer, urged motorists to monitor road conditions and stay home if possible in order for state and local highway crews to clear the streets and make them safe. “People should still stay home after it stops snowing and use caution if they must venture out,” Ferraro said.
[This is the third installment in a four-part series “Matriarchs of Main & Elm,” profiling the women behind New Canaan’s great business families.]
Thomas George Franco II—‘Tom,’ as he’s known today on Elm Street, site of the family’s eponymous wine and liquor shop, a fixture of downtown New Canaan for nearly a century—recalls the challenge he faced as a young man in 1975, trying to acclimate back to civilian life upon being discharged from the Army following a three-year tour during the Vietnam War. Fortunately for the newly made U.S. Army veteran, Tom was one of 11 Franco siblings—all students of St. Aloysius School and graduates of New Canaan Public Schools—who knew a remarkable woman named Lydia Franco O’Neil as ‘Aunt Lee.’
At the time, Aunt Lee had a condominium in Florida with her husband, longtime local U.S. Postal Service worker Bill O’Neil, and the plan was for Tom to drive her down to the Sunshine State so that she could have a car there, and he would fly back. “That was the perfect reintroduction back into civilian life,” Tom recalled on a recent evening. “We talked all the way down—about Uncle Bill, the family, what I was going to do now, and just things in general.