Salt-water taffy and seashells. You can almost hear Patti Page singing Old Cape Cod. But this substantial commercial building was not constructed as the unofficial headquarters of long-ago summertime fantasy. It was built in 1892, in Queen Anne style, as the headquarters of the Seamen’s Savings Bank, which occupied the building until 1964, when the new — and still current — headquarters opened at 221-223 Commercial Street. The tenants here are Cabot’s Candy of Cape Cod, owned and run since 1969 by Giovanni “John” Cicero (b 1943), and the Shell Shop, owned and run by Cynthia “Cindi” Gast, which has been in business since 1974.
During the bank’s occupancy, there were commercial tenants on the third floor, including the Dunes restaurant, which specialized in Southern fried chicken, in the 1930s; and the Harbor Vanity Shoppe in the 1940s. John C. Snow (d 1985), arguably the town’s leading lawyer, was also a second-floor tenant for many years. Other tenants included the William H. Young Insurance Agency and the S. J. Benson Insurance Agency, forerunners of the modern Benson Young & Downs at 56 Howland.
Cabot’s was established in 1927 by George Shwarz [sp?]. In a 2009 interview, I asked Cicero how the name of the business had come about. “He called it Cabot because he didn’t want to call it Shwarz,” he explained. “It’s not a very New England name.” He told me that sometimes — when he’s asked why a man named Cicero is running a business named Cabot — he’ll tell customers that his real name is actually Giovanni Caboto. The store specializes in homemade taffy, fudge, peanut brittle and honey-crunch popcorn. Of a summer night, those sweet aromas emerge from the shop like tendrils, pulling in passersby who might not otherwise have imagined themselves in the mood for taffy morsels. It has been described as the “last Cape confectioner to cook its own saltwater taffy.” (Stephen Morris, “Taffy Pulls in Sweet Tooths,” Cape Cod Day/Wicked Local, 20 August 2009.)
Cicero and his former wife, Judith, bought 274-276 Commercial Street in 1983 from Sumner E. Robinson, whose family had controlled the property since Seamen’s vacated it, Cicero said. The couple owned a number of key commercial properties downtown including 265-267 Commercial Street — the former Malchman’s clothing store — which they bought in 1975 from Jean A. and Nathan Malchman and turned it into a restaurant called Cicero’s. In 1984, they also bought from Charles W. Silva the building at 269-271 Commercial Street that housed the Viking restaurant.
Cabot’s can be seen in the background of one of the more iconic Ptown picture post cards of the 70s, showing a woman and a naked child — bare bottom to the camera — pausing at Ryder Street. ¶ Updated 2013-02-10