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Among Few Family-Owned U.S. Department Stores, Wilson's Is Closing

Wilson's in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Andrew Varnon
Wilson's in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

After almost 140 years as a downtown department store, Wilson's in Greenfield, Massachusetts, announced it is closing.Wilson's president Kevin O'Neil thanked customers on the store's website Monday, as well as on Facebook. He said the closure is connected to his retirement. He also asked shoppers to please pay off their Wilson's charge accounts by mid-January.

The Recorder reported Wilson's has 35 full and part-time employees.

The response from shoppers on Facebook is a mix of sadness and gratitude.

M.J. Adams, director of community and economic development in Greenfield, said the closing of Wilson’s is a blow for downtown — but it's not entirely unexpected.

The challenge for Greenfield and many other places, Adams said, will be transitioning its downtown from retail to something else.

“We really have to think of the downtown area not just as a place to do shopping, but as a place where people are living and working,” Adams said.

Greenfield has had a flurry of positive developments in the recent months, Adams said. A collaborative workspace has opened and is expanding. Also, Greenfield Garden Cinemas is under new ownership after facing potential closure. So is a downtown art gallery.

Wilson’s will be closed until Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. That’s when it begins a “closure and retirement” sale, essentially liquidating its inventory, down to the fixtures.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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