Love a Good, Old-Fashioned Downtown? Try Greenfield, Massachusetts
Downtown Greenfield, Massachusetts.
by Eric Hurwitz. Updated 12/07/16.
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Take downtown Greenfield, Mass., apply it to the 1950s, and
the community would look like many other towns. Compare Greenfield to
downtown districts today, and it has something that virtually no other
An independent movie theater and book, furniture and music stores (used
record and instruments, respectively), barber and tailor shops, and a
Saturday farmers market certainly tip the unique downtown look in the
right direction, but what really sets apart this small city of 17,000
residents from virtually any community in the United States is the
presence of a full service department store. Wilson's, right in the
heart of the increasingly vibrant downtown, will take you back to
another place and time -- a family-owned and operated business dating
back to the 1880s with 20 departments on four floors. From mens and
womens clothing departments to toys and a candy counter, for starters,
Wilson's combines a nostalgic feeling with modern day retail
Wilson's Deprtment Store, downtown
Greenfield MAOne of only a handful of family-owned department stores
left in America, Wilson's will warm your heart as an American retail
treasure that not only focuses on a terrific variety of merchandise,
but also pride of ownership and wonderful customer service that you
just don't see much of anymore in today's rather lethargic world of
hired retial help. You could complete all your Christmas shopping here,
and also see Santa (as well as the Easter Bunny in the spring) along
the way -- and feel wonderful about th whole
experience. Free parking,
lack of a hectic mall scene, and the presence of a wholesome, friendly
retail personality certainly help the cause.
After leaving Wilson's and walking the wide Main Street, I did see a
city that is not bereft of modern day problems -- some homeless people
and others it would be safe to say that have drug issues -- but the
1950s side of this community proved, thankfully, more dominant. A dad
and his kids enthusiastically went from store to store raising money
for their Boy Scout troops. There was this little kid in a space helmet
walking with his mom to do some shopping. The Farmers Market brought
people together for some healthy foods and conversations. Ten people in
my 20 minute walk initiated a "hello."
There's an innate community spirit here, where conservatives, liberals,
money makers and the impoverished seem to peacefully co-exist --
located in a pleasant semi-mountain town setting where it's a joy to
see all the shops, restaurants, churches and grand old homes and
municipal buildings from one side to another. As a community, they have
even kept Walmart out of town, thus helping its downtown remain alive
Farmers Market at the town common in Greenfield.
Sitting at a window seat over an amazing bowl of smoked chicken chili
at the Peoples' Pint restaurant and brewery at 21 Federal St. (part of
the impressively growing Greenfield restaurant scene), I saw the pulse
of essentially a small town walk by, give hugs and thanks, and
patronize myriad small businesses along the way. It was an incredible
feeling, knowing this type of downtown still exists.
Garden Movie Theater,
On the way out of Greenfield, I stopped at Poet's Seat Tower
overlooking Greenfield, Franklin County and the Connecticut, Deerfield
and Green River Valleys. The incredible views offered a greater
appreciation of the day.
Poet's Seat, Greenfield.
To see all the cute, little neighborhoods, and that downtown
development put to good use -- juxtaposed with natural surroundings as
good as it gets in New England -- definitely has inspired a return
visit to explore more of what the city and region have to offer. But
first, once again, I think I'll start with Wilson's!
Department Store in Greenfield.
Wilson's Department Store is located at 258 Main Street (Tel.
413-774-4326) and Poet's Seat on Mountain Rd., off Route 2A
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