Northampton /VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories
Marquee Western Massachusetts Attraction: Thornes Marketplace
the Merchants of Thornes
Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Story created 4/15/2019
Thornes Marketplace on beautiful Main Street in Northampton.
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Apparently, small town Main Street USA never really died.
It just went straight to a slice of heaven called downtown Northampton,
Mass., with Thornes Marketplace serving as the cornerstone business.
Walking Main Street toward Thornes -- a wonderful collection of nearly
merchants -- the 19th streetscape architecture warms the nostalgic soul
while satisfying 21st century needs in the form of boutiques,
galleries, restaurants and coffee houses. Arriving
at Thornes seems like the entrance to a retail version of
Camelot with its grand tall green-tiled facade and awning and rising
two-story windows. It's a larger-than-life sight, like a restored white
castle (in this case, green) amongst surrounding castles in the form of
commercial and classical revival architectural styles. The whole scene
almost makes fabled Bedford Falls, with its memorable small-town Main
Street virtues, in the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life," seem drab
comparison. Only, this is real life with coming attractions virtually
every step of the way.
Once inside and exploring the environs at Thornes, it is apparent that
the classic Main Street USA presence of downtown Northampton permeated
every interior corridor, stairway and storefront here. What's more, if
you took all the small businesses out of Thornes and spread them across
a downtown, you would have one of the greatest Main Streets on the
planet. Nice, though, that they are all located in one authentic,
genuine community gathering place where everything seems so real and
not scripted and contrived the way it can be on the lost highways of
strip malls and shopping centers in "Anytown USA."
Thornes Marketplace has been wonderfully restored. Photo source:
Thornes Marketplace Facebook page.
Thornes appears to have everything one needs in a small town (or city,
in this case), and then some. Businesses include women and men's
clothing stores, a bookshop, ice cream parlor, chocolate store,
old-fashioned candy shop, health food store with local organic
produce, places to eat and drink including a wine cellar, a
Woolworth's-like discount shop (Acme Surplus), and storefronts for
gifts, home decor, stationery, antiques, jewelry and
Interesting shops saturate Thornes Marketplace.
For modern preferences, Thornes also houses yoga, spa, physical
therapy, massage and neurofeedback services.
The Yoga Sanctuary at Thornes Marketplace.
Regulars and visitors soon realize, however, that it's not just the
shops, food and services that make Thornes a destination, but the
history, the nooks and crannies, the unique vibe and the-one-of-kind
look that creates an enormous appeal. The
template of the original store,
though, never went away with history virtually every step of the way.
The grand look of Thornes Marketplace.
Each of the four stories has a story to tell. A walk
through reveals nostalgic flourishes like
old wooden staircases, pressed tin ceilings, large palladium windows,
sometimes creaky and uneven floors and exposed
ductwork. The continuous, effective restoration
projects, however, would make the most finicky HGTV restoration host proud,
Restored staircase at Thornes Marketplace.
There's even a working Dip and Dunk
booth, one of only 10 remaining in Massachusetts!
The cost for taking a photo is more than back in the day at
$4, but the experience priceless.
One of the last functioning Dip and Dunk Photo Booths in
Massachusetts Can be found at Thornes.
Modern initiatives -- made to look old -- add to the historic look, as
evidenced by stained glass windows recently created by Easthampton
artist Heather McLean.
A "new old look" with recently created stained glass.
A thorough academic analysis of
Thornes would not suffice as part of the appeal cannot be explained,
only experienced. It's as if someone collected magic pixie dust from
the past and sprinkled tiny particles in and outside the Thornes
make people feel a special sense of place and euphoria.
55,000 sq. ft. size has nothing to do with the oversized, sterile chain
stores of today. Instead, the building exhibits old world charm and an
authentic sense of place that could be compared to a large town with
several charming neighborhoods and lots of friendly folks within the
community. It's like the progressive
version of Mayberry RFD.
A festive Main Street holiday scene at Thornes Marketplace.
Photo credit: Richard Cowles. Photo supplied by Thornes Marketplace
When did it all begin?
Thornes Marketplace first opened in 1979, but there's plenty of history
behind the grand facade.
McCallum's Dry Goods claimed the first business here in 1873 and
twice through the Calvin Coolidge years until the silk industry faded
away and nylon came into fashion following the Great Depression. 150
Main Street then became McCallum's, a five-story department store
selling everything a customer could ever need. From clothing to
furniture to housewares to toys, this was the place to go in town.
