After nearly a century, Herlihy’s in Florence set to close

  • Linda Warburton, owner of Herlihy’s for the last 21 years, is closing her store in November. The store in Florence has been a fixture on Maple Street for the last 95 years. “The sale of the building and the increase in rent did not make my decision. It’s just the right time,” said Warburton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Linda Warburton, owner of Herlihy’s for the last 21 years, is closing her store in November. The store in Florence has been a fixture on Maple Street for the last 95 years. “The sale of the building and the increase in rent did not make my decision. It’s just the right time,” said Warburton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Herlihy’s, a fixture on Maple Street in Florence for the last 95 years, will close in November. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Linda Warburton, owner of Herlihy’s for the last 21 years is closing her store in November. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/11/2022 9:26:25 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Herlihy’s women’s apparel store will close its doors for the last time on Nov. 30 after nearly a century as an anchor of Florence Center’s historic Parsons Block.

Until then, the store is offering steep discounts in an effort to clear out the inventory on the sales floor. Owner Linda Warburton is also looking to rehome her basement-level treasure trove of historic boxes and packaging from other Northampton stores that have closed, like Bon Marché, McCallum’s and Peck & Peck.

Edward and Alice Herlihy opened the shop at 76 North Maple St. in 1927. Their daughter, also Alice Herlihy, owned and ran it for more than four decades, from 1948-89, then sold it to her employee Jean Ansanitis.

Warburton, a Florence native who once owned Northampton Bridal on Pleasant Street, said she went to school with Ansanitis’ daughter from kindergarten through 12th grade and bought Herlihy’s in 2002 as a 42-year-old single mother risking everything. In 2005, Warburton told the Gazette that she dreamed of keeping Herlihy’s open long enough to mark a century in business.

“I used to shop here with my mom when I was little,” Warburton said on Thursday. “I just remember it so well. I would get three pairs of (Bonnie Dunn) socks and my mother would get a new blouse, and it was such a big deal. … It’s just very charming. There’s nothing like this, in my opinion.”

Asked if the closure was related to the sale of the building to Blue Mountain Properties LLC in June and recent rent increases, she said “unequivocally” that there is no connection. She said the store could afford the new rent, but the time has come for her to retire.

“I’ll be 64. It’s very hard work, but I enjoy it. I have no regrets and I’m really glad I took the plunge,” she said. “It was a thriving, healthy business. It’s just time for me — and my family — to hang up my skates.”

She did say, though, that the new economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic “set the table for this.” When businesses reopened after months of mandated closures, some regular customers were hesitant to leave the house, or they entered stores for recreation rather than buying. Retail is still not the same, although the bell above the door at Herlihy’s was ringing over and over on Thursday.

Sara Lasser Yau of Florence went to Herlihy’s with her mother, Judi Lasser, for their traditional shopping trip that morning. Lasser had driven from her home in Needham to spend the day in the village center with her daughter, as she has done many times over the last six years.

“Part of the fun is going shopping together, but we always walk out with something fantastic,” Lasser Yau said. “Great clothes, great colors. And things that fit.”

“Lovely owner,” Lasser added. “And things you don’t see other places.”

“Linda always remembers my name and that my mom comes to visit and where my kids are in school,” Lasser Yau said. “I’m buying one of the things she suggested I try on today.”

Years ago, Warburton said she considered rebranding and changing the name of the store, but decided against it out of respect for Alice Herlihy. The key to long-term success, she discovered, was working hard for the customers.

“A lot of people discouraged me (from buying Herlihy’s) because it wasn’t a sparkly store. It was a little dated. It sold a lot of bras and underwear and nightgowns and housecoats,” she recalled. “It just kind of evolved through word of mouth and taking care of my customers, and really trying to find out what they wanted.”

Today, she said, the shop caters to “a mature, older woman who likes classic clothing with a little bit of an edge. Nothing crazy, you know? And I always try to buy ‘Made in the United States.’”

Warburton’s son — now 26 — used to hop off the school bus and walk down to the store, often with friends, to do homework and play video games in the finished basement until the end of the workday.

“We’d get pizza at A-1 after school and his friends would come down here. They thought it was so cool! ‘Let’s go to Jack’s store and hang out!” she said. “When they got older, I’d give them money and they’d go to Friendly’s.”

In the shop’s early days, the basement was a toy store. Now, it’s a repository of old-timey retail memorabilia, like vintage hats and an antique cash register once used by Herlihy’s clerks.

“I have to do something with it, right?” she said. Whatever is left after the going-out-of-business sale will likely be donated to a hospice program or another nonprofit.

Warburton said she plans to spend more time with her family and her Bernese mountain dog, Josie, and “do a little yoga. Some kayaking. Just, kind of, take it a little slower.”

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.
Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Daily Hampshire Gazette Valley Advocate

Jobs



Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy