Business 2018: One Block: Parsons Block, Maple Street, Florence

By CAITLIN ASHWORTH

@kate_ashworth

Published: 02-04-2018 11:29 PM

THE BLOCK: Just a turn off Main Street in Florence and onto Maple Street, a variety of businesses — many that have been around for decades — are housed in what’s known as the Parsons Block.

The Parsons Block, which stretches from 76-96 Maple St., houses shops for books, clothing, beer and liquor, and lottery tickets, as well as a massage business, laundromat and pizza place.

WHY COME HERE? Gaurang Patel, owner of Bird’s Store, called his shop at the corner of Main and Maple streets the “hub of Florence.” People often gather at the store to play Keno.

Bird’s sells a large number of tobacco products, lottery tickets and everyday household goods. Patel said the store also offers laminating and copying services.

Doyle’s Package store doesn’t compete with birds, and mainly sells beer, wine and liquor, said owner Steve Shea, whose family owns the Parsons Block building.

“It’s a fixture,” Shea said about the store.

Herlihy’s Clothing, a women’s boutique, has a large and loyal customer base, owner Linda Warburton said. She added she builds a personal relationship with customers, which adds to the shops success.

While Herlihy’s is “off the beaten path,” Warburton said, “We’re a destination store which puts us on the map.”

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FEEL OF THE PLACE: The more than century-old green and brick building has rustic signs above each shop. Inside the businesses have detailed tin ceiling tiles.

“I’ve always admired the building,” Samantha Ross of the antique store Ross Sister said. “I love the architecture.”

Bookends owner Grey Angell said the store’s space used to be a bowling alley decades ago when pins where manually set up. The space is now used as part of the bookstore.

It’s block is in a small town area, Angell said, and it’s pace is much slower than in the city.

WHAT’S NEW: Samantha Ross, the sister of men that owned “Ross brothers,” a locally-known antique store in Florence that has closed, has started her own junk shop called Ross Sister, playing off the family name.

Ross describes her shop as “antique/ classic junk/mid-century/ whatever I think is cool.”

The location was previously for an optician, and still has the vintage sign above the shop. In the shop, she has a variety of things like chairs, hats and artwork, but she also has new electric bicycles for sale.

WHAT’S ENDURING: Many of the shops have been around for decades. Patel said Bird’s Store has been open for about over a century, and his family has owned it for the past 20 years.

Shea remembers working at Bird’s Store years ago when his father owned the shop. He said it was a focal point of the neighborhood and many people regularly came in each morning to pick up a newspaper.

Tami Schirch, owner of Kid’s Stuff, a second-hand children’s clothing store on the block, said she’s owned the store for about 21 years, but it’s been around for 25.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Schirch said.

She doesn’t advertise, really just word-of-mouth, and some of her customers shopped at the store when they were young and are now bringing their children.

Herlihy’s Clothing, a women’s boutique, has been in Florence for about 90 years, and Warburton said she has owned it for 16 years. When she bought the shop over a decade ago, it had the reputation of an “old lady store,” Warburton said. But she’s said she’s revived the boutique, selling moderate to high end women’s clothing.

“My goal is to make it to 100 years,” Warburton said.

THE PLAYERS: A coin-laundromat and A-1 Pizza House are also prominent shops on the block that have been around for decades, but next to Bookends, another business is tucked away.

A sign on the door that says “Massage” leads up the stairs to Judith Prevost’s apartment where she runs Magical Winds Center for the Healing Arts. She doesn’t rely on foot traffic, and said that word of mouth is the best way to gain new clients.

THE UPSIDE: Many of the business owners say they have a regular customer base. Parking is typically good on the Maple Street block, business owners say, with street parking and a lot behind the Bird’s Store.

“Parking is a necessity for business,” Patel of Bird’s said.

THE DOWNSIDE: Since Parsons Block is on a side street, Shea said it’s not very visible to those walking through the center of town or driving by on Main Street.

Angell of Bookends said there’s less traffic on the street, and not as many people coming in than if they would if it was in a busy downtown area like the center of Northampton.

VERBATIM: “Good neighbors, great customers,” Patel of Bird’s said.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.]]>