13 March 2013

Goodbye to the Windsor Button Shop


Famous wall of buttons.
A big box craft retailer is coming to my city soon. On the heels of this news came word that the Windsor Button Shop, established 1936, is closing.  The Boston Globe reported that the store, at 35 Temple Place, will close once the inventory, including millions of buttons, is sold off.

Store with 'lost lease' signs in windows.

Store banner.

In 1998 this venerable shop was purchased by husband-and-wife Susan and Stanley Baker, who added yarn to the retail mix in 2001. Their landlord wants to renovate the interior, a space now comfortably old-fashioned.

I hopped on the Green Line for a farewall pilgrimage. My trips to this store have been far and few between recently, but I used to refer people who needed replacement buttons for blazers and other garments.

Another view of wall of buttons.

The two assistants pictured here could not have been more helpful as I selected about 90 red buttons for a future "bricks and boxes" quilt.  As I made my selection from tray after tray of buttons of all types - plastic, horn, shell, crystal - another customer was helped to select new buttons for a favorite jacket and yet another shopper received yarn advice. Will that big box store give this level of customer service? I was in Jo-Ann's Fabrics the other day, and was made to feel like an impediment rather than a customer.

Red buttons.

Cheerful assistant is amused bagging my red buttons.

Perusing yarn patterns.

Women used to sew and knit to save money, but with cheap clothes Made in China, the creative impulse has shifted to stitching and knitting for self-expression and to enjoy luxury materials, such as alpaca yarns and shell buttons, purchased in settings that not only display an inventory but entertain. Moreover, there is a need for community more than ever in this cybernetic age, and the urge to form like-minded cohorts supports crafting groups, such as quilt guilds.  Folks flock to workshops, classes and drop-in activities as well, and not just to learn or improve skills.  Successful retailers must understand and serve all of the motives which influence modern shopping.

Owner Susan neatens a display.

I must say, the tactile sensation of fingering baby alpaca worsted is delightful, and one can't do that online.  Computer screens threaten to rob us of our appreciation for texture. How do we reclaim it?

Bargain bin buttons.

One last look.