A neighborhood shop owner died a couple of weeks ago. But she was no ordinary shop owner: she had owned Irving’s Toy and Card Shop for 76 years. Ethel Weiss was minding the store up until the very end of her 101-year-long life.
Although I’ve walked past her shop every day for the past six years, I’ve only stopped in a handful of times, to buy stickers. Walking into her shop was like walking into a time warp. Her sticker collection was circa 1980, which is why I loved it. All of the cards were in plastic sleeves and were probably decades old. The biggest seller was the candy she sold in the front of the store.
Whenever I happened to walk by her shop on a weekend afternoon, Ethel would be sitting in a chair in the front of the store, patiently waiting for the next customer to enter. She was a constant in the neighborhood.
A day or so after she died, someone put Post-It notes and pens on the ledge next to her shop. And people started leaving notes.
It was so touching to see the memorial grow.
It rained the other day and someone took down all of the Post-Its. After the rain cleared, more Post-Its appeared. People are still thanking her and honoring her, weeks after her passing.
Seventy-six years in business. Generations of the same families knew Ethel. How many hundreds of thousands of people popped into her shop over the years?
I’ve thought about how lucky this neighborhood has been to have a neighborhood toy shop. Ethel loved children and would encourage them to practice arithmetic by having them count out their change. She also imparted her wisdom in poster form, selling a poster she created with the title “Thoughts for a Happier Life.”
Ethel is a legend and will be missed by many. If we all touch a minuscule fraction of the lives that Ethel has touched, we should consider ourselves lucky.