Back in the day at McCallum's Department Store. Photo supplied
by Thornes Marketplace Marketing Department.
The gradual demise of downtown department stores increased in the
1970s, however, as huge
shopping malls and aggressively marketed chain stores took front and
center retail stage in the United States. McCallum's became one of
those victims. In 1975, Floyd Andrus bought the vacant and unoccupied building from Revell McCallum in 1975 and soon started a thorough renovation of the property. This
pave the way for a new paradigm in downtown shopping for locals:
Brinkley and Gordon Thorne, with wives Mazie Cox and Annie Woodhull,
purchased the building for $535K from Andrus and opened Thornes
Marketplace in 1977.
The beginnings of Thornes Marketplace. Photo supplied
by Thornes Marketplace Marketing Department.
In 1989, a parking garage was constructed behind Thornes and connected
with a skywalk. This allowed for more customers to shop at Thornes.
Skywalk between parking garage and Thornes.
Local real estate investors bought Thornes in 2006, working hard to
bring this building landmark into the 21st century with improvements
windows, floors and bathrooms and a better mix of shops. The
renovations and the growing small business vibrancy with more
storefronts becoming occupied also served as a microcosm to
Northampton's overall comeback as a downtown. For many years,
Northampton had that a "year away from being a year away" look -- that
is, the central district appeared to be close to fulfilling its
tremendous upside but was ultimately marred by too many closed
storefronts and some buildings in disrepair.
Northampton is not only functional and interesting, but a real joy to
look at through the eyes. It combines that idyllic small town downtown
look with the amenities of a larger city with
Thornes, a farmers market (right outside Thornes), two historic
theaters, Smith College (one of the top-ranked women's colleges in the
The United States) and the school's Museum of Art contributing greatly to
the aesthetics, rich
culture and overall thriving nature. The presence
mountains, forests and farmland surrounding the community just adds to
the overall appeal.
Jody Doele, marketing manager at Thornes Marketplace, can feel the love
at Thornes and Northampton. She and husband Dave were living a high
stress, big city life in and around New York City, N.Y. They also suffered through the horrors of 9/11 in 2001.
"My husband and I were thinking of someplace smaller to live where we
could raise our kids in a safer, less hectic environment," said Doele. "We came here
in 2010 and never looked back. The people here are tremendous. We have
built meaningful friendships and seen so much kindness and sense of
community here. Many people who live here could have lived anywhere,
but chose Northampton. People have a tremendous sense of place here."
"I love my job. The owner is committed to the story of Thornes,"
added Doele. "The tenants have talked to us about how much they love
being in the building. It's really an ideal place to work."
Getting to know merchants at Thornes Marketplace
Will Brideau, owner of Jackson & Connor men's clothing store.
The merchants of Thornes Marketplace are generally not your cookie
cutter owners and that goes for their employees, also. Many
personalities fit into the unique, one-of-a-kind nature of Thornes.
personal stories to tell, sometimes strong opinions that aren't held
back and an
innate sense of expert customer service, it's like the complete
opposite of a typical mall experience.
Will Brideau, owner of Jackson &
Connor men's clothing store (Level 2),
might just be the perfect example of an owner who has marched to the
beat of his own drum while passionately owning a business that, at
first, rejected him. Brideau, who has the mustache and beard of a
turn-of-the-century merchant, the attention to detail and service of a
retro business owner and the hipness of a 21st-century millennial,
never thought he'd end up owning a men's clothing store. He attended
nearby Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. from 2004 to 2008 and soon
found himself selling high end "baby stuff" at the former Impish in
Northampton. He approached the business owners at Jackson and Connor
and "begged for a job," initially to no avail. Repeated perseverance
however, as owners Tara Tetreault and Candice Connors eventually hired
Brideau as "pretty much the only employee."
Little did Brideau know, at that time, that the owners would choose to
close the store.
"They just didn't want to go on with owning the store," said Brideau. I
wanted to take over the store. I had found something I really loved
doing. And they had faith in me. I told them, though, 'I don't know how
to run it. I don't have the money to own it.' They found a way to make
it work for me, though. I took the plunge in
November 2013. It is the only job I have ever loved. Plus, I get to
work in a job at a store I own."
