Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Store That Isn't There

We have been somewhat perplexed watching what has been going on at the old Crate and Barrel location on Brattle Street.

For a while it looked like a new store was opening, with colorful displays of housewares you could see through the big windows. And then came the signs saying that you can't come in.

As near as we can figure, the iconic firm Design Research (D/R) had a store at this location in the 1970s, before making way for the more commercial Crate and Barrel.

Now with Crate and Barrel gone, they have reclaimed the space temporarily as a window showroom. You can walk by and look but you can't go in except by special invitation. We suspect this will continue until a paying tenant is found.

Could unmanned stores that never open except for private parties be the next big trend in retail? Having no sales clerks would definitely cut down on costs, but wouldn't sales suffer too?

But instead of a sign of the future, this may just be an ode to the past. We don't remember Design Research on Brattle street, but judging the baby boomer crowd at a recent reception there, older Cambridge residents do.

All the pretty textiles are also a reminder that New England used to be a textile center, back in the not-so-distant days when Berkshire Hathaway made fine men's shirts.

There is a Kennedy Connection here. The photograph of Jacqueline Kennedy on the December 1960 cover of Sports Illustrated shows her wearing a dress purchased at D/R.

You can still shop the Marimekko product line at 350 Huron Avenue in Cambridge. Customers are admitted Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm (Thursdays until 7pm).

Note: click pictures for full resolution.

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