Williamstown Specialty Clothing Store Closing

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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The Browns opened five years ago in the former Philip's General Store.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After six years on Water Street, specialty clothing store The Browns is closing its doors.

The business announced its closure in an emailed advertisement sent out on Thursday. The shop is holding a monthlong going-out-of-business sale beginning Saturday, Dec. 1, and wrapping up when it closes for good on Dec. 30, according to the announcement, which thanks the shop's customers for its success.

"'You're only as good as the people you dress,'" the announcement reads, quoting designer Roy Halston Frowick.

"Thanks to you, we've had a good run," the announcement continues.

The news comes as a blow to downtown Williamstown, which already has a number of vacant storefronts.

But the reaction of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce's executive director was more personal.

"We're very sad here at the chamber," Jennifer Civello said Friday morning. "Mikki [Brown] has really been involved in a lot of community activities with the chamber."

A message left for Brown had not yet been returned.

Civello, who took over at the chamber this summer, said she heard on Monday through the grapevine that the store was going to be closing, for apparently personal reasons.

"Here in Williamstown, we're really heavy on certain sectors," Civello said. "When you drive down Spring Street, it's primarily restaurants and eateries. To lose that kind of business is tough. It's a draw. Like here on Spring Street we have (toy store) Where'd You Get That. It's something that people come here for.

"It's difficult when you lose someone out of that pool."

Mikki and Tom Brown opened The Browns at 16 Water St. in July 2007.

"Our goal is to make this a destination shop," Mikki Brown told iBerkshires at the time.

The shop has featured high-end clothing lines like Fabrizio Gianni for women and Hickey Freeman for men. It also has hosted exhibitions by local artists, and supported community events such as the Holiday Walk and the annual Humane Race.

"When you look at the larger economic development picture, it's going to be another empty storefront," Civello said. "We already have some empty store fronts on Spring Street and Water Street, which are kind of our main merchant areas."

In 2010, Williamstown lost women's clothier Zanna, which continues to operate a store in Amherst. The void left by Zanna on Spring Street was filled the next year by Ruby Sparks, a women’s clothing shop operated by Jo Ellen Harrison of the Harrison Gallery next door.

Civello said one encouraging sign on the local retail front is the availability of an incubator location in the building at the bottom of Spring Street owned by Williams College and also occupied by the Chamber of Commerce. This summer, the "pop-up" location was utilized by ice cream shop Lickety Split after it vacated its location further north on Spring Street.

"What Williams wants to do is get folks in there to give it a try and see if in that three-month time they can make a go of it and potentially move to another facility," Civello said. "It's a really good baby step to making the leap to be a full-fledged business owner."

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