Will picks and chooses merchandise to be sold in the store by hand. He
offers the ideal mix of inventory from types of denim and hoodies to jackets
"Yes, this type of store is a dying breed, but the indie-owned mom and
pop shops on Main Street allow quirky places like mine to do well,"
said Brideau. "It fits perfectly into Northampton."
Gabriel Moushabeck brought his bookstore in Brooklyn, NY. to Thornes
location in 1997. The handsome two-story Booklinks Booksellers (Level 1 and
2) features new
books, greeting cards, gifts, bargains books, and a second story cafe
and tea bar.
, owner of Booklinks
"I had book stores in New York City and used to vacation around here at
that time," said Gabriel. "When coming here, Brinkley wanted a
bookstore at Thornes. I liked the idea of opening a business in
Northampton and have no regrets. Many authors and artists come here.
They love to support the business. And we are doing well here. It took
a while to understand what the customers wanted. You find what they are
looking for. That makes a big difference, the personalization amd
meeting customer needs. Yes, we have competition from the big
booksellers, but we
have survived well within a very supportive community and being here at
owner of 25 Central (Level 1),
started working at the women's clothing and accessories store along
with a best friend several years ago after graduating U/Mass Amherst.
they started managing and buying together. The owners, Paul and Cherie,
were looking to retire, however, and felt that Katie would be a good
fit to take over the business. She has done them proud by carrying on
the retail tradition while being savvy enough to know what it takes to
survive in a brick and mortar business faced with the challenge of an
online retail giants world.
"Being a brick and mortar store here in Northampton, we really connect
with our customers and it's really important I build these
relationships where I go to these shows in New York City or
Mass., to buy the merchandise for bringing in," said Katie in a Feb.
2018 interview on WHMP radio in Northampton. "I can think about
individual customers and what they like and what I see trends
25 Central is truly a family-run business with
Katie's mom, Deb, and her sister, Molly, working there. Molly, a
manager and buyer, loves working at the ultra cool modern women's
clothing and accessories store.
Molly Rennie sets up merchandise at 25 Central.
"We have a selection you wouldn't find anywhere else," said Molly. "We
have something for everyone. Daughters, mothers and grandmothers shop
Customers can expect to find a fabulous mix of
scarves, dresses, hair accessories and jewelry as
part of the glorious retail landscape at 25 Central.
Lunch, dinner, drinks and sweets at Thornes Marketplace
Turkey and smoked Gouda sandwich with fresh greens from Share at
When first walking into the building, Thornes Marketplace
seems to be short on places to
eat. Walk around a little, build that appetite and know that places to
eat and drink can be found not only front and center but also tucked
away in the Victorian
Paul and Elizabeth's
(Level 1) is a spacious, comfortable restaurant featuring natural foods
for lunch and dinner. Some of their specialties include fresh seafood,
tempura and vegetarian soups, salads and main entrees. After owning the
restaurant since 1978, owners Paul and Elizabeth recently turned the
reins over to son Nate.
Healthy food, nice dining atmosphere at Paul and Elizabeth's at
Thornes Marketplace. Photo supplied by Thornes Marketplace Marketing
"Things will continue on with Nate," said Paul, with a confident but
gentle smile. "Family and a love for
food has kept us here for 40 years."
Share Coffee and Cafe (Level 1)
features single origin coffee and espresso, baked goods, soups, salads
and sandwiches. It's ideally located at the first main intersection on
the first level near the staircase and skywalk to the parking garage. Northampton Olive Oil Company (Level
1) sells high quality infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well
as hot sauces, salsas, barbecue rubs and Bloody Mary mixes.
Convino Wine Bar (Lower level
2) offers 70 wines by the glass from all over the world in a cozy lower
level setting. They also serve "small and hearty plates" including
cheeses and meats, Greek Mussels, spinakopita, marinated olives,
fancy fries with truffle oil and Parmesan, a lamb burger, filet mignon
and chocolate and mousse cakes for dessert.
Convino Wine Bar. Photo supplied by Thornes
Marketplace Marketing Department.
One of the first places noticed at Thornes is Heavenly Chocolate (Level 1) with
its incredible variety of handmade chocolates made in small batches, as
well as from organic and local ingredients whenever possible. It's all
here: caramel, collections, confections, truffles and vegan offerings.
