I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but there is a storefront on Newbury Street that never really stays the same—144 Newbury Street to be precise. When I first came to Boston, it was a futuristic MakerBot store, filled with fragile-looking, plastic shapes that seemed to have no purpose other than hanging in the store’s floor-to-ceiling windows. The next time I came back, the MakerBot store was gone, and the windows, although dusty, allowed passersby to peek into the vacant storefront, which seemed overwhelmingly concrete and grey.
But when I came back this summer, about to start the semester, the store had taken on new tenants. I couldn’t find a name or brand on the outside, but I could see the colorful clothes hung haphazardly on huge rolling racks through the now less dusty windows. I peeked in, and discovered that it was a sample sale for a rather obscure brand.
This store, and I find this strange because it should have been a fleeting sample sale, seemed to stick around for quite a few months. In fact, I began to wonder if it was going to become the first permanent sample sale. I forgot about it and let it blend into the streets like one of the immovable big brands, hoping that 144 Newbury had finally found something permanent. But, as with most things, I looked away. hen I looked back, the sample sale was gone.
Maybe it left because of the cold.
Although the frigid air outside has convinced me that an inability to cope with the rapid drop in temperature seems like an increasingly valid excuse to jump ship, the empty store has been bothering me over the past few days.
I don’t really mind the loss of the sample sale. It’s more the fact that this particular store front is unable to hold down an occupant. I sincerely doubt that 144 Newbury is cursed, but why is it so hard for something to stick? With its generous windows that would bathe any merchandise in sunlight (for the limited time that the sun is actually shining), and a size that is big enough to prevent people from feeling cramped, but small enough to be manageable, retailers should be clamoring to claim the space.
I poked around online, but instead of finding theories about a curse, I found articles pointing to the starkly realistic explanation of quickly rising leases on properties in the Back Bay area. The Boston Globe revealed that property taxes in the Newbury Street area have recently risen 18.4%, a number that forces out many of the smaller independent businesses on the street.
I thought about the cheerful-yet-overstocked pet store where I met a lady with a bulldog-shih tzu puppy (I’ll let you guess the official name of that breed) that mysteriously vanished after my first visit to the city. And the art gallery-bistro combo—where my mom and I had picked at wheat berry salads before deciding that cake and hot chocolate were probably a better call for lunch—that had disappeared as well. Although, in all honestly, the bistro may have disappeared for the greater good.
I felt a horrible guilt for the small businesses that are still being shoved away from what could have been their home for decades and wondered why I always gravitate towards Newbury Street when I’m in the city. The dwindling number of independent shops is obvious once you start paying attention, and the street noticeably lacks the character that they tend to bring with them. Newbury Street is mostly composed of big brands like Chanel, Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, and Burberry—places that I can only dream of shopping in. Of course, there are a few more affordable shops thrown into the mix, but I keep coming past to wander by the windows of stores that I can’t fathom actually going into.
Maybe I tend to gravitate towards Newbury Street, and others like it, because, for me, it is a dream street. Despite its lack of unique character, I need streets like Newbury to exist because the provide me with a concrete place of escape. For a few moments, I can immerse myself in the unattainable and look longing at a pair of Chanel boots that I have as much of a chance of owning as I do of becoming an astronaut.
Which is to say, absolutely no chance because I have a horrible fear of dying in space.
Featured Image by Abby Paulson/ Heights Editor