ONE BLOCK: Exploring Market Street, Northampton

  • Market Street in Northampton GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Louis Farrick reads at his business, L&M Furniture. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Riley, owner of Gabriel Books GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Riley, owner of Gabriel Books, on Market Street in Northampton, Tuesday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Showroom at Sticks and Bricks. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Leah Jacobson-Hardy, right, waits on a customer at Nourish Wellness Cafe, on Market Street in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • An original painting by Margaret Keane hangs on a wall at L&M Furniture, on Market Street in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dining room at Joe's Pizza GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 2/26/2017 6:17:36 PM

THE BLOCK: Tucked away beyond the overhead railroad bridge in downtown Northampton lies a block of businesses, rich with the history of the Pioneer Valley.

What was once known as the go-to spot for antique shopping, Market Street is now the home to an eclectic assortment of small businesses, each with a distinct tie to town history.

A couple of antique stores remain, but there are also cafes, a well-established restaurant and bar, a used book store, a boutique and a design-and-build shop — all on one block.

WHY COME HERE? Though Market Street is steps away from Main Street in downtown Northampton, it still feels like an “off the beaten path” gem. It is not a street tourists typically stumble upon, best found by word-of-mouth or dedicated exploration.

Long-running businesses like the antique and used novelty store L&M Furniture, the eclectic used book store Gabriel Books, Joe’s Cafe and Birdstone Antiques have established the block, while newer businesses like Sticks and Bricks, Owl’s Nest Boutique and Click Workspace where small entrepreneurs and business owners can network bring new life to the space.

FEEL OF THE PLACE: Brick storefronts with brightly-colored doors scattered throughout invite passersby to take a look around. Market Street is the perfect place to wander if you are looking for nothing particular at all.

The newer businesses bring a new artisan feel to the historical block, but do not live without a touch of history.

Laura Hoffman has owned Owl’s Nest Boutique for about three years, but lived on the block for more than half of her lifetime.

“It feels nice to bring my business to the neighborhood,” she said. “You have a different outlook when you’ve lived here.”

As the block sees a shift from antique stores to hip artisan shops and cafes, a new crowd of visitors from the Five Colleges and young people living in the area accompanies the long-standing crowd of locals hoping to find a new addition to their collections.

“I think there is a transition happening with the Market Street neighborhood where the old brick buildings are getting new facades,” said Ashley Niles, co-owner of Nourish Wellness Café. “We really like this end of town, it’s got a really nice neighborhood feel.”

WHAT’S NEW: Several decades ago, Market Street was home to a booming antique business. Sticks and Bricks, a woodworking design-and-build store selling local art, took over the space Antique Associates once occupied. Now, instead of selling antiques, Sticks and Bricks takes etcetera items and repurposed materials to turn them into art and furniture.

“We take stuff and give it a new life,” said Justin Brown, co-manager at Sticks and Bricks. Brown and owner Liz Karney make custom cabinets and chairs from a woodshop in the back of the store. They also sell local artwork from sculptures to paintings.

Owl’s Nest Boutique packs many different styles into a small space. Hoffman keeps things fresh by bringing in new inventory each week. This way, her items are always in style and customers have weekly reasons to come back, she says.

To Hoffman, her boutique filled a certain void downtown for women’s clothing that wouldn’t break the bank. “There was a need downtown for clothing that is affordable and unique,” she said.

In stark contrast to the antique and artisan merchants on Market Street is Click Workspace. Renovated and started in 2015, Click is a clean, slick environment void of distractions for members to have a quiet place to focus on work, teams to bang out a large project and entrepreneurs to brainstorm and network. While other businesses are repurposing and profiting from the past, Click is perfect for the birth of new ideas and business relationships.

WHAT’S ENDURING: Businesses like Gabriel Books, L&M Furniture and Birdstone Antiques have been the lifeblood of the block for decades.

Gabriel Books, which has been in business for over 24 years, is constantly teeming with used books in over 200 categories, from New England history to foreign languages and books about books.

“People come here and they can find stuff you can’t find other places,” said John Riley, co-owner of the used book store.

L&M Furniture and Birdstone Antiques have been in business for more than 30 years. L&M is home to a wide-ranging selection of antiques and novelties — such as china dolls, antique chairs and glass, and vintage novels — gathered from individual sellers and auctions.

“All of this a bit of nostalgia,” said Louis Farrick, co-owner of L&M with his wife, Margaret. When some antique businesses began to fail, stores like L&M that stood strong through the decline became the go-to place for locals looking for nostalgia. “People come to me,” Farrick said. “There’s a real camaraderie among antique sellers, it’s not so much competition.”

THE PLAYERS: Along with the shops on Market Street, there are a few popular dining options just steps away. Joe’s Pizza and Spaghetti House has been in business for decades.

Its under-the-radar bar and restaurant provide a classic meeting place for townies to munch on Italian favorites and have a few drinks with their neighbors.

Joe’s is a real hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Tucked deep inside Market Street, the cafe does not garner the same roadside attention that Nourish Wellness Café and Roost Café do by the road.

Nourish Wellness Café waves in passersby and elicits the word-of-mouth popularity of health nuts in the area. They offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, including smoothies and “wellness bowls” packed with vitamins and nutrients.

“In planning our menu we were trying to cater to our local customers who are health conscious, but not necessarily vegan,” Niles said. “We’re trying to provide a healthy option for our community.”

Nourish moved from Thornes Marketplace into their new location on Market Street over the summer, where they enjoy foot traffic coming from residential neighbors, business professionals from Click Workspace and health nuts returning from yoga classes.

Armed with her recently completed training and education in nutrition, Niles puts in a effort to identify what locals are missing in their diets — like organic vegetables — and supplement it in the items on the menu.

THE UPSIDE: For Sticks and Bricks, being “off the beaten path” offers the hidden gem vibe of an artisan store, according to Brown. Being off the main road makes it possible for the store to have its studio in the back of their store, saws buzzing without worry of noise violations.

For Riley at Gabriel Books, the mix of old and new businesses give the block unmistakable character. “The neighborhood has a little of everything,” he said. “It is well-defined, and quieter and more friendly than Main Street.”

Though the block has been long-running with small businesses, the type of businesses and overall feel of the street has seen a shift.

“The best thing is the whole vibe of the neighborhood,” Hoffman said. “It’s always felt up-and-coming.”

THE DOWNSIDE: While some store owners appreciate being tucked away, many also recognize the drawbacks of being set apart from the main storefronts of downtown Northampton.

“Downtown Northampton stops at the railroad bridge,” said Farrick of L&M Furniture. “I wish the town would recognize beyond the bridge.”

Alice Mckusick, manager at Nourish Wellness Café, said that one of the pitfalls of the location is parking. Most parking is along the street and metered. A lot across the street offers a few unmetered spots if empty, but even so customers would have to cross a busy intersection to get to Market Street.

VERBATIM: “This is a great browsing street,” said Riley of Gabriel Books. “We all really value the history of the town.”

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