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Memories of Spag's

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I was shopping at Ocean State Job Lots, a local retail store and was reminded of Spag's. Spag's was a famous local retail store and became a local landmark.

Shopping at Spag's was an adventure. You never knew what bargain you would find. And if you did see one, buy it then because in a few days it would be gone. Spag's was an old fashion Mom and Pop type store with narrow aisles, bargain goods scattered seemly without any order throughout the store and cash only. Everyone knew as soon as you entered the store, look for an empty box because Spag's didn't have plastic bags. I do remember at one point Spag's decided to offer cloth bags you could buy and use again. I still have a few of those. Unlike the new "Big Box" stores today Spag's was always closed on Sunday. It was a statement to family values.

The best section of Spag's was the "back wall". There you could always find something interesting and something you just had to buy. Like the rest of the store, items came and went almost daily. One day there would be sneakers, but the next day, bedroom slippers. One day grapefruit, the next day, walnuts.

If it was an adventure to shop at Spag's on a normal day, it was near death to shop there during the Christmas season. Then the store would be packed with people, people waiting to go in and people waiting to check out. Heaven forbid if you brought a baby stroller into Spag's. There was barely room for people to shuffle from aisle to aisle, let alone a baby stroller.  

"See you at Spag's or "Meet you at Spag's" was a common saying here. Everyone knew where Spag's was located. You could usually find a place to park and usually you would meet at least three people you knew because everyone shopped there. Each spring there was the famous Free Tomato Plant give away. They would give free tomato seedlings to customers. It was  day to go or a day to stay clear, depending on how your feeling for tomato plants.

I miss Spag's. It was a certain experience to shop there. And you always felt better about yourself......because you survived it.

-Melanie, Massachusetts 


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 Spag. He was a wonderful person.  Few are legends in their own time; he was.  I had the privilege of working for him at various seasons. Up on the bridge where he monitored his cameras and met with people we were talking about some shelving I was building for the hardware dept. when some salesmen came to speak with him.  I started to excuse myself and he said to stay.  (He seemed to like teaching).  They were working on selling him Bayer aspirins.  They mentioned the term guaranteed sale.  That got him going.  Someone can't sell the aspirin you sell to him and you buy it back and sell it someone else.  If you are in business you take your own risks.  The salesman excitedly said they would not sell him any old aspirin.  Spag said he would refuse to sell any old aspirin s to his customer. If he bought them (and it would be a huge order) he said he wanted new aspirin, aspirins that came off the line, into the bottles and directly to him.  That was his terms.  He told him that he would be having his people looking at the dates and if there was one bottle of old aspirin they would get the whole half trailer load back and that would be stipulated in the contract.  The man knew he had his order and promised to personally oversee it all.  Nope, Spag's customers never had to worry about inferior product.

  Spag came down to the floor of the store one day to thank and compliment a number of we workers there.  It seems that the fine and distinguished Judge Walstrom had been in the store.  After his shopping he went up to see Spag.  He needed to tell him how much he
appreciated the friendly and most helpful service he was given by Spag's employees and felt he needed compliment Spag directly.
Spag beamed with pleasure .  He cared deeply for his customer and such reports made his day and he was sure to share the
pleasure with those who worked at the store.

  One season I had a most boring job pricing and bagging little bags of specialty fasteners.  On a
Saturday I took a much longer-than-allowed lunch, returned to the store and sought out Spag.  I told him that I wasn't doing well this time working for him.  He said he had heard about it.   "Spag, I have been enwrapped with the most wonderful mood for a couple of weeks.  I have enough money to start fall semester but I feel to good to work.  I would like to quit."  "What do you plan on doing?"
he asked.  I told him I wanted to follow the coastline of Maine up to Canada and back before school starts.   He said, "Sure, you are only young once and that seems like a good thing to do."  "May I quit now?"  I asked.  He said "Okay, call us again sometime."  Now there is a gracious boss.

-Edd Skoglund,      seasonal employee, salesman to Spag and respectful friend


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   Spag's cropped up in conversation the other day and Googling it today to check up on it's address I was shocked to find it no longer exists.

   I have very fond memories of Spag's after being introduced to it's delights by my friends Doug & Celia Hyde, while I was staying out at their place in Stow on a training course back in the late 80's.  Coming from the UK it was such a novelty to have to take your own bags shopping, who'd have thought it? And a store that was also cash only was  just so strange.
  But Spag's was a shear delight. A true gold-mine. A treasure trove of goodies. Doug and I would make the trip for something that he'd seen in an ad' somewhere and we'd always come back with way more stuff than we anticipated. You just browsed around and you'd come across all sorts of  stuff you just never knew you needed !!!


   We returned several times during vacations over the years and I remember my girls getting real excited over meeting Barney and Baby Bop in the parking lot one time. We still have the Polaroid of that day somewhere.
  So sad to see it's no longer around.

