Tag Archive | "Doris Gronlund"

Doris Gronlund

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The grand marshal in their year’s HarborFest parade talks about life as a business owner in Sag Harbor, as the former president of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and remembers her daughter Linda, who died a hero as a passenger on United Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to Sag Harbor and started your business Sagalund?

I came here because my husband came to work at Sag Harbor Industries. He was the vice president. That was how we arrived here. Then I started participating in the community, in the Parent Teacher Association and I participated in all local things. I wanted to make myself useful. [Daughters] Elsa was five and Linda was 10 when we came here. Then chance opened a wonderful opportunity when someone wanted to sell the business and so I bought it in 1972 or 1973 and I had it for 25 years. We named the company SagaLund – Sag for Sag Harbor and Lund for Gronlund. In the beginning it was strictly work clothes. We supplied the Bulova Watchcase Company with those green and grey and tan shirts and pants and lots of work boots for all the working people in Sag Harbor. It was that time. As we grew, we listened to the people and started to add new lines. I was very fortunate because all my friends from my buying days in New York City introduced me to people so it just grew and grew and grew. Levis, of course, was a staple. Then the Dockers came in and we added navy blazers and grey slacks – really just basics – lots of khaki pants. I did take in the Heli Hansen line of foul weather gear because that came from Norway and since my parents were born in Norway I leaned towards the kind of quality I knew I would get from there. Then we added the Dale of Norway sweaters – they are famous all over the world so I never I had to put them on sale because they sold out all the time. And that continued on until 1997.

What happened in 1997?

Linda was able to get some time off and we never had a chance to take a vacation together, so she made all the plans and we flew off to Oslo together and then up to almost the North Pole, got onto a big, big ship that stopped at all the little villages down the coast – it was like a mail or freight kind of ship, but just lovely. We had such a good time. She said to me, “You know Mom, you are lots of fun. I think we have to go on another trip.” I said, “Well, my next dream vacation is New Zealand.” She said, “Okay, let’s do it in 2002.”

Elsa came to work when she was about 13 or 14 in the store. Linda was not a retailer – it just was not her – but Elsa was wonderful, wonderful.

How has Sag Harbor changed in your time here?

Sag Harbor started to grow. When I came here in 1964 a lot of the stores were boarded up. It was really pretty hard times and then in the 1970s we had the gas shortage and inflation and everybody felt that. We had many stores open here that had to close. The good old basics are still here. There was a group that wanted to make the village welcoming, which is why we continued the Whalers Festival, which we can’t take credit for – that was [John] Steinbeck and the boys. But we devised many things to welcome people here. We had this incredible treasure chest, where you bought something and you got a coupon and your name went into the chest and then it was drawn and a key opened the chest – it was complicated. There were many, many great ideas. Dave Lee did a lot of good, Nada Barry, Jack Tagliasacchi, my goodness, great, great people And then when Barbara Schmitz came in [to the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce] and took over, I could not have been more proud of her. When I was president I made her my vice president and we was so nervous and now she has been the longest running president of chamber and has done a really great job.

How have you seen the business community change in Sag Harbor?

Obviously in my particular case, the working clothes changed dramatically. John Weitz, a great designer, wrote a beautiful article for The New York Times detailing where you could get really fine work clothes. Women started to buy work clothes, because it became “the thing,” “the style,” so I started to buy smaller sizes so the women could buy them. Watching the needs being filled now, by the very many different kind of stores that have opened, serving needs we didn’t have back then. We have seen it go from a basic working man’s town to a people’s town. I feel that I think we want to protect it. I have been all over the world and the place you come to where you feel at home, welcome, where the people are polite, that is where you want to go. And much of that feeling is why Sag Harbor has grown as it has. I think it is just beautiful. And you see other places, like Greenport, doing the same thing now. Greenport, only a few years ago, was not the most pleasant place, but has really grown into a lovely town.

What are you most proud of during your tenure as the President of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce?

I was in charge of the Santa Claus visit and we had had it at the Fire House, the American Legion, but we were able to have it at Bay Street Theatre, which I cannot say enough about. That theatre has brought an enormous amount of people and attention to Sag Harbor. It was just unbelievable, they even made a throne for Santa. They made it so lovely. We had young children serving as elves. Those ladies have now all grown up and probably have children of their own.

