Woke up this past Sunday looking forward to spending Father’s Day with the grandkids. Part of each morning’s ritual is a flip through Facebook. Mixed in with the tributes to dads was a notice from Tony Shoes in Montreal. Anthony Fargnoli, the grandson of the original founder, Tony, and his partner in all things, Kathryn, were shifting focus and closing shop.
Anthony has been working in the store for 47 years, put another way, since he was 18. Actually he’s been at the store his whole life. In my teens during the 60’s I was a regular during visits home from boarding school. Anthony’s uncle, Mario Fargnoli, was my best friend. At that time the Fargnoli’s lived upstairs from the store. We’d hang out in his room enjoying the largest collection of 45’s that I knew. One discussion about a Montreal artist then making it big had Mario recounting his father telling him about Mrs. Cohen bringing in ‘little Lenny’ for shoes. After my parents moved to Chomedey-Laval, I would take the commuter train at Cartierville to spend downtown with Mario and, to the dismay of my mother, come home late.
Mario and I stayed friends past high school, through college and seminary years. I was in Massachusetts, he at the Seminaire du Montreal. He even visited me at St. Hyacinth’s. After we both left our seminaries, he continued searching by volunteering in India. I’d wanted him to be best man at our wedding, but he was too far away. In 1973, he died. Sue and I attended the funeral.
Since the 70’s we’ve been dropping in to say hello to grandfather Tony, his son Eddy, later spouse Sandra and for many recent years their son Anthony. We have bought shoes and boots for ourselves, for our children, and in recent years for our grandchildren. The product quality and the care in fitting is unmatched. What no one will be able to match for our family is the lifetime of welcome. Each time we would share stories of life events and the progress of our children with the Fargnoli’s and with long time staffer Julio. When visiting my parents grave at Cimetiere Notre Dames des Neiges, we would stop by to visit the Fargnoli’s family plot.
After my mom died in 1987, Tony’s was the place that most gave me that ‘back home’ feeling when in Montreal. Moving to Ottawa 5 years ago meant we could visit Montreal more often. Those more frequent family visits passed down that touchstone effect to our 14 year old grandson Charlie. He insisted on going to Tony’s to get a serious pair of school shoes for starting at Ashbury later this year. COVID and the store closing ends that.
As sad as this is personally, I am happy for Anthony and Kathryn. That attention on customer service and a quality operation takes its toll and ages you – even without a pandemic. Mario’s dad, the founding Anthony, died a few years after his son’s premature passing. Anthony’s son Eddy also died early in his late fifties. At the age when many retire, the current Anthony is taking care to better enjoy life and family.
Sue and I thank the Fargnoli’s and the staff, especially Julio, at Tony Shoes for a lifetime of friendship and service to three generations of our family.
The Montreal Gazette has two articles about the closing of this legendary 83 year old business.