“A life is not captured by a list of a person’s activities and accomplishments,” wrote Dennis Minsky of his old friend Paul Endich, who died at home in Eastham on March 10, 2021 after a long illness. “It is the way that those activities are performed — the art of the living.” Paul, the longtime owner of the Penney Patch candy store in Provincetown, was 72.
At his retirement in 2016, Paul had had only one job. In 1973, fresh out of the Army (drafted in 1971, he always said it was “the only lottery I ever won”), he came to the Cape and bought the Penney Patch, then with stores in Provincetown and Wellfleet. The Wellfleet store burned down in 1976.
For 43 seasons, he ran the Penney Patch on the southeast corner of Commercial and Ryder streets, catty-cornered from town hall, working until 11 every night. The store was his stage. A steady stream of customers came through: old people off tour buses, name tags dangling, families with children, newly independent pre-teens making some of their first purchases with their own money after serious deliberations.
The choices included 20 different kinds of fudge and many old favorites, along with newer, hipper sour things. Paul had a joke for everybody and a welcoming laugh. He could tally up a sale (“five of these at 25 cents, a dozen of these at 50…”) and still maintain the banter. “Welcome to the Penney Patch,” he would say, “where a five-cent penny candy now costs a quarter!”
People remembered him. They would tell him that they had been there as kids and were now bringing their kids. The freeloaders pounced on the samples of free fudge while Paul looked on smiling. Passers-by gazed at Paul’s tall bearded figure in the front window, stirring the fudge in an enormous aged copper kettle — a sight to remember. Over the years, legions of local kids had their first jobs at the Penney Patch. It was a rite of passage.
Paul was certainly a contender for the title “mayor of Provincetown.” He was on a first-name basis with everybody, even if he did not know their names. He loved people and it showed. It could be the town manager or Freddie Rocha: Paul was accessible. His gift was making you feel as if you had been friends for ages.
Many friends were fellow Beachcombers. He loved being at the club on Saturday nights, and he was beloved there. His laugh resounded in that hallowed space, even if the joke was mediocre. He is the latest cruel casualty in an organization that has suffered many losses in the last year or so. He was also a member of the Lion’s Club, and enjoyed their meetings as well.
When he retired, his children took over the business, and his son, David, runs it now. In retirement, Paul drove for Art’s Dune Tours, worked at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and the Whydah Museum, and served on the board of Provincetown Arts magazine. Still, he often had time for a shot and a beer with his children at his favorite haunt, the Old Colony Tap. “What a good dad,” observed his friend Dennis.
Paul is survived by his wife, Patty Burke, daughter Tamara and husband Marshall Burke (no relation to Patty), son David, stepdaughter Erin Burke-Webster and husband Trevor Mack, and brother Sylvan Endich and wife Alceste Pappas. He is also survived by the mother of his children, Roberta Solomon Endich.
A celebration of Paul’s life will be announced later this year. Donations in his memory can be made to Hospice of Cape Cod or Helping Our Women.