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Mountain Goat sells wares at Northampton auction

  • The inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store were put on the block Friday by auctioneer Paul Scheer, right, of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store were put on the block Friday by auctioneer Paul Scheer, right, of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Potential bidders ponder their inventory listings while listening to auctioneer Paul Scheer of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers conduct the sale of items upstairs at the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store in Northampton Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Potential bidders ponder their inventory listings while listening to auctioneer Paul Scheer of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers conduct the sale of items upstairs at the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store in Northampton Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Maizie Kassell, 22 months, of Chesterfield looks up at lot #170, listed as "Goat Body Form, 6 ft.", that was one of six "Mountain Goats" sold in the auction of inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store in Northampton Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Maizie Kassell, 22 months, of Chesterfield looks up at lot #170, listed as "Goat Body Form, 6 ft.", that was one of six "Mountain Goats" sold in the auction of inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store in Northampton Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Susan Roy, left, of Northampton watches as a man who had the high bid at auction for the handcrafted Mountain Goat figures chooses which two to take. Roy's daughter, Helena Farrell of Whately, made the six iconic figures - three for each Mountain Goat store - and was hoping to buy one of the larger ones at the sale of the stores' inventory, fixtures and equipment Friday in Northampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Susan Roy, left, of Northampton watches as a man who had the high bid at auction for the handcrafted Mountain Goat figures chooses which two to take. Roy's daughter, Helena Farrell of Whately, made the six iconic figures - three for each Mountain Goat store - and was hoping to buy one of the larger ones at the sale of the stores' inventory, fixtures and equipment Friday in Northampton.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store were put on the block Friday by auctioneer Paul Scheer, right, of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store were put on the block Friday by auctioneer Paul Scheer, right, of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store were put on the block Friday by auctioneer Paul Scheer, right, of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Potential bidders ponder their inventory listings while listening to auctioneer Paul Scheer of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers conduct the sale of items upstairs at the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store in Northampton Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Maizie Kassell, 22 months, of Chesterfield looks up at lot #170, listed as "Goat Body Form, 6 ft.", that was one of six "Mountain Goats" sold in the auction of inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store in Northampton Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Susan Roy, left, of Northampton watches as a man who had the high bid at auction for the handcrafted Mountain Goat figures chooses which two to take. Roy's daughter, Helena Farrell of Whately, made the six iconic figures - three for each Mountain Goat store - and was hoping to buy one of the larger ones at the sale of the stores' inventory, fixtures and equipment Friday in Northampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The inventory, fixtures and equipment of the Mountain Goat outdoor gear and clothing store were put on the block Friday by auctioneer Paul Scheer, right, of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Susan Roy of Northampton was among those who bid on the six goats, seeking to take one female goat home as a keepsake for her daughter, Helena Farrell of Whately, who made them in her mother’s basement many years ago.

“I wanted to get a goat for Helena,” said Roy, who fondly recalled watching the making of the goats. “It was really fun to see them come together.”

But Roy was outbid by others who paid as much as $260 for the folksy animal mannikins, two of which were child size and nabbed for $100 each by a bidder on behalf of one of the co-owners, Mary Colwell.

When Colwell and her husband, A.J. LaFleur, announced the closing of their stores (the couple also closed The Mountain Goat in Hanover, N.H.), they cited the pressures of e-commerce, big-box retailers and a series of warmer winters as the primary reasons for the closures.

For many of the dozens of people, bargain hunters and local business owners who walked through the doors of the former retail store for the auction, the business’ end resonated in more ways than one.

Hiker Heidi Meissner of Springfield said she was a frequent customer of The Mountain Goat and was troubled to see it go.

“I happened in on that last day, in that last hour,” she said of her final visit to the store in March. “It was so sad.”

“I liked the people,” Meissner added while looking over a long list of merchandise on the auction block. “They gave good advice, not only on their products, but also on good hikes to do.”

Chandra Hancock of Montague echoed those sentiments.

“It’s hard to see these places go,” she said. “You understand why, but it’s still hard.”

The Mountain Goat is one of a smattering of established local businesses that have shuttered their doors in recent months, and it is hardly alone in citing the hyper-competitive retail environment, e-commerce and fallout from the Great Recession as reasons for their passing.

Others include outdoor gear retailer Adventure Outfitters in Hadley, Pride & Joy in Thornes Marketplace, and Amherst Woodworking & Supply. The last company, which employed 30 people on the outskirts of downtown Northampton, plans to close this month after 38 years in business. Owner David Short told the Gazette that the lengthy recession and downturn in the building industry battered his architectural woodworking business, bringing years of financial losses.

Although the retail sector has shown some signs of improving in recent months nationally, those numbers can be deceiving, say those familiar with such statistics.

“All the things they are citing are legitimate, they are real,” said Robert A. Nakosteen, a professor of economics and statistics at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “In some cases for some stores, they are not even back to the revenues they were experiencing during the recession.”

Nakosteen said mom-and-pop stores, as they are affectionately called, are under tremendous pressure today largely from online behemoths like Amazon and eBay, which sell virtually everything. Powerful online retailers and big-box chain stores also benefit from sales tax advantages and lower costs in distribution networks because of the volume of purchasing they do, another immediate disadvantage for independent businesses.

Nakosteeen said he anticipates more turnover for brick-and-mortar businesses, though Northampton’s downtown remains too vibrant, with its extensive dining and entertainment options, to be as hard hit as other retail centers.

“I think Northampton is always going to have a viable commercial sector,” he said. “But they (retailers) are going to feel constant pressure.”

Others caution about generalizing the closing of businesses, especially those that have had long runs. Not all businesses are meant to last forever and a quarter-century or more is a good, long time for some before they move on.

“I think it’s very difficult to measure and generalize on the retail economy downtown,” said Suzanne Beck, executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce. “There’s never a clear pattern. There’s always been a certain amount of churn downtown.”

Beck acknowledged that the local economy has gotten even more competitive in recent years with more specialized customer markets. She said the ability to track and forecast trends has become increasingly difficult.

She said prolonged vacancies are more cause for worry than businesses closing and that downtown businesses need to rely more on each other for their shared success.

“That’s why the BID (Business Improvement District) is so important,” she said.

The downtown shopping and entertainment experience in Northampton is an asset that brings value that can’t be replicated on the Internet, she said.

“You have to grab your customers by the heart and move them in a way that the Internet can’t do,” she said.

Steve Jasinski, who is the listing agent for the building that housed The Mountain Goat, said the nature of retail is changing downtown, but he added, “it doesn’t mean overall that things are bad.”

“What this does is create an opportunity,” he said of the 189 Main St. building, which has been on the market for $1.6 million.

A deal is currently being hammered out with a potential new investor, the Gazette has learned.

The auction, overseen by Florence Savings Bank, lasted a few hours and drew a medley of serious bidders, past customers, local business owners and curious onlookers.

Paul W. Scheer, president of Aaron Posnick & Co. of Springfield, ran the auction and attempted to sell the former store’s clothing inventory in one fell swoop. He received only a single bid of $11,000 and no bids for the store’s fixtures in their entirety, however.

Instead, dozens of bargain hunters bid piecemeal on the many clothing items, backpacks, boots, sunglasses, clothing racks and other fixtures.

Among them was Fernando Del Rio of Springfield, who frequents auctions for deals on merchandise that he can later sell on eBay, the online auction site.

“Make some money on the side,” said Del Rio while waiting to bid on stacks of footwear on the second floor.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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