If your eyes tell you that a portico under a projecting second floor speaks of a former commercial tenant, give yourself an architectural detective’s badge. This was for many years Tillie’s Store, run by Matilda “Tillie” Jason (b 1913) and her husband, John “Johnny” Jason (b 1912); one of the more important of the little neighborhood institutions that defined life in the East End in the decades after World War II.
There may have been a store at this site since the 1850s, Josephine Del Deo suggested in her 1977 examination of the property for the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The Jasons told her that it had been a poolroom in the 19th century. Alfred and Ida Mayo owned the building before the Jasons, who opened their store in the early 1940s. Tillie’s was in one sense a grocery store — for instance, you could buy a package of frozen Barnstable scallops there for $1.25 — but it was a grocery store unlike any other in the country because it offered a seat caning service and the literary works of Harry Kemp, each “signed with a seagull’s feather” by the author himself, who also patronized the store.