The Wedgewood, Again and Again and Again

wedgewood b&w.jpgWhen a reader noticed this sign yesterday, he thought it might hail a return of the decades-departed Wedgewood Cafeteria. No such luck. It’s merely a sign posted by the Vanguard Group to publicize space available for commercial lease in the Wedgewood Building. That’s the building on South Park in Montclair that currently houses Urban Outfitters and several thousand empty square feet of space, including the former bank at the corner of Park and Bloomfield.
But even a mention of the Wedgewood Cafeteria creates in me a nostalgia for an era of Montclair that pre-dates my move to Baristaville. I can re-imagine the mother-daughter outings of my northern Virginia youth (Garfinkel’s, Lord & Taylor) if I’d grown up here instead: Hahne’s (just a shell when I moved here) followed by lunch at the Wedgewood.

“It was the chic-est place to eat in the world,” remembers our resident historian Frank Gerard Godlewski. “We would play hooky from school and go have lunch there with the blue-haired ladies. You could choose your food and butler in a uniform would take you tray to the table.”
You know you’ve got it bad when you have nostalgia for places you never saw. I wish I could have seen East Orange in its glory days or Weequahic when Philip Roth lived there.
Of course, there are long-gone places that do have a rightful claim on my heart, like the old Fernwood Country Club in Roseland. And though I only went there once for brunch, I do miss the Marlboro Inn.
Here’s your thread for missing things. What’s gone that was good? And what would you like to see come in to the Wedgewood Building? Think big. There’s almost 10,000 square feet available.

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  1. Louis Harris, where we bought Brownie, then Girl Scout uniforms. Gym suits (hideous one-piece royal blue bloomers). Leotards for both dance and gymnastics. And, best memory of all, mother-daughter outfits for our church’s annual mother-daughter pre-Easter fashion show.

  2. I have fond memories of the Wedgewood cafeteria. I had many a Sunday dinner with my parents there when I was growing up. Later on, Gabe’s Galley, next to the Wedgewood, was a good place for dinner en route to the Whole Theatre. I also remember ice cream sundaes at the counter of the 5 & 10 in Montclair Center (not sure if it was Woolworth’s or Kresge’s).

  3. I believe there was a Swedish restaurant here called Three Crowns. I wish I could’ve seen that.

  4. I also remember the old Suburban Lounge…went there for late-night drinks back in my college days.

  5. I used to love going to the Wedgewood with my grandmother most saturday afternoons.
    First we would stop at Ted’s for her roller set/hair style on Bloomfield Ave and then off to The Wedgewood for an early dinner.
    If we were lucky we would go to Grunnings for dessert. Yes, we were also fat, as we did this every Saturday. Oh, good times.

  6. The Wedgewood seemed frozen in time to me. It was like no other place around. Can’t say I really liked the food much or the fact that it was so stuffy. But it was neat to have a place like that, like the Marlboro, that was unique to a town like the size of Montclair.
    Gruning’s ice cream and soda shop was always the fun place to go. I’d go with my dad to get a half gallon of vanilla and a half gallon of chocolate. I miss that, and my daddy who used to take me there.

  7. Frank G, we were in Leone’s across from the Wedgewood not that long ago and we got to talking about what used to be there and we noticed that building used to be a Post Office. I didn’t remember that. Do you know, or does anyone recall, when that was built and when it stopped being a post office?

  8. Lawd, does this bring back memories! I remember the Wedgewood so well, having eaten lunch there just about every day for four years, when I first moved to Montclair in 1978 up until about the time (1982) that my office was in the late Bangz space (the Aquarian Weekly). What a great place. Does anybody remember the murals on the Wedgewood’s walls (Some hae meat but canna eat, and some can eat but hae na meat …”)? It was quite a unique establishment.
    Oh, the good old days: Gabe’s Galley, Louis Harris soup emporium, Fannie Farmer candy, Lan-Jan’s luncheonette; Gruning’s ice cream parlour, Max the Tobacconist, Bragg’s, the Suburban lounge (where the delightfully surly barmaid used to refer to every customer by his favored potable) and, of course, Hahnes. 205 Claremont was a Univac Corporation, and later a Sperry-Rand Corp. office and the township offices were at what is today MPD headquarters.
    My personal favored haunts: Just Desserts and Katiegray’s, and the great bookstore that was at the corner of Church and South Fullerton.

  9. Complainerpuss, I too fondly recall Brookdale soda, especially its bright green “lemon & lime” soda, just like a friend’s ’55 Plymouth. Boy, you don’t come across sodas made in that shade anymore, for whatever reason; lemon-lime concoctions are usually clear-colored nowadays.
    We pulled our Brookdales at the local “confectionery” from an old-fashioned cooler about waist-high, into which the bottles were submerged in cold, circulating water. So bottles which had paper labels promptly lost them, which in some cases made selecting a flavor something of a guessing game.

