When you wish upon a store: Sticky notes invite passers-by to dream big for Faces space

  • Gianluca Pica-Smith, 7, of Easthampton, responds to the prompt “I wish this was a” with the answer “a gymnastics place,” on the former Faces window on Main Street in Northampton Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. Next to her is Salim Elkalai, 8, and back left are Cinzia Pica and Hind Elkalai. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Michael Wilmeth, of Heath, and Jennifer Biermann and Chris Scheper, who used to live in the area but now live in New York, read sticky notes on the former Faces window on Main Street in Northampton Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sticky notes on the former Faces window respond to the prompt “I wish this was a” on Main Street in Northampton, Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Gianluca Pica-Smith, 7, of Easthampton, responds to the prompt “I wish this was a” with the answer, “a gymnastics place,” on the former Faces window Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Michael Wilmeth, of Heath, reads sticky notes on the former Faces window on Main Street in Northampton Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sticky notes on the former Faces window on Main Street in Northampton Monday Oct. 14, 2019. GAZETTE STAFF/ERIN O’NEILL

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2019 11:24:58 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A prominent sign reading “AVAILABLE” is a familiar sight on the windows of 175 Main St., the building that housed Faces until it abruptly shuttered at the downtown location in April.

But in recent days, a new window display popped up. Underneath a prompt, “I wish this was a,” were writing utensils and sticky notes. On Monday afternoon, well over a hundred colorful sticky notes with responses covered the windows.

Though the former Faces storefront has been empty for six months, people had a lot of ideas about what could replace it. Sticky note suggestions included a mosque, goat yoga, a queer community resource center, a black hair salon, open late anything, a MAGA pub, a homeless shelter, vegan food, a new pot shop, a strip club, a roller rink, and a community center.

Others read, “Music venue to compete with IHEG,” referencing Iron Horse Entertainment Group, a company that owns several venues downtown and was accused of violating multiple labor laws over the summer by former employees.

Some suggestions reflected the city’s property costs and housing issues, with notes suggesting “affordable rent for small businesses,” “free public housing,” and two suggestions for lockers for houseless people.

One note called for the return of Diva’s Nightclub, the queer-friendly venue that closed in 2016. And though Faces reopened in late April at the Hampshire Mall, at least a dozen people wrote notes requesting the store return to downtown with messages like “Come back Faces!”

The building, which still houses TD Bank, is still for sale, according to Colebrook Realty Services’ website. The asking price for the 33,228-square-foot property: $4,150,000.

Mayor David Narkewicz said he recently spoke to Stephen Vogel, one of the partners of Main Street LLP, the building’s owner. “He indicated that the space was being actively marketed and shown by the realtor,” Narkewicz said in a statement. Attempts to reach Vogel and Colebrook Realty Services on the holiday Monday were unsuccessful.

It was not immediately clear who started the project, but around 5 p.m. on Monday, the duo behind it happened to appear at the scene. Rachael Gibney, 31, and Nathan Kessel, 29, stood in front of the street art, reviewing the messages and cleaning up some stray writing on the window, a sight they were upset to see.

On Friday, the Northampton couple set up the display and left the sticky notes. They went away for the weekend and came back to find people had used up all the paper and someone had even put more out.

The property piqued Gibney’s interest. “I had looked into it and had an idea,” she said. She also wanted to hear other people’s ideas. “Essentially, I wanted to put feelers out,” she said.

Gibney is formally trained as a family and relationship counselor and also has expertise in herbalism. She envisions the building becoming a space called Tree of Dreams, a combination of a wellness center, community center, and cafe. It would offer services like acupuncture, reiki, massage, and art therapy. The basement would house Alchemy Lounge, a space with a cafe, bar, oxygen bar, store with artisan crafts and spot for late-night events.

Looking at the ideas on the window, Gibney said she saw ways to incorporate them into her project. Pointing at the multiple gay bar suggestions, for example, she said the lounge could have a regular LGBTQ night.

Gibney has thought about doing the sticky note project on other vacant properties downtown. “There’s a lot of empty storefronts,” she said. Often, she thinks the barrier to filling them is cost. The $4.1 million dollar price tag of 175 Main St. deterred her.

She welcomed any potential Tree of Dreams collaborators to reach out to her. “I need help,” she said. “I need people to go in on it with me.”

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




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