What do events like HarborFest mean to you? How important is it for the village?

It originated being a Whaling Festival because of John Steinbeck and that group and it was created to bring people into Sag Harbor. Certainly, we got discovered, and it has been a nice lengthening of the summer for the businesses. I think that it is unique in that we are a whaling village and we have events like whale boat races and the clam chowder contest. We even used to have pony rides in Marine Park. It makes it unique to Sag Harbor. I know Greenport has begun its own festival and they have used many of our types of events.

Do you have any special plans for HarborFest this year having been named grand marshal?

It is an honor they are bestowing on me, although I would never want to take away from Nada, Jack and Dave Lee and all the work they have down. I am not one who likes to be in the forefront. I will be eating all the soup I can.

HarborFest does coincide with the eighth anniversary of the September 11. Does that change the meaning of the weekend for you?

The day after September 11, Bryan [Boyhan, editor and publisher of The Sag Harbor Express] asked me if it would be okay to go ahead with the festival and I said okay. The fact that it is almost right near the 11th, I have had to be in Washington D.C. or Shanksville for observing that day.

I think that I always want people to remember Flight 93 because they were unique. They did not choose to let that particular plane become another missile so the next target, the White House or the Capital would be destroyed. What a different picture we would have of that day if that had happened. They took it upon themselves to try and do something about it, to try and get into the cockpit, to try and take over the plane. They were 40 unique people and when the families all meet in Shanksville we just love one another because we gave the best we had. Now we are working towards a memorial and it is pretty much on the way. We are hoping to get it completed by 09-11-11.

Sag Harbor is a genuine jewel and the comfort and care and love I have been shown here has truly made a difference in how I have been able to heal.

A Day in September

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It’s that time of year again. The kids are back in school, the crowds have largely headed back to the city and the temperatures are cooling down a bit. HarborFest is once again upon us, and, as usual, this weekend promises to be full of food and fun for all, young and old alike.

But there’s another emotion to HarborFest that can be found lying just under the surface — that sense of underlying sadness of something lost that is inexorably linked to this time of year.

Just as we will never again be able to look at crystal clear blue skies in September in the same way again, so, too, will HarborFest always remind us in one way or another of that horrific day in 2001 when our lives forever changed. It was a day the unthinkable happened and we all grew wiser about the darker ways of the world. Emotions and memories may fade or change with time, but they’re always there. The psyche has a way of linking incongruent ideas like that. The second weekend in September – it’s hard to avoid.

But it’s very appropriate that our own Doris Gronlund has been selected as grand marshal for the HarborFest parade on Saturday. Many of us recall that in the days after the 9/11 attacks, there was much debate over whether or not the village should proceed with a festival in the face of such disaster. But it was Doris who insisted that HarborFest go on as planned. That nothing, not even this, should interfere with our time honored traditions. All the more poignant, of course, because Doris’ own daughter, Linda, died aboard the hijacked United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that day.

On that HarborFest weekend, we learned that even as we took part in the spirited activities that define small town life, we were still able to grieve and express our profound sense of loss, not only to Doris who personally suffered such tragedy, but to all those around us who weren’t sure what to do with the emotions. That’s how it should be. In times of trouble, getting together to share the experience, through laughter and tears is a cathartic experience.

It’s been eight years now, but 9/11 is still a difficult anniversary for many. So in addition to the whale boat races, walking tours and the lobsterbake, there are also opportunities to reflect on that fateful day back in 2001. On Friday, September 11, at 5 p.m. Cormaria Retreat House commemorates the 8th anniversary of the attack with a ceremony in a garden dedicated to Erica Van Acker, a Sag Harbor resident who died in the World Trade Center. And that evening, Bay Street Theatre will offer a staged reading of a play written just months after 9/11 called “The Guys” about a firefighter who must write eulogies for several of his men killed in the Trade Center and the writer who helps him get his words, and emotions, on paper.

Of course, we’re also expecting everyone to turn out to wave to Doris Gronlund as she passes by in Saturday’s parade at 9:30 a.m. And at the end of the day, those looking to quietly observe this anniversary can do no better than taking a solitary walk on Barcelona Neck in what, since Saturday, September 11, 2004, has been officially known as the Linda Gronlund Memorial Nature Preserve.

A perfect way to spend a September day.