Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Remember those family-owned department stores? The bastions of a more genteel commercial tradition in the downtown. The downtown wasn’t always in the big city. Greenfield, Massachusetts is a small town. That’s where you’ll find Wilson’s.
There are few family-owned department stores still existing in this country. Wilson’s has stood at the corner of Main and Davis Streets in Greenfield’s small downtown for over 128 years.
Founded in 1882 by the White Brothers, John Wilson took over in 1896. Then the Reid family from 1929. The store grew in size, upward and outward. There are three floors, and a basement level, parsed into the departments that carry a variety of items, some you won’t find in chain stores which perceive no great market for them.
Ladies’ and men’s clothing, kids’ toys in the basement level, housewares, luggage. Furniture on the top floor. You can walk the stairs, or take the elevator. The staff will point you in the right direction.
The staff are like you remember them: courteous, quiet, lending a dignity to the occasion of buying curtains.
Or, fudge at the candy counter.
You can’t go to Forbes & Wallace or Steiger’s in Springfield, anymore. You can’t go to G. Fox in Hartford, anymore. Boston? More ghosts of the grand old stores. (For a fun trip down memory lane, have a look at Shopping Days in Retro Boston here.)
Go to Greenfield, a small town in western Massachusetts, where Rte 91 and Rte 2 intersect. Easy to find. Go to Wilson’s, and remember how it was.
For more on Wilson’s, have a look at their website. Not too many of the old-time stores had those.