Regards from across the pond,

-Steve Young, Waterlooville - UK.

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  I came across this site while doing research on Shrewsbury for a project. I'm glad somebody decided to memorialize such a great store. Throngs of people came through every day and in Spag\'s, as a very young child, I remembered being afraid of the dense crowds. I worked there for a little while in '99 and '00 and the old guard always came in talking about how things had changed. I was just trying to earn a paycheck and I didn't really have the appreciation for the lore and tradition that was all around me. It took me going away to college and the military to understand what Spag\'s meant to Shrewsbury. It was about community and helping out your neighbor. I hope those values are still alive and well in the Shrewsbury of today.
-Chris Giofreda

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  Great place to go, I went there for the first time in 1999. I had visited family in Mass from England. My cousin was a great shopper at Spags, fond memories of buying gifts for home. Nothing like it in UK. Still got a Spags car sticker for the rear window. Sad it's not there for my next visit.

-Neil Farnell

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I spent countless hours shopping at Spag's, it was my favorite store. The loudspeaker was always calling "Dock, Dock need shovels at door 10!" or something like that. I used to think that "Dock" was a busy guy running merchandise back and forth.
  When my uncle Ray and aunt Betty would come to visit from Pennsylvania, one of the first things my uncle would say is "When are we going to Spag's?
  I had the pleasure of meeting Spag one night out back playing his One Man Band. He was very pleasant and explained all about it to me. Years later when my son became an Eagle Scout, Spag was one of the sponsoring businessmen at the sponsorship dinner we attended. He introduced me to his daughter Jean in the ramp of the Old Schoolhouse one day but she seemed pre-occupied and I didn't get to talk to her at all.
  Spag was truly a great man and many, many people will remember him and honor his memory for a long, long time.

-Don Hart


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  I remember visiting Spag's for the first time back in the early 1980s, and I can remember how in awe I was at the business that they did, and the way that the merchandise was displayed , not to mention the low, low prices, that made it even that more fun. I was raised in and spent a good many years living in Massachusetts's, and I know that Spags is an icon that will not only be missed in Worcester, but in the entire state of Massachusetts for the people who came from all over to shop at Spag's. I know I will never forget it.

-Michael Lanza , Crystal Lake Illinois


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What epitomizes Spag's to me is 29-cent toilet brushes piled on top of $2000 grandfather clocks!

- Gerry Cechony

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  I , as many others grew up within bicycling distance to Spag's. As kids we would spend a great deal of time there. Eventually in 1973 I had the opportunity to work there as my father had, and three of my sisters and brother. Back then you had to know someone to get a job at the store, due to the number of people looking to work there. 

  While working there I got the opportunity to get my class 2 license using the truck Buddy Hume usually drove. I also learned a lot about work ethic from some great men like Donny Morel, Bobby and Don Lemay. It was hard physical work at times but always left you feeling good at the end of the day. Weather it was working in the crowded store, outside in the garden shop, the dock, or outside in the trailers, I enjoyed it all.

  It's sad to see the place today knowing what the store once was. Unfortunately Spag's daughters didn't have the same people skills as their parents. I recall Olive working at her desk every time I went to the house. Her ashtray was always heaped with butts and her busily doing the entire payroll for the business by hand every week. Prior to her office management she worked the floor of the store. She was truly the backbone of the business, with Spag being the buyer knowing what, when and how much to buy.

 He was also loyal to certain companies that helped him build his business. Decauter Hopkins Hardware and Benjamin Moore were two that I know of. I remember unloading trailer after trailer of antifreeze and coffee back in the 70's when there were shortages. Nobody else had the stockpiles of Spag that were in the old Canada Dry plant on Maple Ave. He also had product stored all over town. From Spooner's (old chicken coops) to Jensen's Dairy and the trailers at Bruce Ward's home, it was an adventure just getting stock for the day. I'll always remember the great times and people I experienced while working there.           

                                                                                                                                                  -Vinny Ross P.S.

 

(To Carolyn Squires, Billy Mastro's produce store was Weepin' Willie's.)

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My Father grew up in Swewsberry,  He moved us to Henrietta NY a suburb of Rochester in 1970. When we went to visit my grandparents for family gatherings it was a tradition and a must to go to spags, at times 3-4 car loads at a time i always looked forward to going it was a adventure to see what u could find it was like no other store u been in i remember there being no price tags or stickers prices were written in black magic marker. I still have a plano fishing tackle box i bought from SPAG'S with the price of $19.90 still on the handle in marker .SPAG'S will be missed. 


-TIM WIGGINS

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My Grandfather knew Spags and shopped there for years.

One story has it that Spags caught a kid stealing shoes. This kid was from a poor family so instead of punishing the kid he had the whole family come in and outfit them for new shoes on the house.!

My Gramps thought the world of the place  and I lived in Mass long enough to remember it and its additions….

I'm sorry to hear its gone.

