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Why we mourn the destruction of an old building

By JIM BUSEK • Nov 14, 2017 at 10:00 AM

You have to love a town that mourns the demolition of an empty old building.

This newspaper ran pictures of the pile of rubble created by the destruction.

Debbie Leffler wrote a sweet column about her affection for a business contained in one half of the structure.

And now I am going to write one myself.

No, scratch that. I am going to write TWO columns about the edifice that was recently razed on Linwood Avenue.

How’s that for saluting a tired old building that has not hosted an actual business for more than a decade?

The thing is, the now-demolished building in question once housed two businesses. So there is twice the opportunity for personal reaction.

The north half of the structure housed the Linwood Barber Shop.

And the south half was home to Meek’s bakery.

I patronized them both. And I have such fondness for the memories and people associated with the two businesses in question that I am giving each of them a tribute column.

This week I am re-printing part of what I wrote about Meek’s 12 years ago.

And next week I will share my memories of the Linwood Barber Shop.

Here’s what I said about Meek’s on April 2, 2005:

 

Nobody who has ever had a Norwalk morning brightened by a perfect glazed doughnut is going to like what I am about to say.

Meek’s is closing this Saturday.

Forever.

They are not closing their wonderful bakery and pastry shop because it is hard work to keep it open. No, if the Meeks were afraid of hard work, they would have never lasted 59 years at the same location.

And they are not closing because people do not love their product. Who among us does not have a favorite doughnut or cookie or cake from Meek’s? Which of you did not feel a moment of panic when you read just now that you may never experience that treat again?

They are not closing because the curious hours — off to work at 3 a.m., closed by 2 p.m. — interfere with family life. “One of the best things about this business is that I’ve been able to work alongside my dad since I was about 12 years old,” says owner Scott Meek. (His dad) Bill Meek ran the bakery from 1950 until 1992 when Scott and Kathy took over. Bill and his effervescent wife, Jacquie, were the classic small-town merchants: hard-working, genuinely warm and determined to provide their customers a quality product.

Scott continued: “My wife and I work together, and then my kids started working with us when they got old enough. It’s been a wonderful family business.”

“(Even now) I’ll be in there at three in the morning and hear the door open. It’ll be dad saying, ‘Aw, I couldn’t sleep anyhow so I thought I’d come on down and help you out.’ That’s what I’ll miss the most — working with my dad,” Scott laments.

And they are certainly not closing because they think there is something more fun they could be doing. “We’ve all had a lot of fun here,” Scott Meek continued. “It would be one thing if I hated coming to work every day, but the truth is I love it. I love the job. I love the bakery. I love the customers.”

And the customers love Meek’s. “Some people who have moved away from Norwalk only get back to town every year or two. But they tell me one of the things they look forward to most is coming to Meek’s for one of their old favorites,” Scott reports. “People come back for 30- and 40-year high school reunions, and it makes them so happy when they see we are still here.”

“It works the other way, too. Some people who go away to visit their children or old friends have a standing order to bring something from Meek’s with them.”

So why, exactly, are they closing?

“It’s a combination of things,” Scott Meek sighs. “The cost of doing business is so much greater now. And we have all kinds of competition that did not exist years ago.”

Some of that competition is in the form of other bakeries. All the big supermarkets have them now, for instance. And it is not necessarily that the supermarket bakery product is better than Meek’s. But the modern consumer is more and more a one-stop shopper; swinging by 15 S. Linwood for baked goods is just not in the plan.

There is also the less-obvious competition. Consider all the fast food places that now have breakfast items. Coffee, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches — all available at a drive-through window — have replaced the traditional bag of doughnuts for many people.

“It’s just time,” Scott Meek concluded.

 

Five days after the above words were printed, at 2 p.m. Saturday,

April 9, 2005, Meek’s closed forever.

Twelve-and-a-half years later, on Friday, November 3, the building that had long-housed one of Norwalk’s most iconic businesses came crashing down.

But as Debbie and I and six decades of satisfied customers can attest, it is a case of gone but never forgotten.

 

Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at jimbusek@ hotmail.com.

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