Remember Issie’s? Nell Moll named grand marshal of St. Patrick’s parade

Nell Moll has been named this year’s grand marshal of the Milford St. Patrick’s Day parade, which will take place Saturday, March 11 in downtown Milford.

Moll became a bit of a Milford icon back in 1990, when she was an integral part of the downtown business landscape as the owner of Issie’s Big News, a newspaper and magazine shop that also sold coffee and tobacco on River Street.

She was Milford’s queen of coffee, conversation and hometown flavor.

She had bought the business from the late Robert Gaudette, and says it had existed since 1905.

Moll became a mainstay on River Street, attracting customers with easy conversation and a natural love of the Milford area. She attended local schools, grew up hunting fossils and playing kid games at Bayview Beach, and knew the ins and outs of the city.

It was a slightly different downtown in 1990, boasting Wanda’s Sugar Shack and Dom-A-Deal’s antiques, Fladd’s Music Store and the Capitol Theater. Inside Issie’s it was a different time, too: Moll said she sold 75 New York Times on Sundays, and served up a weekly supply of Hartford Courants, New Haven Registers and some of the more obscure publications that existed throughout the state.

“People would reserve four or five papers,” Moll said.

“Nobody read online,” she added with a laugh.

She owned the business with Patricia Dull, and she remembers going in at 5 a.m. to start sorting newspapers that had been delivered outside the store. She would stack and fold the papers on a front bench, labeling them with the names of the people who had ordered them. When they came in, Moll remembered which tobacco and candy to get ready for that particular customer.

She and her customers would talk about the local happenings. Issie’s was a place to go to find out about events planned in town, and to buy tickets to them. Local artists would hang their work there.

“It was like a community center,” said Moll’s partner, Dory Neilson.

Five years at Issie’s solidified her connection to downtown, but the bliss didn’t last. Business problems forced the store to close in 1995.

But it wasn’t long before Moll’s business and people connections helped her land a job at the Milford Chamber of Commerce as director of membership, opportunities and enthusiasm.

Her business philosophy has always reflected her personality, she said during an interview several years after taking the Chamber job. She believes you have to talk to someone to get to know and understand them. Conversation and dialogue in the business world all are part of the big “N” — networking — she said.

“I find people interesting, fascinating. There’s so much good in people. You don’t have to look hard to find it,” Moll said.

With that ideology, it’s easy to believe that Moll has a lot of friends and admirers. Neilson said Moll runs into people she knows wherever she goes in Milford.

“If she’s going to ShopRite, I know I’m not going to see her until four o’clock,” Neilson said.

Moll said she was “staggered, stunned” and “honored” when she listened to a voicemail and learned she was selected as the grand marshal of this year’s parade. Neilson said they listened to the message four times.

Moll traces her Irish ancestry through her mother’s line, which includes McCabes and Matthews who came here from Ireland in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Being named grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade has sparked her interest, and now Moll said she will start doing some genealogical research to really understand her roots.

Linda Hardiman, who runs the annual Milford St. Patrick’s Day parade with her husband, Martin, and a team of volunteers, said Moll was a natural choice to lead the parade this year.

“She was nominated, as were others, and we went around the room and everyone agreed on Nell,” Linda Hardiman said. “I think she will make a great grand marshal.”

Martin Hardiman said the parade committee planned to select this year’s Miss Emerald Isle this week. Miss Emerald Isle also helps lead the parade, and typically she is selected from one of Milford’s high schools.

The annual parade, which attracts an estimated 20,000 people, will take place in downtown Milford Saturday, March 11, kicking off at 1 p.m. The parade starts at the Parsons Government Center and makes its way to the Broad Street green.