Westporters remember the late Sally White, a music aficionado
WESTPORT — Beloved former music store owner Sally White died Wednesday at Autumn Lake Healthcare in Norwalk. White, who was in her late 80s, owned Sally’s Place on Main Street in Westport for 27 years, where she sold vinyl records, tapes, and CDs and inspired generations of music lovers.
In the music business on Westport’s Main Street since 1956, White started out at Melody House and then transitioned to the record section at Klein’s, where she worked until the department store closed in 1985 and she set out to open her own shop.
A lifelong Norwalk resident and single mother of two, White was an honorary Westporter and remembered as a mythic figure in town.
Resident Morley Boyd grew up in town and remembers Sally’s non-judgmental manner.
“With Sally there were no stupid questions, so even the musically challenged—such as myself—felt right at home. I marveled at her passion and sometimes wondered what it would be like if she ran the town,” Boyd said.
First Selectman Jim Marpe said White’s knowledge of music was “encyclopedic” and called her “the epitome of the locally-owned and -operated businessperson.”
One memory of White stuck out in Marpe’s mind.
“I remember chatting with Sally about a relatively-obscure jazz musician and arranger who was a friend and part of a large jazz band. She knew more about him that I did and had never met him,” Marpe said.
Wendy Crowther grew up in Westport and lives here still. She said her mother, Alice Crowther, used to teach an aerobic dance class at the YMCA in town and would go to Sally’s to pick out music for her class.
“My mom would go into Sally’s and often wouldn’t know the name of a song she liked but would sing the song to Sally—say, ‘It goes like this’—and Sally knew exactly what she was saying. She had this incredible brain for and knowledge of music,” Crowther said. “She radiated enthusiasm and warmth and was so helpful. She could find anything for you from jazz to rap. She knew everything.”
Chip Stephens, a resident of Westport since he was four, said he appreciated White’s ability to point customers in the direction of music they may like in a time before streaming services did that for you.
Once in the 1970s, Stephens said he and his school friends went into the music section at Klein’s and Sally told them about a great Simon & Garfunkel concert she attended. Sally’s description and enthusiasm for the band inspired Stephens to want to see the band perform live, so when he got the chance 10 years later in New York City he took it.
Sally’s place closed in 2013 due to the easy availability of music on the internet that made it difficult for retail music stores to compete, White said in a 2013 interview.
Brick and mortar music stores may be a thing of the past, but memories of White will certainly live on in the minds, and music, of many Westporters.