  10. How about Bond’s on Valley Road in the A & P Plaza? Did anyone drink enough Awful Awfuls to get the free one?

  11. State Street Pete – I remember always going there, even as a little boy. (I was born in 1959) My mother says she always remembers it being there. I just looked in the 1963 Price & Lee Montclair Directory and it says – The Wedgewood Cafeteria Inc. pres, Gabriel S. Aiello, v pres, Gabriel S. Aiello jr, secr William McCausland, 20 S Park st. I remember that the Aiellos lived in the Strahan house on Lloyd Rd, up until I was about 20. The Hampton House Building on Bloomfield Avenue used to be called the Aiello Building up until the 1940’s (circa) and I think that way back they had a fruit and vegetable business. The Wedgewood building looks to me that its from the early 1900’s and judging from the terra cotta decorations of the facade, it was built to be a U. S. Post Office. (American flags and eagle motifs)

  12. Remember when Whole Foods/Starbucks was a Consumers? I saved up my allowance for MONTHS and bought a Game Boy there. I was so excited, I immediately put in the batteries and played Tetris the whole car ride home. It would still be a couple of weeks before I’d saved up for Super Mario Brothers.
    I don’t so much miss Hahne’s. When they first shut down, yes, but then it became the whole “what to do with the Hahne’s buiding” issue that dragged on for YEARS. I don’t miss that.
    Jimmytown, are you thinking of Batchmakers, formerly of Bellevue Ave?

  13. Batchmakers, yup. I feel like it was on church st, or on Herman where Fitzgeralds is now (after the A&P was there) But Bellevue Ave sounds good too! Very confused right now
    I remember Consumers, too. I’d always wonder around the store, but never buy anything. And I agree with Hahne’s. I thought it was the end of the world when the building shut down (maybe only because my parents were upset and I took their side on things) but when it was abandoned for so long, I was glad to see it go

  14. I was a busboy at the Wedgewood in the early 70’s. I was there when they opened Gabe’s Galley, us underagers used to get to pull the liquor from an old safe in the “basement” to stock bar before opening time; I was 14 at the time.
    (Biggest shock was finding one of my teachers moonlighting as a cocktail waitress)
    Also found out about history of Aiello Bros. and the tunnels under Bloomfield Ave. (basement reference above)with one getting cafeteria and other getting the meat market, they didn’t talk to each other for years for some reason.
    The food there was always top notch, fresh and professionally prepared, was no garbage like a Boston Market or an Appleby’s.

  15. (Some hae meat but canna eat, and some can eat but hae na meat …”)? I love this saying! Thank you! I also loved seeing the postcard too. What memories.
    I’ll never forget Ida Rocklyn and her exotic and original style sense. When I was about 15yrs, she picked a pair of HUGE, Lucianna Pignatelli’s “Beautiful People’s Beauty Book glasses for me to wear and said that they were artistic looking and so easy to see out of. Now….I have much more sober eyeglasses….but when I put them on. I really don’t see much at all…
    When I was little, I also thought that it was so cool that there was a Rolls Royce showroom. (Now ts Montclair Volvo…or at least it was the last time I looked)

  16. Jimmytown, I can relate. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been to as a kid and mis-assigned the location completely.
    State Street Pete, I’ve read that the post office on South Park St. opened in 1925. Wedgewood Cafeteria opened in the same location four years later in 1929.

  17. A Swedish restaurant. What with all the Mexican and Asian restaurants around, that would be a novelty, no? And certainly a step or two up from dining on Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce at the IKEA cafeteria!

  18. Thanks Frank and banana for the replies. I wonder why the Post Office moved after only four years.
    Banana, Jimmy, the Batchmakers I knew during the 80s and beyond, and the only one that I know of, was on Church Street, the second store in from South Fullerton. Was there another on Bellevue? Almost all my high school friends, at one time or another, worked at the Claridge Theater, Quina’s Cafe (where Grunning’s had been) the Crabby Lobster, or Batchmakers.

  19. I miss the Crabby Lobster and Batchmakers – which I also remember being on Church St. near The Cat’s pajamas, and down The Ave was Boomerang.

  20. Ah yes hrh, Cat’s Pajama. I spent some money there. And much time spent loitering in and around Church St. The pay phone across from Batchmakers, next to what was Bangz, got to be “the phone”. Sometimes we’d call that phone to see who was around and our friends would answer.

  21. Gosh, such great memories. THAT’S the Montclair I know and love. Wacourson…yes, I do remember that cool bookstore on the corner of Church and Fullerton. What a great space. Later, it was taken over by that huge travel agency.
    The Wedgewood was where my mom and I always ate lucnh when we shopped in Montclair.
    Suburban (or Subhiman, as we claled it) Loung was great, too, as long as you didn’t turn on the lights. 🙂
    Also, there used to be the Church Street Bake Shop, owned by a guy named Mike Peniston. He was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met and he was one of the first ones to welcome me to town when I moved in in 1981. I don’t think anything was ever baked at the bake shop but it was a good place to go for a cup of joe and some priceless advice from Mike.

  22. Gosh, we called it “The Subhuman” also! The barmaid would address us all by our favored drink: I was Mr. Vodka Martini.
    And yep, I remember the Church Street Bakery also. Seems as if it was owned, or at least operated, by an African-American gentleman. I seem to recall it’s having moved from one side of the street to the other. I think it was around as late as ’94 during the snowblast that left 48″ of snow on the ground for two weeks. Folks were cross-country skiing down Bloomfield Avenue and stopping in for coffee, hot chocolate and carbohydrates.

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