Lauriente’s was synonymous with business in the Gulch in Trail from the early 1900s until the men’s wear store by that name at 730 Rossland Avenue finally closed about 1995. But the tile in front remains.
The building became an ill-fated youth centre, then was sold to a car restorer, and is now the Salvation Army Community Services centre. In addition to the clothing store, the Laurientes ran a grocery one block over. Two generations were involved in their operation.
In 2008, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mario (Spuds) Pagnan, who started hanging around the clothing store in the 1920s and began working there full-time in 1930. He took over as owner in 1963 and remained until its closure — a total of 65 years in the business. An abridged transcript of the interview appeared in the Winter 2011 edition of the Trail Journal of Local History, which is still available. Video clips used to be available here: http://tinyurl.com/3tvf5fd but now there is just a snippet of text.
In this excerpt, Spuds discusses the Lauriente family, including brothers Hank and Fred, both prominent sportsmen, and how he started working at the store.
In those days [1920s], Lauriente’s was kind of a general store and they had ladies’ clothes. Thread, underwear, stockings, whatever ladies would wear. We also had Martha Washington dresses that were supposed to be the Real McCoy. That was the thing in those days. And they had ladies shoes from St. Louis. Then they had a grocery store right next to where the radiator shop is.
And the clothing store was where the soup kitchen is now?
Yeah. Mrs. Lauriente, I guess she ran the clothing stores. And Camille Lauriente, who was the father, sold insurance and Hank looked after the store. I guess they decided to retire. So they made a deal with the sons that they would take over the stores. Hank got the clothing store, Fred got the grocery store and they made a deal with their father that they’d pay him so much a month.
Then old Camille Lauriente went to San Francisco to retire, but they couldn’t stand the change in weather. So they moved to Spokane and built one of the first houses in Comstock Park.
In 1928, they went strictly to men’s wear. When they started the men’s store, I think Joe Landucci was working for them. And he didn’t last very long, so then they had to get another fella by the name of Chief Price. But my boss had to can him, not because he didn’t like him, but he got to the point where he was doing a lot of drinking and he owed everybody in town money.
After that Oliver D’Andrea worked there but he didn’t know anything about men’s clothing. The only reason they hired him was they thought he could attract some Italian business. Now we didn’t do strictly Italian, we did lots of the other [business], don’t forget that.
I worked when sales were going on and was able to wait on customers. I knew more about the clothing business than Oliver. And so Oliver decides to quit about November. So they have to find somebody. I’m in third year high school. I’d already played hooky for a year, but in third year high school, still. They’re looking for somebody and they haven’t found anybody yet. So I asked for the job.
It took a lot of guts because I’m only 16. And I was a young 16, just in case you don’t know it. So they thought about it [but] nothing happened. About a week or ten days [later], they let me know that they were gonna give me the job. So I started on Dec. 1, 1930, on my 17th birthday.
What was your starting wage?
$75 a month.
(Billhead pictured above courtesy Ed Mannings;
clothes hanger photo courtesy Alistair Fraser)
(Google Street View)