Glad to see the Eagle finish in second place on the news we broke at this website yesterday, about The Market closing its doors. Their last day will be Dec. 11. The upscale grocery store in the 400 block of North Street gave it a go with their own money, but it didn’t work. Left out of the Eagle story were the two other downtown closings we reported yesterday: Museum Facsimiles and Ferrin Gallery.
Our good friend Tony Dobrowolski of the Eagle did a good job getting the follow-up story on The Market. Unfortunately, his editors buried his second-day piece on B7, hoping no one would notice. Can you imagine, though, the “Stop the Presses!” coverage in the local daily if the La-Dee-Da Foi Gras & Brie Bar opened on North Street. They would break out in a chorus of “Happy Days are Here Again” and drinks would be on the house — specially if the owner was politically connected.
Even THE PLANET’s coverage was one closing too little. Our spies also reported that — in addition to the three businesses mentioned — the nearby tatoo parlor on that side of North Street closed this week. Hmmm. We hadn’t heard of an ink shortage, and judging by people’s fleshy torsos — which incredibly, notably among the idiot young, can still be viewed even in the coldest weather — the demand for tatoos hasn’t receded. As the noted philosopher Jimmy Durante once observed, “Ink-ka-dinka-do.”
THE PLANET contacted Museum Facsimiles the and the gallery for comment, but those calls were not returned. Museum had voice mail turned off, leaving the phone to pile up about 127 rings before THE PLANET realized no one was going to pick up. We left a message seeking comment at Ferrin. If these businesses get back to us, we shall tell you what they say. If the phone continues not to ring, I’ll know it was them.
We Don’t ‘Drink the Downtown Kool-Aid’
THE PLANET takes no joy in breaking news of this sort. We don’t “drink the Downtown Kool-Aid,” however, and thus can’t announce a renaissance that is not there. Our ethics and a commitment to truth prohibit that. Has there been progress? Yes. Is it going in the right direction? Probably. Is a Renaissance blooming? Not by a stretch.
A downtown apologist, vested by her city-paid salary, brought out an old chestnut when she accused THE PLANET’s interest in the story as strictly mercenary. We pointed out that we take no advertising on this site so as to be and remain UNBOUGHT and UNBOSSED. “Well, then,” she said, “you’re using this to get readers.” To this, we could only shake our heads at her colossal misunderstanding, a lack of cluelessness so profound that it belongs in a museum.
Her argument reminded us of covering Bishop Tim McDonnell when he had the sad duty of celebrating the closing Mass at St. Stanislaus in Adams. After the liturgy was over, the bishop met with the people, in the vestibule. One heckler said something along the lines of, “Hope you had fun shutting us down, bishop.” To which McDonnell replied, “No, this is not fun for anyone. I would much rather be saying Mass here to open a parish than close one down.”
Same here, bishop. We would much rather be reporting on an authentic rebirth. When it happens, we will. In fact, we will soon be breaking news of a NEW BUSINESS that will be opening off the upper end of North Street, on Burbank. Stay tuned.
Fact is, the rebirth is in doubt. It may happen or may not. A seed has been planted, but it could well be still born. It could also be a healthy infant with great potential for growth. We shall see.
* * *
On a related note, our story yesterday brought with it about some intelligence emanating from the Greystone Block. A source told us that Dottie’s, the neat little coffee bar at the corner of North Street and Maplewood Avenue, is “under a lot of duress.” One of the reasons cited was the city clamping down on the lovely little outdoor dining area. It brought a little “April in Paris” to downtown, but that apparently wasn’t good enough for someone at city hall. THE PLANET suggests that the city encourage and not hassle such entrepreneurship.
Mission Tapas, located in the same block at Dottie’s and owned by the same man who owns the soon to close Market, reports good business, especially at night. Mission Tapas has become the current gathering place in the evening for professionals and the more well-heeled among us. We didn’t hear anything on the new barber shop in that block. Anyone who knows, contact us.
The vintage clothing store in the Greylock Block almost lost its lease this summer. We hear that when the building’s owners thought they had found another tenant, they were ready to give the long-standing Pittsfield business the heave-ho. The deal fell through, though, and the clothing store got a reprieve.
One downtown professional, who maintains a financial services office there, pointed out the geography of North Street as a problem. THE PLANET has entertained similar thoughts. First, the street is simply too long and too wide to result in an “it” feeling (what one responder to this site called the “vibe”).
Crossing the street is a dangerous game. Multiple widenings over the years have created an east-west chasm. A pedestrian who aims to cross feels tethered at both ends: east by beasts and west by not-the-best. We refer here to the critters, derelicts, deadbeats, alkies, druggies, and welfare moms who toothlessly populate the area. The pedestrian’s rope extends over a great abyss of traffic that will likely run you over as stop (we thank Nietzsche for the use of the analogy).
Another geographical point mentioned by Financial Man is the sheer length of the grand avenue from Park Square to Wahconah Street. It’s a haul even in the best weather. In raid, ice, snow, or wind, it’s torture. This configuration robs the downtown of “commercial continuity.” This phrase refers to a cozy assemblage of shops, stores, eateries, arts, etc.that all successful downtown have going. Want to know what this looks like? Visit downtown Newburyport, Mass., or Portland, Maine. Easier, visit the Outlet Village in Lee or the Holyoke Mall.
Geography may seem immutable, but it’s not. It can be changed. The best plan floated for downtown Pittsfield in the past 40 years was to shut down North Street to vehicles, brick over the road, create pedestrian malls, and use First and Center streets as bypasses. Like locating the mall downtown (which the people voted for twice only to be twice stuffed by corrupt politics), the pedestrian mall never happened.
These two developments — losing the mall and failing to implement to pedestrian-friendly area — were two elements of a perfect storm that hit in the 70s and 80s. Other factors in that storm were the pullout of GE, the acceptance by city officials of in-need half-way-house populations from the the rest of the state, and the failure of officials to take action other than to create person power centers and factionalism, which operate only too robustly to this day.
Like the critic who got on THE PLANET for “creating bad downtown news,” instead of uncovering it and reporting it, systemic corruption can go to Heck.
Yes, we are being too kind. What we mean is, go **** yourself. You fill in the blank. To the Little Guy, to the Bedraggled Taxpayer, and to all those honest and good folks who live decent lives, WE ARE WITH YOU AND SHALL STAY THAT WAY.