Greenwich Gossip

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Closing of Greenwich Avenue, Cont'd.

Word comes today via the Connecticut Post that Best & Co. is in bankrupcy. Local resident Susie Hilfiger bought the brand and opened the store a dozen years ago, and then sold it two years ago to FAO Schwarz (the founder of which used to live in Greenwich, where his mansion and property are now part of the campus of Greenwich Country Day School). Schwarz was bought out by Toys 'R' Us, which has thrown Best & Co. under the bus.

Long story short, yet another gaping hole in the increasingly toothless facade of Greenwich Avenue. Who's next? Stay tuned....

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Closing of Greenwich Avenue

Greenwich Avenue is closed for business. Well, almost. Three more local merchants have decided to shutter their doors this week, and no doubt more are soon to follow. Will Greenwich Avenue, as your scribe once predicted in jest, become a ghost town in actuality?

The trend suggests that it's a very real possibility. This week we're saying goodbye to The Knitting Niche, Cocoon, and The Red Studio. Guy Flichy is rumored to have moved his antiquities business to Dubai. The old Marks Brothers store, once a mainstay of the Avenue, has been vacant for many months, ever since Wendy Gee pulled up stakes and left. Chilibear has moved to Old Greenwich. J. L. Rocks is closed, although your scribe continued to hear ads on the radio station for them until recently. Gives one a rather spooky feeling, it does.

Even Greenwich Magazine has moved to Westport. There is more vacant space on Greenwich Avenue and environs these days than probably at any time in history. Even during the Depression, the local businesses mostly stayed in business, as people still needed clothes and shoes and groceries and staples. No frou-frou shoppes on Greenwich Avenue in those days.

Will the trend towards more and more vacancies continue? You betcha. Even though landlords are suddenly willing to be more reasonable in terms of rent (one hears whispers of 50% discounts), there are simply no takers. And many, if not most, of the stores along Greenwich Avenue are hemorrhaging money left and right. For them, it's simply a matter of time....

We used to have such a nice Town center. Mike Guerrieri, who cut the young lad George Herbert Walker Bush's hair (and much later, your scribe's, for the princely sum of six dollars), The Yellow Brick Road toy store, the beloved Cheese Shop, the old Greenwich Hardware store with sawdust on the floor, D. W. Rogers, Woolworth's...the list goes on and on. All of them fell victim to the frou-frou shoppe mania of the last few decades. The Chamber of Commerce was complicit in the rising bubble of commercial real estate by encouraging more and more chains to come to Town, driving up rents and forcing the small local businesses to close.

We have sown the wind, and we are reaping the whirlwind. The chains are closing, one by one, and slinking away with their tails between their legs. And they are leaving us with, if not exactly a ghost town, a Town that is only a ghost of its former self. Quam mutatus ab illa civitate...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dateline: London...Report on the Queen

Your scribe has been somewhat taciturn of late, for the reason that he has been travelling (all spelling in this post will be according to British usage, in order to satisfy the Queen's spell-checkers). The weather in London is cloudy, with intermittent light showers. The traffic is heavy, but the mood of the man and the woman in the street is stiff upper lip with a heavy dose of wry British humour, as exemplified by the bus conductor who announced the Charing Cross stop by saying, "Trains to all points, and watching pigs fly." Since the break-up of British Railways, flying pigs are more usual than reliable train service, it seems.

As for the Queen, she seems to be in fine fettle. Last evening your scribe and his guest represented Greenwich in the Throne Room at St. James's Palace. At the assembly point, your scribe was curious to see that his entry ticket was a different colour from those of his friends around him. What did this portend, he wondered? Would the Greenwich contingent be relegated to the Royal scullery?

Far from it, as it turned out. As your scribe passed through room after room full of stately paintings and furnishings, the ushers kept waving him onward. Surely there was some mistake? But no, "Please pass through, sir, and keep going straight on." Finally there were no more rooms through which to pass. Your scribe had reached the Throne Room.

Only the small velvet rope in front of the throne kept him from veryifying the comfortableness of the royal seat, all in the interests of watching out for Her Majesty's best interests, of course. He was offered a glass of English sparkling wine, which looked and tasted much like vintage French champagne, except better, of course. Hors d'oeuvres were passed by an assiduous staff of waitpersons. The quails' eggs were something new to the scribal palate.

Then the door from the Council Chamber opened, and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh processed forth to offer a handshake and personal greetings to those in the front row. And since your scribe had been specifically instructed to stand in the front row by the powers in charge, he received the royal handshake. Her Majesty and the Duke then went on to the other rooms, where it is reported that only a very few others were signalled out for the full presentati0n treatment. Otherwise the Queen would have been there until midnight.

And so, dear reader, your scribe is spending the day puttering around London. He presented himself at the American Embassy at Grosvenor Square, but the police at the barricades seemed unimpressed. Likewise the door at 10 Downing Street remained closed to him, as the current Prime Minister is fighting for his political life (and losing). But at least the hospitality at the Palace was warm. All in all, it was worth making the trip.