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Wilson’s, other local spots in Yankee’s perfect town

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Recorder/Paul Franz
Tamara Beauregard, Vice President of Wilsons Department store in Greenfield, with a copy of Yankee Magazine that features the store in their fictitious perfect New England town

Recorder/Paul Franz Tamara Beauregard, Vice President of Wilsons Department store in Greenfield, with a copy of Yankee Magazine that features the store in their fictitious perfect New England town

GREENFIELD — Do you ever dream about living in the perfect town?

Maybe it would include a cozy little bookstore or a warm, welcoming inn. Maybe its downtown would have a place where you could get a good hot cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun and then cross the street to a home-grown department store where you could find just about everything you need or want and walk away with a feeling of nostalgia.

Yankee Magazine’s editors have built their perfect small town, “NewEnglandville: The Town of Our Dreams,” in the magazine’s January-February 2013 issue and three Franklin County landmarks, most notably Wilson’s Department Store, helped create the fantasy town.

The Yankee dream town would includes real inns, restaurants, cafes, museums, bookstores, markets, antique shops and more from elsewhere in New England.

Yankee described Wilson’s as a department store “so steeped in a distant era that shopping there will make you realize what we lost when we turned away from downtown in favor of sprawling malls.”

“We are so thrilled,” Tamara Beauregard, vice president of Wilson’s, said Thursday. “We’re very pleased and proud to be included. It’s quite an acknowledgment.”

Beauregard said she got a call recently from a man living in Alabama who subscribes to Yankee Magazine.

“He said he had read about Wilson’s and wanted to talk with us about the store,” said Beauregard. “He’s never lived here or been to Wilson’s, but he said it sounded great and he asked that ‘Betty Brewster’ do some shopping for him, including for some underwear.”

“Betty Brewster,” Wilson’s personal shopper, was created by the 130-year-old local department store in 1938.

Still today, “Brewster” takes orders over the phone, helps handicapped shoppers find what they are looking for, shops for shut-ins, and shares her wisdom with customers. Many local women have been “Betty Brewster” over the years and there is still no charge for the service.

The current “Betty Brewster” did not want her name in the article.

Beauregard said Yankee framed the cover of its most recent issue and gave it to Wilson’s to hang.

Ian Aldrich, who wrote about Wilson’s in the article, worked with other editors to find the best doughnuts and coffee, outdoor adventures, best dining, most comfortable places to stay when traveling, and the best places to shop.

It was a Thursday morning this past fall when Aldrich entered Wilson’s and found a woman in search of a button-down shirt for her son, another looking for jewelry, and a third looking for an electric can opener. He also met a man named Tony, who came in off the street several times just to say “Hello” to the clerks.

Aldrich wrote that the kind, smiling and helpful clerks and the many and eclectic customers who come through the door are Wilson’s “in a nutshell.”

“In an age when the downtown department store is near extinction, Wilson’s, owned by the Reid family since 1929, has endured,” wrote Aldrich.

Beauregard said what makes Wilson’s so unique and special is that it has been independently owned since it opened in 1882 and that it has always been at the corner of Main and Davis streets.

Aldrich wrote that he was able to find everything from card shufflers and puzzles, to vacuums and toasters, to mothballs and electric grills while shopping there.

“Can you find these things on Amazon or at a big box store?” wrote Aldrich. “Probably; they might even be cheaper. But good luck finding a beauty salon, a delectable little candy counter, a sales staff who’ll walk your packages out to your car, or ‘Betty Brewster,’ who’ll take your order over the phone — even suggest some options for that nephew for whom you have no idea what to buy.”

Aldrich finished by writing that Wilson’s is not only a store, but a part of a town’s memory.

“And that’s the point,” he concluded.

The editors of Yankee included Baker Pharmacy in Shelburne Falls in NewEnglandville. They wrote about how much they liked the classic 1867 village pharmacy with a working soda fountain, and they also included Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens in South Deerfield.

“(NewEnglandville) is filled with places to stop for conversation, for hot drinks and comfort food, but also for a special night out,” said the Yankee article. “It’s a town blessed with beauty and a sense of belonging, and when you do need to leave, returning becomes all the richer.

“To visit, all you need to do is step across the covered bridge. Here, nobody is an outsider. Nobody is from away.”

About 10years ago my wife and I were visiting my Mom and we stopped at Wilson's, my wife was very impressed with the customer service and that the sales clerk put the clothing in tissue paper and a box. She was also impressed with the courtesy that was extended, being from Baltimore it was a welcomed relief for her.

I recall back in the 1950's when I lived in Greenfield shopping at Wilsons for clothes. I am amazed to read that this store is still operating after all these years. My aunt Katherine Hayes used to own a diner and ice creamn shop not far from there as I recall. Someday I hope to return to Greenfield for a visit and will certainly drop by Wilson's to do some shopping. Bob Hennessey

I love shopping at Wilson's. I do almost all my Christmas shopping there. It has everything I'm looking for at a reasonable price, and it has great sales! I prefer spending money in a locally owned store, instead of in a big box store. The sales people are very helpful, and several of them have been there for MANY years. I remember being a kid and having the Easter Bunny give out bags of jelly beans. Do they still have the Easter Bunny there?

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