GREAT BARRINGTON — Downtown anchor store Jack's Country Squire, a destination for those seeking shoes, outdoor equipment, and high quality clothing, is closing after almost 50 years in business. A 60 percent off storewide sale is underway.
"We hope to close in October," said Linda Pevzner Kaplan, whose sister-in-law Susan Pevzner is the owner and operator of the popular clothing store. "But we have no set date."
Jack's Country Squire started as a satellite business of Jack's Department Store in Lee. The Lee store opened in 1954 and closed over a decade ago. Kaplan and her brother David opened Jack's Country Squire together in 1970, she said.
Jack's weathered a fire in the early 1990s and the ups and downs of economic fortunes over the decades, she said. Now the future of the space is an open question.
"We don't know what's coming there next," Kaplan said. Jack's was on a lease for its tenure in the Main Street Mahaiwe building.
Jack's Country Squire closing is part of a major restructuring of the businesses in downtown Great Barrington.
The decades-old Tune Street music store has closed its retail space on the corner of Railroad Street and Main Street, transitioning into a home sound system installation business based on State Road to the north of downtown. Popular coffee shop Fuel is moving to the former Gypsy Joynt space and Xicotencahtl owner Angel Espinoza is moving into Fuel's current location to open "Café Tangiers," a Moroccan-Mediterranean counter service restaurant.
Local developer and landlord Richard Stanley, who owns the Barrington House building on Main Street that houses popular restaurants Baba Louie's and GB Eats, said he is wary of the new direction downtown is taking.
"In order for the downtown to be vibrant, you need to have a mix of retail that appeals to locals and tourists, alike," Stanley said.
He said the increase in professional services in downtown storefronts, like real estate and law offices, is presenting a challenge for long-term viability of the town's downtown. In Stanley's view, the departure of Jack's will only make this more difficult.
"The long view is that for a vital downtown, you need retail," he said.
Will be missed
But Kaplan hastened to point out that Jack's is not closing because of the business' income or any problems with the downtown's retail district. Instead, she told The Eagle, the issue is a family illness.
"My sister-in-law is not well," Kaplan said.
That led to the difficult decision to close the business, she said.
Other local retailers were surprised, they said, to see Jack's leave. The business was so ingrained in the downtown, seeing it leave is a shock. At Evergreen Fine American Crafts, owner Barbara Watkins was nostalgic.
"We've been in business in Great Barrington for 36 years," she said. "And Jack's was in business before we came here."