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Every spring we see flowers bloom anew. The same goes for downtown shops. I look to Main Street for a clue as to where things are, or aren’t, headed for each season. My principal means of finding what’s truly relevant are shops that have been there prior to my arrival on-island in 1971.
Beginning at the top of Main, there’s the Pacific National bank. While the building and name over the door remain the same, this isn’t your father’s bank. Today, the bank is part of Bank of America, a multinational corporation. At least the building looks like it belongs here and the people working there are locals.
Congdon and Coleman Insurance and Brock Insurance are in the same places I first spotted them. Happily, they still are. I remember wondering why a couple of businesses pedaling the same products would be side by side. As it turned out, I first began buying my car insurance from Al Pitkin and thus avoided the loyalty question.
Not so with a pharmacy. In that case, there wasn’t a choice. Congdon’s and Nantucket Pharmacy (side by side) were the only places available for prescriptions and other medicinal items. I chose the former and as we all know, Congdon’s Pharmacy is no more. Not that it mattered. I’ve always liked the fact that pharmacists at each shop were dating one another. Now, they’ve been married for a good many years, have kids and are both working together at Nantucket Pharmacy.
Next up is The Hub. Let’s hope we never lose this gem. At one time it was a slower-moving place, with boxes in the rear, where people would retrieve their specific newspapers and magazines. It was like a personal subscription service. Back then, the I&M came out Thursday afternoon. At present The Hub has changed somewhat, selling gift items, along with an abundant magazine and newspaper collection.
Down toward the bottom of this side is the Nobby Shop. I’m not much of a clothes horse and their work-clothes section is where my attention lies. The Nobby was redone years back and lost some of its funky feeling. That’s all right, the merchandise remains the same, as does Sam.
I’d like to return back up the street to the corner of Main and Orange, where one of my favorite shops resides. Mitchell’s Book Corner has gone through a few changes over the past four decades. When I first went in there, books and records were what I was seeking. The Havemeyers owned and ran the place. Terry Sylvia was the record guy.
After her parents passed on, their daughter, Mimi took over. She became a friend and my book mentor. More recently, the shop changed hands, and Mimi was soon lost to us. The shop is still an independent bookstore (a rarity in this day and age) is owned and run by Mary Jennings and her incredible staff.
The small, white, clapboard shop a few doors down is about to reopen as . . . well, I’m not sure what it’s going to be. What I do remember is what it was way back when: a barber shop. Captain Bob Francis was the sultan of scissors in there, aka Cue Ball. Some of us remember where his nickname originated.
What is now the Even Keel, was the Sweet Shop a ways back. Having a nice spot to sit down and have a bite to eat is an important thing to have in that space. Lunch on the patio in midsummer is something I don’t get to enjoy often enough.
From there on down to the Club Car, everything is new (relatively). The Club Car is much the same as it was, but the food is a bit better these days. When I first came here, I was immediately taken by a bar in an old railroad car. My feelings haven’t changed.
Some observations come to mind. I understand some things from the old Main Street are missing. While they are missed, some had to go the way of dinosaurs. Charley’s Market was a nice place and it made sense at the time. There were more people residing in the core district then, plus parking was available. Now, not so many people live downtown and others wouldn’t buy groceries on Main Street if they weren’t able to find a space to park.
I miss the Sandpiper, the Emporium and most of all Buttner’s. On the other hand, I’m very happy to see Nantucket Looms is back on Main Street. We need as much good taste and class as possible to showcase our downtown.
– Goodman’s Gam appears weekly in this space.