No other moment symbolized the change that was to come to downtown Greenwichlike the day Woolworths was bought out and turned into a Saks 5th Avenue. Yeap. That pretty much hammered the nail in the coffin. Deep in there. And there was no looking back.
Greenwich Avenue, when I was growing up, was a fairly typical New England center, with everyday shops lining up and down such as a stationary store, a butcher, a toy store, a hardware store, a Hallmark shop, a small grocery store, some local bookstores and, of course, your Woolworths…you know, the usual stuff you find. The “Avenue”, as it is called locally, had nothing really glitzy about it. If anyone ever wanted to do some serious shopping, they went to the city, NYC of course.
The initial incursions into the town by fashionable chains and high end bistros suggested the demure appearance of the downtown was under threat. Saks simply confirmed the fears. The legendary 5-and-dime was probably having a tough time adapting to the new tastes of the 1980s, but it seemed like one of those places humanity would always need, like bread or professional sports. Yeah right. DowntownGreenwichwas in for some profound changes, as was the rest of the town itself. The fact that it was a luxury clothes store that took its place could not have been more fitting. It said, “See yah, old-fashionedAmerica.”
Then the floodgates opened and everyone joined the movement; hardly a shop remains from my youth. The rest have been ousted by Ralph Lauren, Polo, and such. Now I think only Bestever dry cleaners, the locksmith and the Knapp funeral parlor persist. People in this town still need clean suits, extra keys and a good place to die.
Now, even some of the first-wavers are teetering beneath the pressure of a strained economy. The lingerie giantVictoria’s Secret has announcing it will close. What a depressing thought. I loved that place if only for the fact that it gave a man a mental break from the otherwise droll stroll down the street. It also gave the town a touch of raciness.
The place always cracked me up because towards the back there was a glass above-ground tunnel that led from the building to the neighboring church. It is a Catholic church called St. Mary’s and the temple where Robert Kennedy married. It passage actually was access to the building but behind the store but from the street it looked like a little getaway for the clergy from their humdrum holy lives.
But now it is saying goodbye forever. Is this a sign that the town is entering a new phase, or is it thatGreenwichhas never stopped changing? Except for crisp shirts, deadbolt locks and embalming.