The chocolate manufacturing facility resides not far away from the main
Thornes, isolated away in a spotlessly clean, remote part of the
building (not publicly
Chocolate being made by Heavenly Chocolate.
level 1) has served
as an independently-owned natural foods grocery store since 1980. The
store at Thornes is a perfect fit for a liberal, progressive community
with health food, organic produce, supplements and natural body care
and wife Nate Clifford and Jade Jump bought Cornucopia from Bud
Stockwell and Sydney Flum-Stockwell in March 2019 with the transition
Nate Clifford at Cornucopia.
If ever there was a hall of fame for locally-owned health food stores,
this would be it. Cornucopia is jam-packed with high quality national
brands and local merchandise, as well as an independent spirit that is
heartwarming and endearing.
"Many have memories of going into a mom and pop health food store and
experiencing that health food smell," said Nate. "Yes, we have that,
but have also evolved in
the industry. Here, we understand our roots while trying to attract
From vibrantly colored produce to bulk grains and teas, kombucha and
locally grown bubble mushrooms, Cornucopia is a tour de force in health
Nate is like an encyclopedia of health store knowledge
and doesn't always follow conventional wisdom -- that's a good thing.
As an example, supplement companies like Garden of Life and Megafood
have been bought out by large corporations. Instead of dismissing the
corporate buy outs, Nate watches to see if labels have changed and is
on the phone regularly with reps and management to make sure quality
hasn't been compromised.
Nate and Jade are welcoming to everyone who comes into his store.
"You can have a MAGA cap on or be a man in high heels -- everyone is
welcome here," said Nate.
Herrell's Ice Cream
(Lower Level 1) is a familiar name in Massachusetts. Founder Steve
Herrell opened the first Steve's in 1973 in Somerville, Mass., with
greater expansion following through the years. Best known for
pioneering rich, creamy ice cream to a mass audience (no pun intended)
and grinding up popular cookies and candies into the frozen treats,
Herrell's is every bit as good today as it was at the beginning.
Herrell's Ice Cream. Photo source: Herrell's Facebook fan page.
Steve Herrell recently handed over the business over to partner Judy
Herrell. Great that there's a location at Thorne's!
Couple enjoying ice cream at Herrell's at Thornes Marketplace.
Thornes Marketplace might be old, but youthful
for the future of this Victorian building -- as young as 18-years-old
in the case of Levi Smith. With the blessing of former owner Nolan
Anaya and a loan with the help of his parents, Smith hopes to find
success with Captain Candy
(Lower level 1). What better successor to carry on the shop
than a kid in a candy store?
Levi Smith and Issac Kingston at Captain Candy.
The modest-sized candy store features "lots of candy you can't find
anywhere else," said Smith. "Tons of stuff."
Isaac Kingston, a manager at Captain Candy and not much older than
Smith, said that this is the place to go for "Jelly Belly products with
varieties and Pez with 30 different choices."
Acme Surplus at Thornes.
After spending just a few hours at Thornes Marketplace, it is
apparent that this is not just a place for shopping, dining and
services. It is a destination and one of the best hidden travel attractions in
New England for all ages. Yes, it might not be a hidden treasure to locals but
visitors definitely need to experience the magic going on here. In a
part of the state that is best known for Six Flags New England, the
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Springfield Museums, International
Volleyball Hall of Fame, Historic Deerfield
Village and Yankee Candle Factory, Thornes Marketplace surely has a
place as a must-see destination. It's authentic, interesting, relevant,
useful and, ultimately, memorable.
The locals and students know all this to be true, many frequenting
several times a week as a way of life in this charming, lively small
"By coming in here, locals and merchants are
benefiting each other,"
said Doele. "The merchants know that being here, you create your own
store as a destination. It is really a fabulous place."
Thornes Marketplace is located at 150 Main Street in Northampton, MA
Web site: http://www.thornesmarketplace.com
Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/Thornesmarketplace
Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/thornesmarketplace
The shops, restaurants and services at Thornes Marketplace...
Backstop Seated Massage
ConVino Wine Bar
dani. fine photography
Footbeats for Women
Glimpse of Tibet
Herrell's Ice Cream
Honey & Wine
Jackson & Connor
Northampton Olive Oil Co.
Paul & Elizabeth's restaurant
Share Coffee & Cafe
The Blue Marble
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Northampton small businesses and community development people: I
am extremely impressed with your city and can hardly wait to return.
You have that rare mix of historic, rural and urban beauty with such a
lively, wonderful downtown.
If you liked my sponsored post story on Thornes, I would be so honored
to write in detail about your family-friendly business and/or the city
in general. I believe New England travelers would love to learn more
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