The evolution of Millerton’s Main Street
The orange awning with the large white block letters spelling Saperstein’s had become synonymous with the village of Millerton during  the past seven decades, and it took locals a long time to get used to it being gone once the sign was removed. Photo from Millerton News archives

The evolution of Millerton’s Main Street

With so many changes taking place in the world today, including in our local business communities, The Millerton News is taking a closer look at how the village of Millerton has changed in the years leading up to the present day. The paper will be running a multi-part series on the many changes that have taken place in the Millerton business district since it was first established in the late 1800s. This is the second part in that series. To read the series from the beginning, click here.

 

Part II

 

MILLERTON — The loss of Saperstein’s in 2017, after 70 years of providing the community so many of its retail needs, was a huge blow to the village. With its large, rectangular metal orange awning and white block letters on its facade and the charming mural of a farm scene painted on the side of the building at the corner of Dutchess Avenue and Main Street, for seven decades Saperstein’s was synonymous with Millerton. But now it’s gone and one day it will be but a mere memory.

Another big loss to the village’s business district was the closure of Terni’s on April 30, 2020. It sold everything from cigars and knives to hunting and fishing gear to high-end wool shirts, suits and blankets to newspapers and penny candy. 

At some point in the store’s 100-year history, its marble soda fountain served ice cream and floats, always with great conversation from the recently passed away and much loved Phil Terni, or perhaps with his father and mother before him or maybe his grandparents, who after immigrating from Parma, Italy, opened the store in 1919. 

“I was really sad when Saperstein’s left, and then when Phil got sick and couldn’t run his shop any more it was hard,” said Dick Hermans, who co-owns Oblong Books & Music at 26 Main St. (along with another location in nearby Rhinebeck) with his daughter, Suzanna Hermans; the Millerton bookstore just celebrated its 45th anniversary last October. “Next to us was a jewelry store that was there for 80 years, but things do change; you can’t hold back time. 

“I’m kind of accepting of this stuff… I think [the village] has drifted away a little from the necessities of life,” added Hermans. “Saperstein’s represented that; Terni’s a little less so. It’s a changing of the guard. You’ll never find another shop like that ever here. They were really a very special family to do that for as long as they did.”

Local resident Jim Campbell agreed with Hermans, that without Lew Saperstein and Phil Terni, Millerton has lost a part of its past that it will never get back.

“After Terni’s had gone out of Main Street [even though the storefront is still there], honestly, there isn’t a whole lot down there as a local that is appealing or that I have need for,” he said. “The stores are trendy and they’re in and out of there. I can’t even tell you who’s there and who’s not there. They seem to come and go.”

Campbell was born at Sharon Hospital in Connecticut as so many in the area are and grew up in the town of North East, which encompasses the village of Millerton. The town’s population was 3,031 according to the 2010 Census while the village’s population was 958 according to that count. 

Campbell served as a town councilman from 2021 to 2017, and worked for the electrical business Campbell and Campbell, founded by his brother and father in 1930; he later started the appliance business, Campbell and Keeler, with business partner Gordon Keeler in 1985; he retired in 2011. 

Campbell vividly remembers what Millerton was like as he grew up in the community, before it became “trendy,” according to him.

“Everybody knew everybody. We all grew up together,” he said, “if that was for good or bad, I don’t know, but that was how it was in a small town. It’s totally different now — things evolve, like it or not. Naturally, I liked it the was it was.”

He said everything was at your fingertips back then — there was no need to travel outside the village to get anything.

“The village, it was certainly a true business district. You’d find everything, you name it, it was there,” said Campbell. “A jewelry store, a couple of car dealers, a couple of grocery stores, always at least one grocery store, there wasn’t much you couldn’t buy in the village of Millerton. 

“There was furniture, clothing, Delson’s was the hub, because of everything it had to offer,” he added about the anchor store that stood for nearly 40 years and even survived a major fire in 1955. “Delson’s was a department store; as a little kid there were toys in there, which I loved, it had everything, school supplies, clothing, you name it, it was there. Then the village had a shoe repair, barber shops, you get the point. There wasn’t much of anything you couldn’t find in the village. I always felt people from other towns came here.”

 

In the next part of the series we will continue to examine how Millerton’s Main Street has evolved, and how the community feels about that evolution.

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