A special exhibit to honor the iconic HART’S store in New Milford will be unveiled later this year.

Tony Vengrove is spearheading the exhibit that will be showcased at the site of the former store at 20 Bank St.

Vengrove is seeking the public’s help. He is looking for memories, memorabilia, artifacts and products purchased at the store for the exhibit.

The two-story site is now home to Makery Coworking, which Vengrove opened in 2017.

“I missed the whole experience of (HART’S),” the local businessman said, noting he moved to town shortly after the store closed its doors in 1997 after 83 years in business.

Over the years, and now as owner of the Makery, he said he constantly hears stories about the business shared by residents in person and on social media.

Vengrove said after Malcolm Carrier Jr., the last family member who owned and ran the store, died last year, there was an outpouring of sympathy, love and memories on social media.

The nostalgia sparked the concept of honoring HART’S and its role in the community.

“I love history and being in an historic building,” Vengrove said. “I thought it’d be cool to collect pictures, memories and artifacts and curate a show, and invite the community to honor HART’S.”

Vengrove has met several members of the Carrier family, some of whom still live in the area. The family has even agreed to loan Vengrove some items for the show.

“I’m touched and totally honored,” Dave Hart Eddy of Simsbury, great-grandson of original owners Fred Carrier and Elizabeth Hart Carrier, said of the plans for the upcoming show. “I know my family members would be very honored” to know the legacy of the store remains so admired by the community.

Eddy said the store’s slogan — “HART’S in the heart of New Milford” — resonates with him.

“With (the store) being in the heart of the community, literally in the center of town, on an iconic street, in small town America — a Norman Rockwell kind of street — it was a community hub,” said Eddy, who worked on and off at the store while his uncle, Malcolm Carrier Jr., owned it.

“Customers would see each other picking up thumbtacks, sewing patterns, pencils — whatever they needed,” he said.

The store was described by many as a 5&10. But Malcolm Carrier Jr. described the store another way in an undated article in The News-Times — the Spectrum’s sister paper: “We’re not a department store, and we’re not a 5&10. We’re a variety store. We carry things everybody needs — shoelaces, ribbons, basic everyday merchandise.”

Indeed, the store carried everything, from children’s toys to collector’s items such as coins, from health and beauty products to shoelaces, and everything in between.

Eddy said it fascinates him when he thinks how his family “floated this small business and didn’t really change how the business was run (over the years),” even when more mainstream, competitive stores came to town.

There were never any big renovations or big sales. Malcolm Carrier Jr. used the same vendors the business had for years, the ones who “unloaded their briefcase and showed items in a catalog,” according to Eddy.

“(Malcolm Jr.) ran the business as he learned it, and he wanted to make enough to make an honest living and sustain the business,” Carrier’s nephew explained.

“People appreciated the direct and simple nature of it, like a general store of yesteryear,” he said.

In recent months, a photograph of the last HART’S sign to hang over the now-cobblestone sidewalk outside of the former store posted on social media created a buzz.

The sign was acquired by a local businessman who purchased it at an estate sale and loaned it to Vengrove to put outside the store for a day.

After reading the response online, Vengrove said he hopes individuals will share their memories, memorabilia and artifacts of the store with him for the curated show.

Those who have something to share or loan should fill out a form outline, or contact Vengrove.

Items should be submitted by the end of October.

The show is targeted to open mid-December — with the exact date to be announced — with a cocktail party and guest speakers.

A videographer is expected to be on site, too, to record testimonials, Vengrove said.

“One of the nicest parts of opening this business has been meeting people with fond memories of HART’S,” Vengrove said on the Makery’s website. “They visit our space and share stories while pointing out where everything used to be, from kitchen supplies to model-airplane paint and much, much more.”

In preparation for the show, Vengrove has been in consultation with the New Milford Historical Society & Museum.

“I’m thrilled he wants to curate a show,” said museum curator Lisa Roush. “It’s the perfect venue, being that that’s where the store was.”

Part of their discussion has included transferring some of what is collected for the upcoming show to the historical society for a permanent collection as part of the museum’s business and commerce exhibit.

Roush said she appreciates Vengrove’s efforts to honor the store because people “have such fond memories” of the store and the history is relevant.

Evolution of HART’S

and the storefront

HART’S was owned and operated by Malcolm Carrier Jr.’s grandparents (and Eddy’s great-grandparents), Fred Carrier and Elizabeth Hart Carrier.

Peter Hart, Elizabeth’s brother, was most likely instrumental in opening up several HART’S stores in the state and organized family members, including siblings such as Elizabeth, with running the stores, according to family records.

At one point, there were five HART’S stores in the state.

After Fred and Elizabeth had the store, it was passed on to their son, Malcolm Carrier and his wife Winifred Hoyt Carrier (Eddy’s grandparents) and later to their son, Malcolm Hart Carrier Jr. (Eddy’s uncle).

Malcolm Carrier Jr., a lifelong New Milford resident who graduated from New Milford High School in 1949, took over the store when his father died in 1969 and worked there until it closed Oct. 31, 1997, according to Eddy’s family records.

He was the last member of the family to own and operate the store. He never married and had no children.

He served in the Army for two years and never learned to drive or owned a car. He walked to and from walk every day.

Since the popular store closed, the site has been home to various businesses.

In more recent years, Kathy Walsh and her husband Trip Rothschild — both of whom came from the fashion and retail industry — operated Homeward Bound in the space from April 2006 through the fall of 2010.

The store combined fashion and home accents. With the New Milford store as its flagship, Homeward Bound had four locations at one time.

Rothschild Bank Street LLC had owned the building at 20 Bank St. until it was sold in 2010.

After the closing of Homeward Bound, Steven Wilburn, the former national creative director for Saks Fifth Avenue, launched Spruce Home & Garden, which carried upper-end garden products, large garden sculptures, and home products and accessories. It had a five-year run in town.

In August of 2015, the storefront underwent a major theme shift when award-winning documentary filmmakers Evan and Carmen Abramson of Bridgewater opened the Harts Gallery Harts Gallery, which began as a pop-up but evolved into a permanent gallery that featured contemporary art and artist discussions.

The Makery opened in early 2017, offering individuals interested in conducting business a space to rent space for a day, months or a year.

Eddy emphasized the connection between HART’S and the Makery.

“HART’S was a small business in the town…and Tony took the small business idea and flipped the script,” describing how the Makery supports small businesses by giving them a space to work and connect with people across the business world. “The collaboration grows multiple businesses out of the same spot.”

“I love the innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said.

For more information, questions about the show or to have the link with the Google doc form to complete to contribute an item for the show, email tony@makerycoworking.com .