Note: This article was published by the Daily Hampshire Gazette on June 10, 2019.
Written by Staff Writer Scott Merzbach.
NORTHAMPTON — The Blue Marble gift shop will add a new store to its Northampton location in Thornes Marketplace later this year, while also closing its longtime Amherst storefront this summer as its owner seeks to consolidate operations under one roof.
The shop specializing in American handmade crafts and fair-trade items has tripled in size in Thornes since opening in fall 2015, and will soon be supplemented with the new store focusing on children’s items inside the same building.
Little Blue, featuring products for babies and children, is the latest endeavor by Blue Marble owner Cathie Walz. The shop is expected to open Sept. 1.
“Thornes is such a wonderful place to work and shop,” Walz said. “It’s a magical neighborhood of businesses in a beautiful environment, and I’m really looking forward to being there full time.”
But with the new store will come the eventual closing this summer of the original Blue Marble in downtown Amherst, which Walz opened in July 2007 at 101 North Pleasant St.
As she prepares for that closing, discounts will be offered on her jewelry and gift inventory.
Walz said her decision had nothing to do with the business climate in either community, but rather simplifying her life.
“This was not an easy decision,” Walz said. “Happily, I know our Amherst customers will have no difficulty finding us across the river, and I look forward to seeing them all there.”
The loss of a store is sad for Amherst, said Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Claudia Pazmany, but she added that she understands business owners can find it challenging to run locations on both sides of the Connecticut River.
Pazmany noted that Glazed Doughnut owners Keren and Nick Rhodes recently made a similar decision to shutter one of their stores, though in their case the couple opted to keep the Amherst location open and close their Northampton site.
The looming empty space is in a block with Zanna on one end and The Toy Box at the other, and just steps away from the One East Pleasant mixed-use building that will soon have an Iya Sushi and Noodle Kitchen restaurant.
Pazmany said the chamber is ready to offer support for a start-up business or anyone else interested in the space.
“It’s a great retail location and a huge opportunity for the next person,” Pazmany said.
Walz said she understands that buying habits are continuing to change and that online and other forms of remote purchasing are affecting brick and mortar retailers, which is why she has strived to have the selection of merchandise change regularly and be sustainably sourced.
“Those of us with independent stores just have to work twice as hard as we did 10 years ago to offer folks the variety of product and stellar customer service that makes it worthwhile for someone to get out of their car,” Walz said.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at email@example.com.