Ode Boutique to close after nearly a decade

  • STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kristin Kelly, right, who is the owner of Ode, a boutique at 263 Main Street in Northampton, talks with Monica Patrick, of Westhampton, as she makes a purchase, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ode, a boutique at 263 Main Street in Northampton, is closing. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kristin Kelly, right, who is the owner of Ode, a boutique at 263 Main Street in Northampton, waits on a customer, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kristin Kelly, right, who is the owner of Ode, a boutique at 263 Main Street in Northampton, talks with Monica Patrick, of Westhampton, as she makes a purchase, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kristin Kelly, right, who is the owner of Ode, a boutique at 263 Main Street in Northampton, talks with Monica Patrick, of Westhampton, as she makes a purchase, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kristin Kelly, left, who is the owner of Ode, a boutique at 263 Main Street in Northampton, is greeted with a bouquet of flowers by Jess Lauren, of Florence, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. Lauren, who Kelly described as one of her first team members at the store, brought her the flowers after learning she is closing it. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kristin Kelly, background, who is the owner of Ode, a boutique at 263 Main Street in Northampton, waits on a customer, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ode, a boutique at 263 Main Street in Northampton, is closing. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2019 5:08:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Ode Boutique, a Main Street presence for nearly a decade, will close shop on Dec. 20.

The exit comes amid a flurry of downtown businesses shuttering — a phenomenon that has stoked some anxiety about the economic vitality of Northampton’s center. But owner Kristin Kelly told the Gazette that the boutique’s closing is “just a decision borne out of wanting a new adventure, and just to change things up in my life,” and not related to other forces afoot downtown.

“Really, truly, this decision has not come out of failure to thrive or anything to do with Northampton,” Kelly added. “We love Northampton — I am just a big believer in changing things up in life, and it was always my plan to do this for a while, and then it’s just time for that next chapter.”

Kelly, who grew up in Kansas, said that she was attracted to Northampton as a “creative and vibrant” location where many people engage in community work. She opened the shop in 2010, offering merchandise such as clothing, shoes, jewelry and bags, and aimed to “incorporate my love for art and philanthropy and fashion” into the business. The boutique was operated by an all-women staff of four, all but one of whom worked there for at least several years. 

The high-end fashion store, at 263 Main St., didn’t cater to every budget, with brands such as Bella Dahl, Rachel Pally, Paige Denim and Frye. But it formed a loyal base — which Kelly called the “Ode Tribe” — and on Monday afternoon, several regulars filtered in to say they’d heard the news and would miss the shop. Kelly announced the closing in an email sent out to customers the same morning. Ode boasted an Instagram following of over 3,000, with many posts featuring photo shoots arranged by the boutique and local photorapher Jo Chattman. 

Donna Haghighat, CEO of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, began shopping at Ode about five years ago when she lived in Connecticut. She said she always made a stop at the boutique when she visited Northampton. A couple of years later, Haghighat began working with the boutique to benefit the Women’s Fund, an organization that promotes gender equality through grant-making, leadership development and community engagement. 

The boutique’s philanthropic efforts were one of the factors that attracted Haghihat to Ode, she said. The shop donates 5 percent of its in-store monthly profits to local organizations such as the Northampton Survival Center, Baystate Children’s Cancer Hope Fund, Center for New Americans and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment; and it has hosted “Auction for Action” events benefiting local causes. 

The store also has been “responsible in the sense that … when they were choosing items that they liked, it wasn’t just about what looked good,” Haghighat said, citing an emphasis on clothing made in the United States and organically. “Oftentimes, it was about doing good as well.”

Kelly also highlighted philanthropy as a value that Ode was founded on, and one of its measures of success.

“I think the way that a single-owned, bricks-and-mortar store differentiates itself from the chains is to really foster a sense of community and feel responsible for the community,” Kelly said. 

While Kelly says that the store’s closing is not related to economic factors, Haghighat finds the number of stores and restaurants leaving downtown in general “a little troubling.” Walking down Main Street towards Ode, shoppers pass empty storefronts such as the former Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe and Viva Fresh Pasta. Other recent closures in the downtown area include Faces, ConVino Wine Bar, Glazed Doughnut Shop, La Fiorentina, and Refinery, though new businesses such as Majestic Saloon, HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen + Bar, and Familiars Coffee & Tea have filled formerly vacant storefronts.

Haghighat added she is particularly saddened when a business owned by a woman shuts its doors.

“Anytime a woman-owned business closes, it just puts us that much further behind in trying to get us to parity in terms of the number of businesses owned by women,” Haghighat said. 

Eliza Bradley, owner of Kestrel gift shop on nearby Masonic Street, said that she was “shocked and so sad” to hear that Ode will soon leave Main Street, praising the store’s staff as a “wonderful, welcoming, genuinely caring group of ladies.” 

Bradley said that business has been going well at Kestrel, which she said shares a similar customer base and aesthetic with Ode, and that she feels “like town has been getting a bad rap in a lot of ways” in terms of downtown closures. 

“But town definitely won’t be the same without them, that’s for sure,” she added of Ode. 

Kelly said she sees downtown closures as part of the cyclical nature of the business landscape, and she remains optimistic about the future of downtown.

“There are going to be people who look at empty storefronts and look at some stores closing as a sign of bad times, and I know it has been for some people,” she said, “but I also think a lot of these businesses have gone through their cycle, and then new businesses come, and I think that maybe it pushes people to be more creative and thoughtful about the way they want to run a store.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com. 


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