Phyllis McGuire | View from the Village: Amid constant change, Spring Street retains charm

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WILLIAMSTOWN — At the post office on Spring Street last week, I mailed "birthday" cookies to my son Christopher, who lives on Long Island. It is a tradition that took root when he was a freshman at Williams College far from our home in New York.

Memories took me back to the Saturday we drove Christopher to Williams to start his first year as a college student. And I set eyes on Spring Street for the first time.

With flower boxes and green spaces, it was very different from shopping areas in New York. I especially liked the white clapboard houses that served as business offices or stores.

We stopped at Slippery Banana to buy snacks before unpacking the car and moving Christopher's belongings to his dormitory.

In a window of The House of Walsh, a high-end clothing store, a sign read SALE, but we did not have time to shop — sale or not.

Slippery Banana and The House of Walsh were on the west side of Spring Street, as were the eateries Colonial Pizza and Cobble Café.

Before starting back to New York, Bill and I drove to B&L Service Station at the bottom of Spring Street to fill the gas tank of our nine-year-old Dodge.

Years later as a resident of Williamstown, I would pick up a local newspaper at the Williams Newsroom on Spring Street after attending Mass at St. Patrick's Church.

The aroma of freshly baked bread wafted from the Clarksburg Bakery.

Whenever time drew near to send a greeting card to a friend or relative, off I went to McClelland's Stationery, just a couple of doors down from the Williams Newsroom.

It was not long before I was greeted with a friendly, "Hello, Phyllis. How are you?" in a number of stores.

Shopping for clothes one day at Salvatore's, I bought a pair of black loafers that turned out to be the most comfortable, long-lasting shoes I ever wore.

I received a lot of compliments on the pink floppy sunhat and pink cloche I bought at Zanna's, a women's clothing store.

All those stores are gone.

On the other hand, a barber shop founded 100 years ago is still located on Spring Street. It is no longer known as St. Pierre's Barbershop, but as Empire Cutz, having been renamed by Duane Griffiths who bought the business from Roger St. Pierre in 2015.

Goodman's Jewelers is in its 73rd year on Spring Street.

Harts, previously Harts Pharmacy, has changed hands a few times in its 85 years on Spring Street. Until 1970, it was owned by members of the Hart family. Then Phillip Hart sold the business to Edward Conroy. When Conroy retired in 2012, he sold the business to Steven Wiehl who decided that prescriptions would no longer be filled at the store. Harts is now a general store.

According to information available from the Williamstown Historical Museum, Spring Street was strictly residential into the 1890s. Stores were scattered all over town.

Now, stores on Spring Street come and go.

The Barbara Prey Gallery and the Harrison Gallery closed their doors forever in the last months of 2015. I had visited them often and will miss them.

The space The Barbara Prey Gallery had occupied is now home to The Progressive Palette Studio and Gallery.

And on March 1, Amy's Cottage will relocate from Water Street to the building that used to house the Harrison Gallery.

Amy Bryan, owner of the business, says they have outgrown the space on Water Street.

"It was getting squishy and we couldn't display our merchandise properly," she said.

"Now we are focusing on great sales in our Water Street location to empty the store before we close it in mid-February."

The saying goes "change is the only constant." So be it, but I wish that any change that comes to Spring Street would not detract from its small-town charm.

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown.


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