Warren F. Witherell Co.
Importers & Grocers
The business near North Station in Boston that allowed Percy to afford such an expensive sports car. It was a very successful liquor and grocery importer while WFW was alive. Prohibition and a scientist in charge ended a good run. Rags to Riches to Rags in two generations.
Click any image for a full view.
These are photographs of the Causeway Street location right before they started building the Elevated Train tracks, known in Boston as the "Elevated "or "EL". This new blight of the modern age persisted until "The Big Dig" rerouted transportation though Boston in the 1990's.
The Warren F. Witherell Co., Importers and Grocers was quite successful for many years.
Warren F. Witherell my Great-Grandfather had worked in a grocery and eventually purchased it from his boss. He also purchased several specialty stores and became a wholesale supplier for many New England grocers. They imported wines and liquors and many were purchased in bulk and rebottled for private labels.
Imported and domestic chocolates, olives, cherries, canned goods and dry goods were available.
The store on Causeway Street was the main office and included a retail outlet which proved handy for people coming and going from North Station. Cigars were a big item for the men, and in those days most cigars were purchased in small quantities that could be carried in your jacket pocket. So many cigars were sold at retail that at one time WFW co had six cigar girls behind the counter selling nothing but cigars. Near the door there was a line of tabletop battery operated cigar lighters and as soon as these men purchased one to three cigars they would walk over to an available lighter, press the large lever, lean forward and stoke one up. We could only imagine the cloud of smoke and the stench of happy men leaving the store firing up their newly lit cigar at the rate of five or six per minute or so. More when a train had just come in and less right after one left. I assume that they had large ceiling fans.
When WFW died, Percy took over as President. Percy was a scientist. He had studied Astronomy at MIT. (they now call themselves astrophysicists so they don't get confused with your friend Moonshine who always wanted to tell you about astrology).
Some people are sociable people, some people are technical, artistic, musical, creative, or a mixture of many different skills. Percy was technical. The concept of sociability wasn't really that high on his list of "things to do".
I have never been a grocer (although I did once have a job at a supermarket), but from what I have seen, a grocer really has to be a people person. The retail location suffered. The liquor importing and distribution probably went well until Prohibition was enacted. Things changed dramatically. As a child we still had many bottles of scotch, bourbon, rye, and gin that had the alcohol distilled out of them and you were to take them home and add your own home-made alcohol to them. There were cookbooks available about how to create certain drinks and the first ingredient in every recipe was "One barrel of 100% grain alcohol, add 4 pounds sugar...". Booze sold like crazy, but only through organized crime. Liquor importers had nothing to import. The Warren F. Witherell Co., eventually faded into the S.S. Pierce Co.