Note: This originally was published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette in December 2015.

By Jody Doele, Marketing Manager

I often talk with the shoppers who come through our doors at Thornes Marketplace, and what fascinates me is, as wide and varied as they may be as a group, they hold one key thing in common. They have rich stories, equally as wide and varied, about what brought them here.

I hear from parents who’ve come our way for a handful of practical and affordable backpack essentials and from those who’ve traveled to Thornes to buy an elegant gift. Regularly, I also hear from shoppers who have been coming here since they were children, when this five-story downtown Northampton façade was known as McCallum’s Department Store.

Whatever the practical need, or whimsical desire, Thornes Marketplace has carved a niche in the Valley. It’s an important cultural landmark that has become an icon for downtown Northampton—for its rich history, its range of creative and eclectic wares, and for its merchants, who have a reputation for giving back to the community.

Our roots in Northampton

Our retail history dates back 142 years, to Holyoke native Alexander McCallum’s time.

McCallum was an industrious silk mill owner with a factory in Florence. He built 150 Main St. in Northampton in 1873 and called it McCallum’s Dry Goods, a company store for his mill products and 850 employees. The dry goods store expanded twice during the Calvin Coolidge years and became McCallum’s Department Store.

At some point in his ownership, McCallum purchased a brownstone that fronted on Old South Street, and connected it to his department store. This is why Thornes forms a T-shape, with two of our original Thornes tenants, Herrell’s and Paul and Elizabeth’s, occupying this offshoot space.

Floyd Andrus bought the building out of bankruptcy from the McCallum family in 1975 and began to redevelop it, highlighting its original wood accents. Two years later, the building was purchased by brothers Brinkley and Gordon Thorne, who, together with their wives, Mazie Cox and Annie Woodhull, renamed it Thornes Marketplace and steered it in the quirky, imaginative direction we know well today.

The Thornes had a vision for their marketplace as an urban bazaar, and they broke the building’s 55,000 square feet into individual shops, with walls that didn’t quite reach the ceilings, giving that flavor of individual markets or booths. The brothers brought in such anchor tenants as Herrell’s, Paul and Elizabeth’s, Cedar Chest and Cornucopia, and these merchants are still with us today, 35-plus years later. That’s an incredible testament to the retail ideal that is Thornes.

The Thornes also restored 150 Main St. and its finery, such as tin ceilings and oak staircases. The development of the John Gare Parking garage in 1989 bolstered the marketplace and offered a new layer of shopping ease with a bridge from the garage inside the building.

The current Thornes owner, Rich Madowitz, who purchased the building in 2006 with his partner, the late Doug Kohl, has also honored history and tradition in the extensive renovations he has undertaken. Madowitz recently installed new stained glass and restored and reinstalled original Tiffany-era stained glass windows.

Madowitz has also honored sustainability. In replacing the building’s roof, for example, he added photovoltaic panels. In 2012, he received the Green Business Leader Certificate of Recognition from Sustainable Northampton and the mayor’s office.

Thirty-plus community partners

Thornes currently has over 30 tenants who, like Madowitz, are all community minded and understand the need to partner in helping local organizations raise funds and awareness. We’ve provided a venue—and covered the cost of advertising—for everything from blood drives to Arts Nights Out, from flash mobs to book readings. You name it. We’ve done it.

Nineteen of our merchants participate in the annual Downtown LIVES UNITED Day, donating five percent of their sales on that day to United Way of Hampshire County. In 2015 in total, we have sponsored, underwritten or otherwise undertaken efforts that have supported dozens of local organizations and nonprofits—too many to name here.

Our merchants, and Madowitz, are heavily invested in Northampton’s collective success—not just because a rising tide raises all boats, but because they believe it is the right thing to do. We give back to the community in gratitude for our local shoppers, who support us and our local economy.

Thornes-Exterior-Festive-Scene

A festive Main Street holiday scene at Thornes Marketplace. Photo credit: Richard Cowles. Photo supplied by Thornes Marketplace Marketing Department.

During this holiday season, we encourage you to come and shop—and appreciate—the local jewel that is Thornes. Our extended holiday hours start on Monday, Dec. 9, when we will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day through Christmas, except Sundays, when we will close at 6 p.m.

We decorate the building quite extensively in order to increase holiday cheer, and we will offer live music, performers and special give-aways throughout December.

Learn more about us at https://www.thornesmarketplace.com/.