There’s a Distinct Buzz in Downtown Greenfield, by George O’Brien, January 7, 2020
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. And it certainly is bad news.
Wilson’s department store, an anchor and destination in downtown Greenfield for a century or so, will be closing its doors as its owner moves into retirement, leaving a very large hole to fill in the middle of Main Street.
The store was practically synonymous with the city and its downtown, drawing visitors of all ages who wanted to shop in one of the last old-time department stores in this region and maybe in the state.
“It’s devastating and it’s heartbreaking because it’s part of the fabric of the community,” said Diana Szynal, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, headquartered on Main Street in Greenfield. “This will be a serious loss for Greenfield, but…”
That ‘but’ constitutes what amounts to the good news.
Indeed, while unquestionably a loss, the closing of Wilson’s — which was certainly not unexpected by most — isn’t producing anything approaching the hand-wringing such news would have generated a decade or even five years ago.
Redevelopment of this large and highly visible site will certainly pose challenges. But instead of focusing on that aspect of the equation, most are consumed by the other side — the opportunity side, which Szynal referenced as she finished her sentence.
“We are looking at this as an opportunity,” she said. “We know something good will go there, something that reflects a changing landscape in retail.”
Meanwhile, there are enough good things happening and enough positive energy in this city that most are thinking this is something Greenfield can deal with and perhaps even benefit from in the long run as the retail world changes.
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