Phil Crafts: It’s not too late for Cowls to change its plan
To the editor:
I suppose there’s a measure of inevitability in the decision by W.D.Cowls Inc., to make a killing by selling its woodlot in Cushman to a housing developer. An old friend of mine, a carpenter and contractor with long ties to Cowls Building Supply, pretty much predicted it a while back.
Hadley, already home to a Walmart, had cleared the decks for the arrival of Home Depot and, in hot pursuit, Lowe’s. “That does it,” he said. “There’s no way Cowls can hope to compete with these giants. You watch: Jones/Cowls will phase out of the building supply end of business and turn to the development of its vast land holdings.” Sure enough, Cowls Lumber, which used to sport a crowded parking lot, is starting to look like a ghost town in these depressingly unbalanced times. Walmart is the prototype of the Big Box predator, and while it (and Home Depot and Lowe’s, etc.) becomes the largest store in the world, the main drags in towns all over the country become more and more desolate.
This process is at work here in Amherst and so it’s not all that surprising that Cowls Inc. is using its considerable regional muscle to respond. What is surprising is the cold-blooded manner in which it is proceeding, and, given the vastness of the Jones/Cowls’ holdings, how easy it would be for them to change their plans. It’s been said that Walter Jones could boast of walking in Massachusetts from the Vermont line to the Connecticut line without leaving land owned by Walter Jones. Surely that domain includes real estate more suitable to a housing development than Cushman Village.
Maybe Cowls sees this plan as “just business”. Is it company policy that fifty years from now no one will know or care about the destruction of historic Cushman and refer to “The Retreat” the same way one mentions Cliffside, or The Boulders, or Puffton Village today? What a sad thought. I can only hope the owners involved change this loathsome plan. I hope it’s not too late.