Yes, we have the same last name. And given our family history, we may be related by blood.
Either way, one thing is for sure: Each of our life paths led us both to a small, quaint town in Southern California: South Pasadena.
Vincent Le Pore was an Italian Immigrant who traveled to New York from Naples in the early 1900s.
He owned a clothing shop in New York before moving to South Pas with his wife in the mid-1900s. Together, they opened “Le Pore’s Men’s Store” at 911 Fair Oaks Avenue.
The late Le Pore sold apparel including suits, shirts, ties, socks and accessories. An advertisement for the store in South Pasadena’s 1961 directory says: “'The Store of Famous Brands’” and lists examples of merchandise including Levi’s, interwoven, Buxton wallets and champ hats.
“The store was rather small, but there was just enough room to house the merchandise his clientele wanted,” recalls former South Pas resident Candy Soloman.
"If clothing alterations were needed, both Mr. and Mrs. Le Pore could mark the garments for a perfect fit," she continued.
Soloman worked at the shop during the holidays for two years in the early 1970s. She was paid $1.50 an hour—“that was BIG money back then!”—and offered a 15 percent discount.
Le Pore wasn’t just a personable businessman. He was a pillar of the community, according to those I’ve interviewed. There is a reference in Jane Apostol’s South Pasadena: A Centennial History that describes him as being “long active in civic affairs.” And owner of the Von’s shopping center, Robert Wagner, can attest to that.
He and Le Pore were both members of South Pasadena’s Rotary Club and became quick friends. About 30 years ago, Wagner named the street leading to the Von’s parking lot Le Pore Lane.
“He believed in service above self,” said Wagner. “He was honest, and he did things for the betterment of community not for crooked politicians.”
Le Pore was very interested in politics and would often attend city council meetings. "He was a staunch conservative in that regard," said Soloman.
"When people came into the store, it was not just to buy something. It was a time to catch up on all the news."
Here are other memories of Le Pore from community members:
My parents bought my first suit from him. I had little interest in clothing then. That is still true, even in retirement. I regard clothing as a necessity, and I know that I need to dress different ways for different occasions. My wife often says no to certain combinations. When my first suit was purchased, I asked my mother if she and my Dad couldn't just go to [Vincent Le Pore's] store and simply buy one and bring it home. However, she and my dad both insisted on my going along for proper fitting. I genuinely liked him. He had worked in men's clothing at Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia before coming to California and South Pasadena. Vincent sold clothing of high quality and name brands.
—Larry McHargue, South Pas resident
He was sort of a civic gadfly. Interested in all that was affecting the downtown and merchants. He would show up occasionally and vent his views before the city council.
—Dorothy Cohen, former Mayor of South Pas
I shopped at his store when I was in high school; it was a door or two away from the other men's store The Toggery. At the same time, we had two 5 and 10 stores, Rasco's and Coronet, three Thrifty drug stores all with lunch counters and two car dealerships in the city.
—Wally Colburn, South Pas resident
Mr. Le Pore knew everybody in town (or so it seemed). I was amazed that he called everyone by name, asked after the family and knew all the family members names, too! He managed to flow through the store making sure everyone was taken care of.
... Mr. LePore never rushed anyone out of the store. The shoppers were welcomed profusely and there were chairs throughout the store so they could sit and visit with Mr. LePore before leaving. During the slow times, Mr. LePore would tell me stories as I made bows. He was the epitome of honesty and trained you the way he wanted you to do the job.
He was very particular about the way he wanted things done and was full of praise when you did a good job. When my job was done and it was time for me to go back to school after the holidays, Mr. Le Pore not only gave me a paycheck, but a $25 gift certificate to Caroline’s Dress Shop (on the North side of Mission Street just a few doors west of Fair Oaks). He was extremely generous and I thought the world of him.
Patch Asks: Do you have memories of Vincent Le Pore? Did you shop or work at his store? Please share!