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Through the years many types of businesses operated from Stamford. The ones described here in chronological order are only a sampling.
Cove Mills (flour mill and manufacturing company)
Starting with a grist mill in the 18th century, Cove Mills grew, so that by 1819 the Cove Mills Complex was the largest flour mill in Connecticut. In 1844 Henry J. Sanford bought the Cove Mills from the Holly family, and changed it to the Stamford Manufacturing Company. The new company made extracts used for dyes, drugs and licorice paste. For many years Stamford Manufacturing Company and Yale & Towne were the two largest businesses in Stamford. The Stamford Manufacturing Company buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1919.
Stamford’s first town bank, First Stamford National Bank and Trust Company, was established in 1834. Shortly after, it moved into a building on Main Street that had been a grocery store.
The Phoenix Company (wagons and carriages
In the 1860s carriages and wagons were made by The Phoenix Company. Families owned one of these for transportation before the invention of the automobile.
Yale & Towne (locks and keys)
In the 1860s Linus Yale, Jr., who lived in Massachusetts, invented a new kind of pin-tumbler lock opened with a slim key. He became partners with Henry Robinson Towne, and the two planned to manufacture the locks and keys in Stamford. After Linus Yale Jr. died in 1868, Towne continued with their plans, and in 1869 he began making Yale locks and keys in a small shop in Stamford. His products became known worldwide and the business grew to the point where, from 1868 to 1959, Yale & Towne, was the largest employer in Stamford. It was located in the South End and the company eventually covered 25 acres of land.
Schleicher & Sons (pianos)
Pianos were built in Stamford at the Schleicher & Sons Piano Company factory on South Pacific Street. The company was founded by Gustave Schleicher, who came to the United States from Germany in 1850 to work for the famous Steinway & Sons Piano company in New York. He started his own company with factories in New York City, Mt. Vernon, NY and Stamford in 1864. Schleicher pianos had a special sounding board that helped them stay in tune better than other pianos. Because of this, many of them were sent to Europe during WWII, where they were used to entertain American troops. For this reason it is hard to find a Schleicher piano today.
Simon Ingersoll patented the steam rock drill in 1871, and manufactured them at the Ingersoll Rock Drill Co. in Stamford. These drills made it much easier to do mining and tunneling. In 1904 the start of the drilling for the Panama Canal was done with a later type of Ingersoll Rock Drill.
In 1873 H.W. Collender Co. located on Pacific Street was the leading billiard (pool) manufacturer in the country. After a fire and a merger, the company stopped making billiard tables there.
Phillips Camphor and Wax
Charles H. Phillips established the Phillips Camphor and Wax Company in Glenbrook. The company is known for the Milk of Magnesia product which he invented and patented in 1873. You can still buy Milk of Magnesia at the drugstore. This product was made in Stamford until 1976.
George C. Blickensderfer was an inventor who moved to Stamford in the late 1880s. He lived on Bedford Street and made typewriters in a shop in the rear of his home. Later his company, located in the South End, became one of the world’s largest typewriter manufacturing companies. He even invented an early electric typewriter, but he never marketed that machine.
The Diamond Ice Company was founded in 1897 and located on Main Street. Before people had refrigerators or freezers in their homes ice was delivered to houses and kept in ice boxes to keep food fresh. Before 1916, some of the ice was cut from the Mill Pond of the Rippowam River.
Pitney Bowes (postage machines)
In 1917 Walter H. Bowes moved his Universal Stamping Machine Company from New York to an empty factory at Walnut and Pacific streets. In 1919 he merged his postage-stamping firm with the postage meter company of Chicago inventor Arthur H. Pitney to form the Pitney Bowes Company. Their products brought about a revolution in postal service. Pitney Bowes headquarters on Elmcroft Road was renovated in 2006-07.
Schick (electric shavers)
In the 1930s during the Depression the electric dry shaver industry was born in a Stamford loft. By 1940, Colonel Jacob Schick employed nearly 1000 workers at his Schick Dry Shaver factory on Atlantic Street. The company left Stamford in the 1950s, but Schick is still a popular brand of shaving products.
Clairol (hair dye)
Clairol, a company known for hair dye, had its research, manufacturing and distribution departments in Stamford starting in 1940. Clairol was originally located on Fairfield Avenue. Later it moved to the Schuyler Merritt estate on Blachley Road. In 2001, Procter & Gamble bought Clairol for $4.95 billion dollars. The building on Blachley Road is no longer Clairol headquarters.
Do you know that a major sport has its global headquarters in Stamford? Established in 1948, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has headquarters on East Main Street. Until 2002 WWE was known as World Wrestling Federation (WWF). To be near WWE headquarters, some well-known wrestlers live in Stamford. Some of these wrestlers visited the library to help promote Teen Read Week in 2007.
Xerox, a well known copier and printer company, moved its headquarters to Stamford in 1969, and later they moved to Norwalk. Their product is so well-known that many people call all copiers “Xerox machines”.
UBS (financial services)
a global financial services firm with world headquarters in Switzerland, moved its North American headquarters to Stamford in 1997. The UBS trading floor (the place where stockbrokers and traders buy and sell), has the Guinness World Record as the largest column-less trading floor in the world. It is near the Stamford Transportation Center, and many people who commute from New York City to work at UBS can walk to work from the train.
Purdue Pharma (pharmaceuticals)
makes some medicines sold in drugstores with a prescription. They also make some non-prescription items including Betadine, an antiseptic used in many hospitals. The company’s headquarters have been in the Landmark buildings since 2000.
Barnes and Noble (bookstore)
In 2007, Connecticut’s largest Barnes and Noble bookstore opened at the Stamford Town Center.
Stamford’s food markets have an interesting history. Here are some examples:
Bongiorno Supermarket, Inc.
Originally from Italy, John Alphonse Bongiorno started his business on Stillwater Avenue. Later it moved to West Avenue. For years many Stamford families bought their food at Bongiorno’s, which sold ethnic foods not available in other city grocery stores. In 2004 the store was bought by Stop & Shop Supermarket Company.
EB Hoit Company Grand Central Market
was located at 480 Main Street. What do you see in this picture that is different from the markets in Stamford today?
This giant 88,000-square-foot grocery store opened on Canal Street in 2010. Part of a chain that started in New York City, Fairway Stamford brought 500 new jobs and a great new supermarket to the city.
Grade A Supermarkets
were started by Salvatore Cingari, during the Great Depression in the 1930s. First, he bought an old school bus for less than $100 and loaded it with fresh produce and pasta that he sold on the outskirts of Stamford, where many people did not have access to a grocery store. In 1943 he opened a store at 263 Shippan Avenue and called it Grade A because he said that was the quality of his products. In 1959, the Cingari Family moved the store across the street. In 1979, Grade A also took over the Food Fair store on Newfield Avenue. In 1992, the family forged an alliance with ShopRite. The Cingaris bought the old Grand Union on Hope Street in 2000 and changed the name of that store to Grade A.
P. Sabini & Company, Inc.
Pellegrino Sabini came to Stamford from Northern Italy around 1900. He owned a second-hand furniture store on Canal Street, a chain of small candy stores on Atlantic Street, and a grocery store on Main Street, where he sold ice cream from a Ford Model T truck. Can you still buy ice cream from a truck in Stamford?