'True cornerstone of Darien': Darien Sport Shop celebrates 75 years

DARIEN — In an age where retail shops come and go, the local mainstay Darien Sport Shop, which opened in 1946, is in a league of its own.

On Wednesday the luxury and specialty item store held a celebration of its 75 years in business. The shop, located at the corner of Leroy Avenue and the Boston Post Road, is known for designer clothing, accessories, gifts and sporting equipment.

“This is the true cornerstone of Darien, the one place that we all go to for all our luxury and sporting needs,” said Kesti Aysseh, executive director of the Darien Chamber of Commerce. “We wouldn’t know what to do without them.”

Originally opened on Aug. 1, 1946, founder Stephen Zangrillo was only 22 at the time and had just come back from serving in the Pacific with the U.S. Army during World War II.

According to the store’s history on its website, “Mr. Z started his store with a simple philosophy: treat your customers like they are old friends, and they’ll keep coming back.”

Zangrillo, a lifelong resident of Darien, died July 8, 2015, at the age of 91, having minded the store through most of that time.

State. Rep. Terrie Wood (R-141), who presented the shop with a legislative proclamation, shared her own memories of visiting the place, which originally opened down the street just west of the railroad station.

“I do miss Mr. Z at the door on Saturday mornings … handing out lollipops to the kids,” she said.

First Selectperson Jayme Stevenson also read a proclamation from the town, declaring Sept. 22, 2021, to be Darien Sport Shop Day.

“The second and third generations of the Zangrillo family now run the business, adapting throughout the years to fit their customers’ needs,” she said.

Stevenson and others also cited the store’s involvement in supporting many community organizations and initiatives, including a focus on green efforts.

“Gina Zangrillo and the Darien Sport Shop team are portraits of integrity, legacy, ambition and charitable spirit,” she said.

Stephen Zangrillo’s daughter, Gina, who now serves as president, attributed the greater part of their ongoing to success to their staff of 48.

During the event she called up each staff member who was present to stand with her, recognizing their amount of time with the store, which in total adds up to 240 years.

“This is what makes us great,” she said.

Likewise, she acknowledged her son, Greg Reilly, as the third generation involved with the store — something she said would have excited her father.

“All he wanted was for this to go on another generation,” she said.

The celebration paid homage to the shop, her father and his lasting legacy.

“This is just wonderful and obviously emotional for a lot of us,” she said. “I know that my dad is with us.”