Hastings celebrates turning 100

Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2014

AMHERST — Jackey Creedon lives in Hollister, Missouri, but after almost three decades as an employee at A.J. Hastings, she knew she had to return from the Midwest to celebrate the store’s 100th birthday.

“I wasn’t going to miss this,” Creedon said. “Anyone who comes back to Amherst comes to Hastings.”

Kim Harwood only worked at the downtown shop in the mid-1980s, from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. daily before heading to classes at Amherst Regional High School, but he still has fond memories of distributing newspapers, vacuuming the floor and getting the cash register ready.

“It’s a rarity that a family business has survived in this day and age, but the character of this store is intact,” Harwood said.

Creedon and Harwood were among numerous people dropping in Thursday to enjoy a piece of birthday cake and offer well wishes to the store, owners Mary Broll and Sharon Povinelli, and employees as Hastings hits the century mark.

This marked the beginning of a four-day party that will feature large birthday cakes again Friday and Saturday, a raffle to win a $100 gift certificate to the store and discounts.

But the real point, said Broll, is to give people opportunities to sign a guest book and enjoy a party.

“It would be nice to have people come to have cake and a drink,” Broll said.

As part of the festivities, Broll created a display case with some of the items the store has carried over the years, including artifacts such as a hole punch and letter press, Matchbox toy cars and fishing gear and receipts. Some of these indicate how the store has changed, such as once carrying rifles and ammunition. There is also a ledger indicating a sale to “Mr. Frost,” who Broll suspects was poet Robert Frost, who spent time in Amherst.

All kinds of weather

On July 17, 1914, Asa J. Hastings purchased the stationery and newsstand business from Mirick Spear. Every day since, the store has been open, through winter storms, hurricanes and power outages. The store didn’t miss a beat when it moved a few doors down to 45 South Pleasant St. in 1937, where it is still located and anchors a block of businesses on Merchant’s Row.

Louise MacDonald of Pelham said she has been a regular customer since the 1950s, when she shopped at the store while a student at the University of Massachusetts.

“It’s a very friendly and helpful place,” MacDonald said. ”I enjoy walking in here every day.”

After MacDonald made her purchases, she was offered assistance to get back to her car, a service she appreciates.

“I feel I have friends here,” MacDonald said.

Glenn Meakim of Hadley brought his yellow Labrador retriever, Anya, observing that the store is welcoming to pets, with Trudy, a miniature dachshund, often seen scampering abut the store.

A longtime customer, Meakim served as a paper boy and remembers coming into the store to read the comic books, which still have a place near the magazine rack.

“It was like a village center,” Meakim said. “Everything happened here.”

Though he doesn’t shop at Hastings often, he makes a point to do so when he runs out of paper and notebooks. “This is my old hometown place to be. I come here for stationery needs instead of the big box stores,” Meakim said.

With a nod to all things local, the large birthday cake, designed to look like a business card, was made at Henion’s, flowers came from Knowles Flower Shop and champagne was purchased at Spirit Haus.

Creedon said in the 29 years she worked at Hastings, her bosses were Donald Hastings, his son David Hastings, and Broll, David Hastings’ widow. To her, Hastings is the definition of hometown and, because it is 100 years, is also an institution, she said.

Without Hastings, Harwood said his own children would have one less place to go.

“I love it that my kids can come in here and buy candy,” Harwood said. “It’s a great thing.”


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