Over the course of the summer, Spring Street experienced high turnover in its clientele. Ephporium, a convenience store known for its sandwiches and warm cookies, as well as the Williams Newsroom, a paper/ office supplies store, closed over the summer. Despite these departures, the School for Style, Tony’s Sombrero, LaBelle’s Clipz and Cuts and the Barbara Prey Gallery are now open.
The Newsroom and Ephporium
The Newsroom and Ephporium both ended leases with the College this year; the Newsroom moved to the College-owned space in 1988, and Ephporium had existed in its space since 2005. “The owners of the Newsroom and Ephorium both decided not to renew their leases when they came up for renewal. [The College] respects their decision,” Fred Puddester, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, said.
Quelling rumors that the College’s rent is the factor driving prices up and businesses out, Vice President for Public Affairs James Kolesar ’72 reported that the rent of College tenants represents about five to 10 percent of the occupants’ revenues. Major costs of labor and premiums paid for the delivery of goods were the main source of increased prices in these stores, exempting the College from scrutiny. The larger problem for businesses on Spring Street is the small market of Williamstown. “This is a tricky market because one would think that students were a large driver of the market, but there are only 2000 students, and students are only here about 60 percent of the year,” Kolesar said. Thus, when stores are unable to find a large enough market to support their expenses, turnover occurs. This shifting market “makes the retail environment a bit more challenging as certain businesses have to adjust their marketing approach to different groups at different times during the year,” Puddester said.
“We are actively looking to re-lease any vacant college space on Spring Street,” Puddester said of the available storefronts. “[And we] are in conversations with many retailers who are interested in commercial space on Spring Street.” While the College has not made any decision as to which business will succeed Ephporium and the Newsroom, according to Puddester, “a convenience store with some grab-and-go food is high on our list.”
Tony’s Sombrero opened at the end of the spring on May 15 at 69 Spring Street. Owner Antonio Columna is originally from Mexico, and opened his first restaurant in Pittsfield, Mass., before opening on Spring Street. Columna hopes that his customers will see the restaurant as a place to get food quickly and will take advantage of their takeout option for both lunch and dinner. Tony’s Sombrero not only serves burritos, tacos and quesadillas, but offers salads, entrées, paninis and desserts. “Mostly the same groups of students come in and out of the restaurant,” Columna said of his clientele. He hopes that the College student body will become a strong part of his customer base.
The School for Style
The School for Style, opened on May 27 at 36 Spring Street. Co-owned by Annie Kennedy and husband Wit McKay ’78, the School for Style is a shop that primarily displays theater artisans’ work and other clothing. The couple is from New York City, where Kennedy worked as a theater costume designer and McKay as a photographer. McKay is a graduate of the College and Kennedy designed costumes a few summers ago for the Williamstown Theater Festival. After moving to Williamstown in 2011, where Kennedy continued work as a costume designer, the couple began working toward opening the store in February. Kennedy brings in pieces from costume designers across the country at a wide range of styles and price points for sale at the School for Style. The store collects some vintage high fashion such as Vivienne Westwood and Dior, but also clothes from local artisans. “We want to bring life to Spring Street,” McKay said. The two hope to be able to interact with their costumers. “As a costume designer, Annie [Kennedy] knows what people look good in,” McKay said. “We hope to help our costumers discover their style.” McKay expressed that although the high season in Williamstown is in fact the summer for his store, he hopes the student body will enjoy the boutique’s accessible prices and diverse styles.
LaBelle’s Clipz and Cuts
Denise LaBelle opened LaBelle’s Clipz and Cuts this summer behind the former storefront of That’s a Wrap in Eph Alley. LaBelle’s provides haircuts only – excluding coloring, perms or straightening treatments. She cuts hair for men and women. LaBelle hopes the College’s students will be attracted by her low prices, which range between the cost of similar services at the Clip Shop on Spring Street and are comparable to that of St. Pierre’s. Although the shop is small as of now, LaBelle is professionally trained and hopes the quality of her cuts will keep her customers coming back.
Barbara Prey Gallery
Adjacent to Tony’s Sombrero, Barbara Prey ’79 opened Barbara Prey Gallery this summer at 71 Spring Street. A graduate of the College, Prey has gone on to become an influential American artist whose works are exhibited in collections of the White House, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the College. Prey has achieved accolades such as appointment to the National Council on the Arts, the New York State Senate Women of Distinction Award, spokesperson for American Art with commissions for NASA, the U.S. State Department’s ART in Embassies Program and has painted the White House Christmas card. Upcoming exhibits include a New Yorker illustration series and works from Prey’s time in Asia. Prey recently opened her gallery on Spring Street in addition to the gallery located at her home in Williamstown. Most famous for her watercolors, Prey’s gallery features works from images of Williamstown and the College. “Williamstown has been a source of inspiration for close to 40 years,” Prey said. “I have already had so many people tell me how excited they are we are on Spring Street and thank us for being here.”