Great Barrington businesses in the 50s 60s and today

A comparison of downtown past and present


GREAT BARRINGTON — It sounds almost ludicrous today, but it wasn't so long ago that town grocery stores were selling hamburger meat at 35 cents a pound.

And diagonal parking flanked a traffic light-less Main Street.

Rabbi Axelrod and his kosher butcher shop were going strong.

And coupon wallets brimmed with S&H Green Stamps.

Today, there's Trotta's liquor store and Manhattan Pizza on South Main Street where there was once a car dealership. The Main Street record store was replaced by a Thai restaurant.

And did you know there was once a Friendly's on Main Street, next to where Cumberland Farms is now?

The list goes on and on, said Mike Fitzpatrick, who compiled a then-and-now record of nearly 200 Great Barrington businesses and presented the information to a packed house at the Great Barrington Senior Center earlier this month.

In local historian and author Gary Leveille's photo presentation of photos from the '50s and '60s, he showed a Dairy Queen in town and a Texaco station with that iconic lollipop sign.

The event was part two of "Businesses Gone, but not Forgotten," sponsored by the Great Barrington Historical Society. The event is connected to a Historical Society exhibit that opened June 15 and which will display photos and historical items from local bygone businesses.

It's a popular topic. The oohs, aahs and laughter did not abate during the presentation as the audience remembered growing up in Great Barrington.

There was Jane Green, a guest speaker who drew uproarious laughter with her brief tales of, for instance, hundreds of pounds of pigeon droppings that had to be shoveled out of the Town Hall attic during a renovation, and the way her father shut up another resident who was making fun of a Chinese laundry owner's accent.

"He speaks good English and he speaks Chinese," her father told the offender. "Do you know one word of Chinese?"

Then man said he did not. "And that took care of that," Green said.

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Side note: That Chinese laundry was where the Main Street Subway is now.

You could get a lot done in downtown Great Barrington.

You could pay your bills on Castle Street, at the offices of New England Telephone and Mass Electric. What's there now? Castle Street Cafe and One Mercantile.

Hammer Plumbing was on Railroad Street, where The Gifted Child and Byzantium are now.

And Grant Plumbing was two doors down from where Baba Louie's pizza has just moved.

A dry cleaners, Leonardo's, was where Twigs clothing store is now.

And, remember when The Daily Bread bakery used to be on the south side of Railroad Street?

Shall we go on?

Rubiner's Cheesemongers & Grocers on Main Street is in the former Great Barrington Savings Bank.

On Bridge Street, Jack's Restaurant sat in Hammertown's current home. In between the two, it was Harlan B. Foster's hardware store. And on the corner of Bridge and Main streets was an A&P grocery store.

Housatonic also had a small business district. There was Charlie's Taxi service, and a drugstore: Bill Lennon's pharmacy. There was a hairdresser — Debonair Salon of Beauty.

And there was even a mink farm on Division Street.

Heather Bellow can be reached at or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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