THROWBACK THURSDAY: Looking back at the early days of the Redwood Flea Market and Redwood Grille

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Looking back at the early days of the Redwood Flea Market and Redwood Grille

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD —  For nearly 50 years, the Redwood Flea Market and the Redwood Grille have sat adjacent on South Turnpike Road, sharing the same roadside space, and some of the same customers.

Local resident Ken Dubar, owner of the year-round outdoor market and restaurant at 180 S. Turnpike Road, put the 1.83 acre-property up for sale in the fall. Redwood Grille manager and head cook Donald Pagano said his family has leased the restaurant for the past four years. Many of the customers are regulars who have been eating at the restaurant for decades.

Nicknames of regular customers are often written on receipts and order tickets instead of their full names. 

Pat D’Agostino walked into the restaurant Wednesday afternoon and Pagano quickly began making him a lobster roll. D’Agostino said he eats at the restaurant almost every day and has been coming for nearly 10 years.

“I usually get a hot dog with grilled onion and cheese,” D’Agostino said. “The lobster rolls are good.”

Retired New Haven firefighter Roger Lambert said he drives from East Haven almost daily to eat at the restaurant. He can count on quality service and knows the staff well.

“This is the best this restaurant has ever been,” Lambert said.

Dubar inherited the property from his parents, Walter and Roberta Dubar, who opened the Redwood Grille in 1958. The Redwood Flea Market opened in 1972 and was described as an informal open air market “halfway between an antique shop and garage sale,” according to Record-Journal archives.

Items sold ranged from pocketbooks, empty whiskey bottles, commemorative plates, picture frames, old radios, records and TV sets. 

In the 1980s, both the restaurant and flea market were threatened with shutdown. In 1986, the restaurant faced fire code violations and the Planning and Zoning Commission passed a resolution that would shut down the flea market.

“I wanted to keep going as long as I could. It was something that kept me going and gave me a living,” Dubar told the Record-Journal in 1986.

In 1989, the Redwood Flea Market won a court appeal and the market remained open.

On Wednesday afternoon, Pagano talked with customers about the likelihood of the property being sold. He feels if a sale did go through, it would remain a flea market.
Twitter: @JenieceRoman