By Brian Sullivan, Special to The Eagle
PITTSFIELD -- When the sun sets on Tyler Street the stars rarely come out and shine. It's an admission that the tarred and scarred main vein that runs through the heart of the venerable section of the city we call Morningside usually calls it a day bloodied and hopefully unbowed. But that's not always the case.
We applaud North Street's ability to occasionally draw deep breaths while it tries mightily to both revitalize and reinvent itself. And we root for the home team, even though we wince and blink and look the other way at the storefronts that remain vacant. But there is a pulse uptown, and we are thankful for that.
Tyler Street, meanwhile, rolls on as North Street's less-sophisticated cousin. Most of us have friends or relatives who are a little ragged around the edges. Sometimes we dress up Tyler Street, but you can't always hide the obvious. It doesn't wear the emperor's clothes, and the sizes sometimes aren't a good fit.
But Morningside and Tyler Street keep swinging and occasionally connect. Retail suffers on this main drag and the neon lights that dream about being on Broadway only create paths toward pizza, tacos and egg rolls. There's a good-sized package store where Tyler Street Home Supply used to live, and while you can debate the need for "one more," you can also argue that it's better than vacant or dead space, and there's plenty of that woven into the missing pieces of the Tyler Street puzzle.
Two Morningside business venues recently closed their doors -- hopes remain that someone will ride to the rescue soon -- and both could be considered iconic. Morningside Bakery, which had been closed for renovations in the spring, remains dormant with no real signs of a return to form in the near future.
I don't know much about the bakery business other than to believe we don't have a glut of such establishments. But I'm also not counting the bakeries that exist within our well-known local supermarket chains. Again, being a retailer with a singular product is such a demanding task and daunting proposition.
The other closure of note is S&J Variety, which has been a Morningside staple since the Katz brothers, Sammy and Jay, took over the business during the late 1940s, when it was known as the Glenwood Variety Store. It's only been a few weeks now that the store has closed with word on the street suggesting that the owner found the job time-intensive.
It's been about 30 years since the Katz' brothers left the store for good, and both are now deceased. But it was a ritual for decades for St. Mary's parishioners to attend Mass on Sunday and purchase their newspapers and other small items at S&J's before heading home. Before The Eagle published on Sundays, the New York Daily News was the hot item.
Now, the store joins the church as MIA, and until further notice that's the end of a two-way connection that pumped life into the blue-collar Morningside streets and anchored the lives of residents, many of whom were GE employees.
There's a little of this and a little of that on Tyler Street now. But there's a lot of thin air. The used car lots on upper Tyler sport a "For Lease" sign, while the two shops that border Castoldi's barber shop are currently vacant. There is also commercial space without a tenant next to where Whang's Tailors does business.
And we still have that blight known as the former Hess gas station.
It's hard to always notice those other small pockets of inactivity and to that point you're better off watching where you are driving. The city's Halloween parade is now on Tyler Street and many of the businesses still come together and have a "Celebrate Tyler Street" day.
But having the doors shut at the bakery and S&J's, well, that's a tough couple of shots to the jaw. But when you spend each day bloodied and bowed you come to expect it.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.