City to lose gem of a jewelry store: Silverscape Designs dates back to 1976

  • People line up in front of Silverscape Designs in Northampton on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, after hearing the news it will close in the coming months.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jerry Stanczak and Donna Johnson look over jewelry with Bali Awushie Gilbert, a buyer with Silverscape Designs, in Northampton, Tuesday, The couple have been shopping there for over 20 years and always make an appointment with Gilbert. “We bought our engagement ring here 20 years ago. I am so sad, just heartbroken,” said Johnson about the store closing. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jerry Stanczak and Donna Johnson look over jewelry at Silverscape Designs in Northampton on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. The couple has been shopping there for over 20 years. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Anna Maria Irvine, of Florence, looks over jewelry at Silverscape Designs in Northampton on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. “I will miss this building. They fix things here — it’s not just what you buy, it’s a community resource,” Irvine said. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Greg Denard takes the temperature of Heather Amos as she waits to enter Silverscape Designs in Northampton, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jerry Stanczak and Donna Johnson look over jewelry at Silverscape Designs in Northampton on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. The couple has been shopping there for over 20 years. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A display at Silverscape Designs in Northampton on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/17/2020 4:42:33 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Decades ago, Denis Perlman, who founded Silverscape Designs, was drawn to an art deco granite and limestone building at the corner of King and Main streets, then home to Fleet Bank.

“He stood outside on a bench, and he would ogle that bank and say, ‘I gotta have that building,’” Wallace Perlman recently recalled of his brother, who passed away in 2000.

Denis Perlman opened the jewelry business in 1976 in Amherst and added a Northampton location at 3 Pleasant St. in 1985.

He would call the bank and ask to buy the space. “We’re not selling,” Wallace said the bank would respond. “He said, ‘Oh, come on,’” and kept trying. “He could drive you crazy.” Eventually, he got what he wanted, and Silverscape Designs moved into the King Street building in 1993. Denis Perlman restored it to suit a jewelry store.

More than 25 years later, the building at 1 King St. is now for sale, and the jewelry business announced Monday it will soon be closing its doors for good.

“It’s a sad day,” said Wallace, who also goes by Wally. But at 77, he’s ready to retire. “It’s time,” he said. His family owns the business, and he said no one else wants to take it over. “Nobody is interested in doing anything but me. It’s kind of a dead end, so to speak.”

“This was not my interest in the first place,” he added, noting his business background at IBM. “I’ve been doing this for 21 years.” Wallace took over the business after his brother died in a single-engine plane crash in 2000.

When Denis still ran the business, he “was forever asking for my advice,” Wallace said. Whether he followed it or not was another question.”

Denis Perlman studied microbiology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As for how his brother got into jewelry, Wallace said, “God only knows.” Before he had a brick-and-mortar store, he sold jewelry out of a bus. “He decided it would be really cool … to get an old-school bus and paint it blue and drive around.”

Denis Perlman converted the former bank building into a retail space, while retaining the building’s original features, including stained-glass windows, woodwork, teller windows, decorative moldings and the bank’s vault. The interior features of the building also include original chandeliers, custom-built lamps and a stained-glass skylight that depicts the 12 zodiac signs. “He restored, it and I’ve tried to keep it that way,” Wallace said.

In May 2019, Silverscape Designs put the 8,000-square-foot building up for sale for $2 million. Wallace Perlman told the Gazette at the time that his family intended to keep the business going. Though there has been interest, no one has bought the building, he said Tuesday.

The pandemic was not a factor in the decision to close, though it has made life more difficult, Wallace said — travel restrictions, for example, have been challenging as he lives in Fairfield County Connecticut, about 100 miles away.

Jane Merrill, the store’s manager of eight years, said she’s hoping another jewelry business would continue the legacy established by Silverscape Designs at the location. “We have been there for so long on that corner,” she said. “Personally, I am really hoping another jewelry store comes in and buys the business and the building and starts up something again. This area really needs a high-end jewelry store … I’m keeping my fingers crossed something happens.”

A going-out-of-business sale at the store begins Nov. 24. All items, including jewelry, gemstones, vases, lamps, globes and other gifts, are part of the sale. “Anything that anybody is interested in is for sale,” Wallace Perlman said.

There is no specific close date yet, he said. “We will look at it every week and try to figure out, ‘OK, where do we go from here?’ It’s certainly going to be through the end of the year.”

‘A great loss for downtown’

Jerry Stanczak and Donna Johnson, of Springfield, went to the jewelry store Tuesday morning after they heard it was closing. In 1999, Stanczak bought Johnson a diamond engagement ring with sapphires in its setting. “Nobody had the quality that they had,” he said. “We got engaged in Florida on New Year’s Eve for the millennium.”

He and Johnson became loyal customers. Whenever they came to Northampton, “We always stopped into Silverscape,” he said. When he heard the news it was closing, “I couldn’t believe it. It’s just like everything bad happening in 2020 … To have them close, it’s a shame.”

Vince Jackson, executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, said he was sad to hear the news.

“One of the concerns the chamber has is just the empty storefronts throughout downtown. And so when you have one that’s been such a pillar in the community and so visible and so important and kind of a destination to be vacant, it’s going to be a huge void in downtown,” he said. “We also know that selling the building, probably in this environment, won’t be easy. There are a number of commercial buildings for sale now.”

“It’s definitely a great loss for downtown Northampton,” Mayor David Narkewicz said. “It’s been literally the cornerstone since 1993 in that high-profile location. Obviously, it’s one of those stores that brought people from near and far, whether they lived here or someone was visiting from out of town.”

Amy Cahillane, executive director of the Downtown Northampton Association, echoed Narkewicz. “Silverscape is one of those icons of downtown,” she said. “There’s a handful of them — like the Academy of Music, like Cathy Cross was. One of those businesses that have been there forever.”

She continued, “Although the initial gut reaction might be, ‘Gosh, not another vacant property downtown,’” the building is still an attraction, and “if it can’t be Silverscape, I’m excited to think about what it could be.”

“It will speak to somebody out there,” she said. “I hope it’s somebody that will keep the interior of it visible and beautiful the same way Silverscape has all of these years.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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