i spy- bargains and sadness.

21 09 2010

this fucking economy. over the last 3 years, i have watched the streets of this town morph into something that i don’t recognize anymore. exchange street alone is a complete stranger with its consignment and discount shops mixed amongst the last few surviving high end stores. not that i don’t appreciate the bargains, but it feels like i notice a new STORE CLOSING! or GOING OUT OF BUSINESS! or maybe EVERYTHING MUST GO! sign pretty much every day. after having your business alive in this city for so long, i can’t even imagine what it must feel like to have to paste that sign up in your window. i assume that there’s a lot of shame and regret. a lot of wishing that they could go back and have that “it’s a wonderful life” chance to do it the right way this time… or maybe it’s just a relief to be done with it? struggling small businesses can be like large monsters in the way that they eat up time, resources, energy, and hope. whatever the case, shuttering those windows and signing over your lease to some dude who thinks he has a better idea has to be an emotionally pummeling experience. i know it breaks my heart every time, and i just shop there. well, i used to shop there.

this past week, 2 of my favorites made the casualty list.

the north star music cafe had such a benevolent purpose! delicious local (mostly veg & vegan) foodables! flexible performance and music space for all! a few months ago, the owner ran a small fundraising campaign to help pay off some mounting business related debts, and i think we were all really hoping that was the end of it. not so. thursday afternoon, the news broke on twitter that they were shutting down for good on sunday. goodbye adorable hippie girls serving me bagels. goodbye sweet vegan reuben. goodbye people in this town trying to do something with purpose, integrity, and love. maybe i’m being overdramatic, but i’m super bummed out.

second on the list (do we need to start making a dead pool for portland businesses?), is cunningham books in longfellow square.  always carefully organized and stuffed full of beautiful and pristine picture books, this was a regular stop on my local hunt for nancy drews and 80s art and fashion books. i spied the 30% OFF STORE CLOSING sign on sunday afternoon, and the excitement over possible vintage book bargains was totally clouded with the confusion and disappointment i felt to find out that they were closing. too pricey? too far from downtown?  not enough revenue to be had selling old books? i don’t know. it’s possible that they don’t even know. sometimes you can do everything right and still fail. small business is vicious, and i wholeheartedly admire anyone who has the iron cojones to actually give it a try.

anyway, sorry this post is such a bummer. consider it your “buy local” lecture of the day. if we don’t support the businesses that we love, they will disappear. it’s fucking crazy hard out there right now, so open those wallets and go get yourself some local whatever (might i suggest some gently used he-man figures, or possibly a chocolate covered twinkie?).

have you recently lost a favored local establishment to this crap economy? tell me about it. and let me be the first to offer my profound condolences.

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19 responses

21 09 2010
blackgirlinmaine

I feel ya. I was not a regular at North Star since I am 20 mins south of Portland but North Star was one of those places when the entire family came into town on the weekend we all liked to go. Any place that can cater to parents and kidlets is a good place for all. So I am definitely sad to see them go.

I agree Exchange Street is a shadow of itself. I used to love walking down there when I first moved to Mane and now it’s just depressing. I am a huge supporter in buying local because while yes it may cost a few cents more, its the right thing to do.

The thing is in a state like Maine, its the small businesses that make this place cool. I like the fact that it does not look like anywhere USA. I love the small quirky places and hate the fact that slowly the big boxes are taking over.

24 09 2010
bessmarvin

i just hope that they put something in there that makes as much sense (but more money obviously) as the northstar. the kid friendly thing was huge (and i don’t even have kids, but let’s face it- portland restaurants aren’t exactly family friendly overall). i wish that i had the foresight to photograph exchange street over the last 10 years. i think a time lapse video would be pretty shocking. and sad. we will someday recover from this recession/depression/downturn (take your pick!), and hopefully we can do it without having to put up a walmart in monument square. exchange street will rise again, i’m sure of it!

21 09 2010
anastasiav

I have heard “through the grapevine” that Cunningham’s closed simply because the owner was ready to retire and was either unwilling or unable to sell the business. Don’t know if its true or not, but if it is true it make me feel slightly better. I think.

