Shop admirers recall 45 years of memories at water’s edge

The rear portion of the Quarterdeck sits on pilings jutting into the sea.
Jessica Bartlett for the Boston Globe
The rear portion of the Quarterdeck sits on pilings jutting into the sea.

Joan Noble picked up the phone for the third time that morning, answering with a voice that was cheerful and practiced.

“Quarterdeck!” she said, as she had nearly every day in the 45-year history of the Scituate gift shop. “Oh, because it was time. . . . Haha! Yeah. Time to move on. . . .Ugh, it’s a long story.”

The 82-year-old Noble, bedecked in exotic bangles, stood among walls that looked particularly bare, the 45 percent discount leading up to this Saturday’s closure having cleared out most of the merchandise.


Empty hooks poked out alongside a few necklaces. The once-cluttered shelves held on to a few keepsakes — antique cars, stacked incense sticks, baskets of starfish.

Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe
The Scituate gift shop’s owner, Joan Noble, served a young customer (below) as she prepared to close its doors this Saturday.
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The blustery winter wind that pressed up against the store’s many windows carried another customer into the shop. The shopper quickly shut the door, but the wind whirred on under the building, which hovered over Scituate Harbor on pilings.

Noble said she has always loved the building, always swooned over the back porch that juts over the ocean like the bow of a ship. It’s what prompted her to purchase the two-story fish shop in 1968, when the owner was thinking of tearing it down.

“I fell totally in love with it,” she said. “It’s the last building on the South Shore on pilings. I just couldn’t see it” razed.

Noble intended to use the building as a summer home, but said she was “conned” into selling lobsters — a nod to the lobster shop that opened there in 1939. A baitman then sold the store a box of bait.


“One thing led to another, and we were in the fishing business,” said Noble, who explained that she bought and sold lobsters, clams, and bait in the waterfront abode.

A decade later, the Blizzard of ’78 came in with fury. The building had never been tied down to the pilings, and though it floated above the waters, the store was nearly swept out to sea.

Noble said engineers jacked the building back to its spot, and the decline in the fishing economy led Noble to another venture — Army-Navy surplus.

That history still peeks out from store shelves. A German trench coat and classic Navy peacoat hang below historic-looking hats along one wall. Noble jokes that many of the items she’s never been able to sell will be in her new antiques store, which will open at 46 Country Way.

What is not evident is the rebuilding that was needed after the “No-Name Storm” of ’91, which sent a lobster boat crashing into the pilings.


The filming of “The Witches of Eastwick” in the mid-’80s also didn’t leave much behind, other than a surge of customers whenever the 1987 movie is on TV.

Noble recalled filming being “tedious,” though she marveled at the number of trucks Warner Bros. brought in.

Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe
Customers browsed on a recent weekday, and one recalled the clinking wind chimes and seashell strands on the back deck.

What is evident in the store are Noble’s influences.

Decades ago, she stumbled on a magazine called Ornament, which opened up a world of importers in Los Angeles and New York.

Noble said she was also inspired by a Newbury Street store called The Artisan. Long since closed, the antiques store always had great items for kids, and Noble made sure to offer affordable knick-knacks.

That early marketing made lifelong customers out of thousands, several of whom wandered in recently to pick up a few final items before Noble closed up shop.

“You know, this is the second place I ever shopped in by myself?” said Beverly Westerveld, who grew up in Duxbury.

Westerveld reminisced about the history, listing the things she used to buy for a quarter.

“[I’m] very sad. It’s just been part of my life for so many years,” the 52-year-old Westerveld said.

Jannelle Codianni of Easton slowly roamed the store with her young daughter, picking up trinkets and running her hands along the clothes.

“I spent all my summers here,” she said. “I have a lot of memories, coming here as a kid. Millions. I can remember everything I wanted to have, everything I didn’t have enough money to have.”

Her grandmother used to give her $5 to spend in the shop, she said. The thought evoked nostalgia and sadness — her grandmother is now in poor health, and it was difficult to see a shared memory fade away.

Suzanne Baker of Scituate said in a phone interview that at the Quarterdeck years ago, she reunited with a childhood friend who is now her husband.

“It was the perfect little harbor-authentic store. The scenery was perfect, it was his favorite store, and we started talking,” Baker said. “Every year, he gets me little rocks from the store that are heart-shaped.”

The clinking wind chimes and seashell strands on the back deck continually drew Greta Shwachman, who lives in Cohasset, back to the store. She still remembers the smell of incense, the salt of the ocean, the magic of finding something new on the store shelves.

“I could probably have stayed in there for days on end if my parents hadn’t dragged me out,” she wrote in a message.

The nostalgia hasn’t been lost on new owner Mike Bulman, who purchased the building from Noble two years ago.

“I bought it because I’ve always loved it,” Bulman said. He even took special care to hide any recent repairs behind the façade of the old building, he said.

Bulman said the store has been leased to the Lucky Finn Bugeye Schooner, a charter boat company. Noble said she’s heard the store will become a ticket office, and perhaps a coffee shop.

Whatever the outcome, Noble said she’s ready to go. Suppliers are difficult to find, and the building can be better managed under the new ownership.

But Noble said she will never forget the feeling of sitting on the shop’s back deck, chatting with one generation after another of the same families as the summers went by. And she’ll never forget the sounds and sights of the harbor.

“It’s been a love affair,” she said. “Absolutely. A wonderful love affair.”

Visit to see a photo gallery of the Quarter-deck. Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@