LINWOOD — Barbara Ann Schoppy Talarico never got to wear Miss America’s crown. But she did get to make the crown, along with a whole host of pageant paraphernalia.
The second-generation matriarch of Schoppy’s Trophies died Dec. 28 at 87.
Talarico was one of four children born to William and Hazel Schoppy in 1931, 10 years after Schoppy’s Jewelry opened on Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City.
After graduating from Atlantic City High School in 1949 and attending business school at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, Barbara married William Talarico in 1954.
Following the passing of her father, Barbara took over operations at the shop in the 1970s.
“She commuted an hour every day to save the business,” said son and current Schoppy’s Trophies owner David Talarico.
At the time, she was raising a family in Barrington, Camden County. The Talaricos moved to Linwood in 1978 and continued to run the Atlantic City store. Schoppy’s eventually opened a second location in Northfield and closed the original Atlantic City jewelry store in 1982.
According to Talarico, Schoppy’s had been struggling prior to the economic boom Atlantic City experienced once casino gaming started.
He said his mother helped with innovative products — including a line of custom jewelry, pins and gifts based off the Miss America tiara. Despite ending the jewelry business, Schoppy’s continues to sell the tiara pins and make crowns for local pageants.
Schoppy’s made the Miss America trophies and prizes since the pageant’s beginnings in 1921. In 1955, then-Pageant Director Lenora Slaughter introduced the iconic four-point Miss America crown that was made annually by Schoppy’s until the pageant moved to Las Vegas in 2005.
When the pageant returned to Atlantic City, Schoppy’s was not asked to continue making the crowns, scepter and other jewels for the national pageant.
However, original Schoppy’s jewelry is sought and coveted by Miss America fans.
According to Talarico, his mother helped design many of the pageant’s trophies, award plaques, gifts and jewelry during Miss America’s heyday in Atlantic City. Talarico recalled heading to Boardwalk Hall for pageant week and selling Schoppy’s originals in a small temporary shop table.
“My mom worked hard to enhance their image and protect the Miss America image,” said Talarico. “If you look online, like on eBay, you’ll see listings to the original Schoppy’s trophies and Miss America gifts.”
A member of the Atlantic City chapter of women’s group Zonta International, Talarico said his mother was one of the few women running her own business at the time and felt she had an advantage over men in business, having taken over her family’s store.
“She took pride that she was a woman in business, which was difficult in the 1970s,” said Talarico. “She was a good businesswoman and taught me how to be a good business person.”
In the 1990s, Barbara Talarico retired from the store but still gave her input and loved learning about how Schoppy’s was expanding.
“She tried to have a retirement life, but we were always talking about the store and she was fascinated by the website and eventually saw the benefit of taking our business online,” David Talarico said.