24 09 2010
bessmarvin

that is such a relief! i love that place so much, and i would hate to see it shut down for financial reasons. also, now i feel less awkward about going in and snarfing up the 30% off books!

22 09 2010
Evelyn

Anastasiav, I’m happy to hear that maybe Cunningham’s isn’t closing due to the economy. I saw the sign last week and was so sad.

24 09 2010
bessmarvin

ME TOO. at least we still have yes books and now the green hand. i’m just greedy for discount literature 🙂

22 09 2010
imogen flowers

Yeah I heard she was retiring as well. As for northstar, this is the first I’ve heard of it and it sucks. Next you’ll tell me granny’s burritos is about to bite the dust. Oh wait, that already happened…

24 09 2010
bessmarvin

don’t even get me started on granny’s. where’s my burritos at? NOWHERE, that’s where.

22 09 2010
fore front

RIP. i sobbed when i saw both places were closing. UNFAIR!!!!

24 09 2010
bessmarvin

so sad! and i feel guilty too, like maybe if i’d gone in there more often…

22 09 2010
The Dealer

Norm’s East End closed Saturday…a former favorite Happy Hour spot
LL Bean downtown closes Sunday

24 09 2010
bessmarvin

after you dropped the norm’s bomb, i totally took to twitter and started mass hysteria. ok, i know that there are 2 other nearly identical restaurants still on the peninsula, but this one was so close to my house! and the MASHED POTATOES!!! i’m gutted. ps. we need to hit the same happy hour someday- i’d like to meet you!

24 09 2010
The Dealer

For sure, we’ll do Happy Hour soon. You can frequently find me at Bayside Bowl. That reminds me I need to blog about the fact that they have Happy Hour specials now…

And Happy Anniversary!!!

28 09 2010
bessmarvin

thanks! i shamefully have not yet been to the bayside bowl. which is shocking because i love both bowling and booze. and snack food. how can i go wrong?

22 09 2010
liz

yeah, north star’s closing has had me thinking a lot about casco bay books, which we closed three years ago. for me it involved a complicated mix of emotions: sadness, frustration, anger, regret, and a healthy sprinkle of relief. portland’s not the easiest town to operate a small business in, because of its size, its dependence on tourism, and the relative frugality/brokeness of its inhabitants. somehow, that’s still what we find ourselves doing — trying to run a business (one not so dependent on local shoppers) that will keep our family here! cause we’re pretty much head over heels in love with portland, maine.

24 09 2010
bessmarvin

the loss of casco bay books was the absolute worst. when i walk by the dark and empty space now, it’s still a little bit of a shock that it’s not still there. i spent so much time there for so long. there are other bookstores and coffee shops, but nothing else seems quite the same. as with the northstar, i think that running a business with purpose and with love makes it harder to succeed somehow. you want to have quality products, you want to have fairly compensated employees, and if we’ve learned anything from walmart… that’s not exactly the way to make a buck. i hope you find a way to rise from the ashes, portland would hate to see you go!

24 09 2010
mj

I try to go to my favorite diner (Marcy’s – yo!) regularly, because while everyone else was swearing off eating out in favor of a few more pennies in their pocket, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I want Marcy’s to be there when this whole depression thing is over, when I can afford to go there even more often. So it’s in my best interest to take care of them the way they take care of me, you know?

28 09 2010
bessmarvin

that reminds me, we should hang out at marcy’s sometime. i haven’t been there since i got divorced, and i miss their home fries. but i totally agree with your methods. the economy is scary right now, and pretty much nobody has guaranteed job stability… but we can’t forget that we have to put our money (at least some of it) back into the economy, or it will never recover. the money hoarding impulse is not helping our beloved local establishments stay open.

3 11 2010
portland’s greatest hits. « broke 207

[…] that time i posted about all the things in portland that have been going out of business lately, and how bummed out about it i am? well, i’m still bummed out about it (north star- […]

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