Monday, March 10, 2014
By EVE SULLIVAN The Advocate
STAMFORD, Conn. - Twenty years after her passing, one Stamford woman's name is being kept alive on the sign over a downtown shop and in the heart of her son.
At Adelle's Fabric & Fashion at 918 Washington Blvd., owner Alvin McKeithen said the business was named after his mother and it's always going to stay that way.
"Till the day I die, I vowed to keep her name up there," McKeithen said, while sitting in a chair by the front door on a recent afternoon. "She was a great mom, she cared about other people. I have a heart like my mom."
Adelle McKeithen's history in Stamford stretches back many years. She first opened a shop on North Street, selling fabrics and doing alterations. She then moved the business to a storefront on Main Street, around the corner, before it ended up at the current location.
McKeithen helped his mother run the store and then took care of her as she battled bone cancer in her final days. After she died, he took over the place.
"So between the two of us, we've had (the store) for 70 years," he said.
Though it was originally a sewing shop, McKeithen has expanded the business to sell all kinds of products. A variety of pocketbooks and hats hang in the window, while a rack of colorful scarves sits by the door.
During a stroll through the store, you can find women's undergarments, men's clothing, dress suits for boys and white church gloves. Other items include greeting cards, lotion, hair products, hairpieces, jewelry and nail polish.
"We do pretty good," he said. "I've been holding my own for 20 years."
Charlean Bennett said she still comes to the store to purchase fabrics and sewing items that are hard to find elsewhere.
"Every time I get a chance, I come here," Bennett said, as she purchased white fusible lining at the register. "There's no other place in Stamford to buy this, every other place closed up."
Bennett, who learned how to sew as a youngster, was buying the lining to go inside of a shoulder bag that she's working on. She said she also buys fabrics, buttons and zippers at the store.
McKeithen said his mother also used to sew and teach sewing classes. The sign outside still says "dressmaking" and "alterations," which are now done by another woman.
Raised in Virginia, Adelle moved to Stamford, married Junius McKeithen and had eight children. They belonged to Bethel AME Church on Fairfield Avenue. While she ran the store, Junius worked at a downtown bank.
Two of the eight children have died, two live in California and the rest live in the state. McKeithen said they still get together on holidays and special occasions.
While McKeithen is running the store, he remains seated by the front window, where he keeps a quiet watch over Washington Boulevard.
Several pedestrians have been struck and killed by cars on the boulevard over the last decade or two, including one right in front of his store. McKeithen has been vocal about keeping the main artery safe, even passing around a petition at one point to have safety measures put in place.
"Washington Boulevard's been a tragedy for a long time," McKeithen said. "So many people have been killed, I don't know what it is."
While the pedestrian deaths still upset McKeithen, his mother's passing is one he seems unlikely to ever get over.
"She was a great lady," he said. "I'd like to have her back."