A net gain for tourism in Lenox


LENOX -- Out with the old, in with the new.

On the heels of a tourism spurt that put smiles on the faces of many local proprietors, the usual post-summer business departures and arrivals have yielded a net gain for the town’s hospitality-based economy, according to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ralph Petillo.

Among the departees is Classical Tents & Party Goods, which completed a relocation from its Lenox Dale site to 43 Downing Industrial Parkway in Pittsfield this past week. Co-owner Katherine Lockridge cited rents that more than doubled in three years, an opportunity for the business to own its own building and a need for more space and other improvements.

Another loss for the town is the planned closing by Sept. 28 of the long-established Villager Gifts in the heart of the shopping district.

Owners Jim Terry, 71, and his wife Nancy, 68, are holding a retirement sale after 22 years at the prime location off Main Street. His downstairs frame shop, Towne Gallery, will relocate to the Century 21 building on Housatonic Street.

An effort to find new owners for the gift shop did not yield a buyer, Jim Terry said. The space near the post office is being marketed by Managing Partner Drew Davis of Chestnut Realty Management in Springfield, owner of the Village Center complex.

"You could always find something to buy at Villager Gifts, said Petillo, citing the store as a year-round attraction for residents and visitors. He’s hoping to entice another gift-shop proprietor to the location.

Another longtime retail fixture, the Eviva apparel and jewelry boutique on Walker Street, is moving to Great Barrington after closing Oct. 1.

"Retail has changed dramatically and quickly," Petillo told The Eagle, "to the point that almost 90 percent of what you can buy in any retail establishment, you can get online. That’s the new reality, especially for younger generations, and that is changing the face of retail in America and the world."

According to Jim Terry, the decision to close Villager Gifts was impacted by a 30 percent decline in business over the past two years. "We held up well through the first part of the recession but it seemed to catch up with the Berkshires last year," he commented. "People have learned a different way of living, more frugal. They’re not buying as indiscriminately as they used to."

Also closing within a month will be Past and Future Antiques, as well as Berkshire Naturals on Housatonic Street, whose owner, Jay Baver, is transitioning to an online business while developing his tour guide business, including hiking and fly-fishing, Petillo said.

He also observed that many local merchants are at or near retirement age, resulting in an inevitable transition to new blood -- a changeover that has already infused many local restaurants with younger owners.

Recent openings include the Berkshire Wedding Collective, a cluster of four bridal-industry businesses housed in new quarters off Church Street, and MacKimmie Co., a boutique that relocated after three years in the North Shore town of Marblehead.

Owner Doris Barsauskas, a Halifax, Nova Scotia, native of Scottish-Irish extraction, explained that MacKimmie is her original family name. Her shop at 67 Church St. is stocked with imported and American-made blankets and throws -- ideal for cold winters, she observed. The store’s signature line is Brahms Mount, manufactured in Freepoint, Maine.

Barsauskas, 55, credited encouragement from the local business community and Tanglewood for her relocation. "These are not days for the faint of heart," she commented. "You have to know what you’re getting into." Her husband, Vytas Barsauskas, operates eGraf, a graphic printing business, in the same building.

In addition, new owners have taken over the former Mary Stuart boutique, renaming it Willowbrook Home, a specialty boutique featuring cashmere, fragrances, jewelry, homeware, clothing and gifts from local and international designers. Sohn Fine Art Gallery is another recent arrival.

Although nine downtown business vacancies remain, that’s an improvement from 13 last winter, Petillo noted, adding that the total number of new arrivals in occupied storefronts exceeds the departures.

Area innkeepers are reporting the best summer they’ve had since the onset of the Great Recession, which Petillo credited in part to the arrival of the Boston Symphony’s new Music Director Andris Nelsons and what he termed an "excellent" mix of programming, fueling "a resurgence of interest in Tanglewood." Restaurants were overflowing, he added.

"There have been more people roaming Lenox than I have seen in many a year," Petillo asserted. "Yes, we can go back to days of old."

Upcoming events include the Lenox Tub Parade on Saturday, Sept. 13, the Josh Billings RunAground on the following day, the Lenox Apple Squeeze on Sept. 27-28 and the return of the Berkshire Coaching Weekend, a salute to the area’s Gilded Age traditions, on Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 11-13.

A new attraction, Oktoberfest Lenox, is planned for the third weekend of the month, showcasing area breweries and eateries.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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