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  Hi. I never realized a site like this existed in memory of Spag's. I worked for Spag (Anthony) in l954, 55, and 56. It was an honor for me because I had the opportunity, (through Spag's), to earn enough money to allow me to become independent from the Worcester welfare system. While attending Major Beal High School I was able to work up to 40 hours per week, buy an automobile and have cash to spend. Working at Spags allowed me to learn from honest and good people. It allowed me to learn the proper way of life.
  I can recall Spag would on occasion wear a ring of amazing beauty on his pinkey finger. So many people would admire it with envy. On several occasions Spag would comment "You like this ring?" With that, he would remove the ring and give it to the customer. A day or so later he would have another ring to be admired by the new customers.
   Spag was wonderful to me. He gave me a sit down dinner and a watch when I went off to the Marine Corps in l956. Three years later, to the day, he gave me back my job.  I then lived in Worcester. It snowed 22 inches- too cold for me, and I moved to Virginia. I married and enjoy the much warmer weather. Thank Spag

  Kenny O'Rourke
  Virginia

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  When I hear Spag's alot of memories of my childhood come to mind. I lived on
the corner of Caroline Ave. and Elm St. until my parents divorced in 69-70.
   Mr Spag was basically right across the street from me and my brother,the
pond in back of his house is where I learned to ice skate,we, always asked
first and would fight over who was going to go up to the door, a lady would
always answer,and she would always say yes. 

The day my brother got hit by a  car on Elm St. we were walking back from catching frog eggs in Spag's pond when my brother bit the hand of our neighbor Dennis Mastro who had walked us
over. We used to wish he would ask us if we wanted to go swimming in his
huge inground pool ( I never saw anyone in that pool).

But best of all was Halloween, Shrewsbury was the place to go trick or treating, we would get at  least 3 FULL shopping bags of candy and we would start the night by going to
Mr. Spag's house, because he gave you a whole baggy filled with stuff not
just one or two candies but a whole baggt full, then at the end of the night
we would alter our costumes a little and change our voices and hit him
again,I wonder if he ever knew it was the two little redheads from across
the street?

I also remember my brother and I riding our bikes to his store
and spending what seemed like hours playing in the toy department at
Spag's,just trying out everything with no fear because Mr Spag was OUR
neighbor. I wonder if anyone remembers a little house that was at the back
of Spag's parking lot all by itself and seemed out of place somehow , I had a
friend who lived there the last name was Govenelli.

I remember when the Mastro's opened up a store
right next to Spag's it started out as a fruit store ,I think it might have
been called Angelo's but I'm not sure . Walking up that ramp in Spag's was
really spooky and weird somehow,and I used to think Oh my god there are no
windows, we are trapped. I went to North Shore school, the principal was Mr.
Corbett,I was sad to hear that it burned down.I remember the first time I
heard Mr Spag's referred to by his real name Anthony Borgetti,and thinking
who the heck are they talking about,I actually thought his last name was
Spag's.Well it made sense at the time. So anyone remember two little
redheads terrorizing the neighborhood in Shrewsbury?

-Carolyn Squires

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    Every Christmas my mom and dad would load us up from Connecticut to visit my grandmother in Worcester. We always made the bus trip to Spag's No Bags. It seemed the toy isle was never-ending. My brothers, sister and I would spend our saved allowance on gifts for our family. It seemed we sure got a lot for our little savings.......I am in the process of decorating a bedroom in my home in Florida for my mom when she visits.  I have been putting together online photographs of places she loved in New England..I popped the word Spag into my search and found this sight.....I am going to print out a photo of Spag's for her room. She will be SO SO SO surprised. Thanks for keeping Spag's alive. It meant a lot to me and my family.

  Janet Kasavage Chuluota
  Florida

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  I remember back in 1980 when North Shore Elementary School burned down. The following year, there was no room for the students so they put grades1 through 3 in the Spag's Old School House for a year. I was in 3rd grade and I had Mrs. Johnson as my teacher. They built us a nice playground and we had a great school year!

   Kathryn Fosselman
   Shrewsbury High School 90'

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   I stumbled upon Spag's while watching PBS and thought it said Spag's was a BBQ & Grill Restaurant. I told my mom I wanted to go out to dinner at Spag's, she said, "That's not a restaurant, that's a department store." And I had this joke about it being a restaurant until it closed down and became Building 19.

   William Hobbs

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   My parents always stopped by Spags on our way from Maine to CT to go to my uncles for Thansgiving. It was alway a highlight of our trip and I remember the cement floors, narrow alleyways and the "toll booth" like checkouts. such a unique shopping experience


   Peter S. Kittredge

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Home video of the Route 9 Storefront from 1986

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  Please e-mail us your favorite Spag's stories. We'll be happy to publish them here.

  (We would especially like to hear from any former employees of Spag's. Historic photos are also most welcome. All credits will be given to respective authors/photographers.)

 

Vintage TV Commercial, Circa 1990

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