Marion’s Beloved Gilda, the SouthCoast’s Oldest Bartender, Retires
Back in February, during the Townie Awards, we recognized Gilda Pietragalla Downey as the winner of the Prohibition-Born Bartender Turned Spunky Style Icon award. She's been a working bartender and owner at Gilda's Stone Rooster on the Marion-Wareham line for over 40 years.
Gilda is getting set for her 97th birthday next week, and she has decided to call it a career. Technically, Gilda sold the building four years ago to John Mello and Joe Sauro. Mello is an owner at Rose Alley Alehouse in New Bedford, while Sauro owns Gateway Tavern and the self-proclaimed Mattapoisett dive bar, the Stowaway.
During the sale, everyone agreed that Gilda would remain the bartender there until she was ready to step down. That time has come. When the Stone Rooster reopens for the first time since the pandemic started, Gilda will not be a part of the iconic Marion bar. She has decided to move out of the apartment above the Stone Rooster, where she still lives alone.
Mello told us that if anyone could run a bar at 97 years old, it would be Gilda, "but at some point, even the living alone just becomes unrealistic."
"We want to honor and preserve the legacy of the Stone Rooster. It's an institution in Marion. Most people drive by it and see the red sports car, the place has been there for generations. Nothing we want to do will change that. We want to update the interior a little bit, make it safe and clean, but any decision we make we will keep in mind that it still needs to be the Stone Rooster." --Owner John Mello
One thing that might not make the transition is the jazz nights that were held at the Stone Rooster. Mello says that people in town expressed concerns about the immediate neighborhood getting flooded with cars parked on River Road, creating an unsafe situation. Therefore, live music is unlikely to be a regular occurrence at the Stone Rooster moving forward.
But will the red Firebird stay?
Mello says parking is at too high of a premium there, now, but they'll figure out a way to preserve the memory of the car.