×

Opus closing after 30 years

  • Lisa Cocco works on inventory in her Main Street gift shop Opus, which is closing after 30 years.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Lisa Cocco is selling or closing Opus on Main Street after 30 years.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Opus on Main Street in Greenfield  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Opus on Main Street in Greenfield  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ



Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 09, 2019

GREENFIELD — Unsure of whether she could continue on in a career as a construction worker, Lisa Cocco decided to build something entirely different. 

Her work’s purpose still centered around American — handmade work — but it idealized itself differently in a store selling crafts on Main Street. 

Now, 30 years later, Opus, her longtime Main Street store, plans to close its doors as Cocco plans out her retirement. 

“The craft community — I think we’re all aging out, buyers and crafts people,” Cocco said. Just recently, four of her better crafts people announced their retirement. “If they can retire and so can my customers, then so can I,” she humored. 

As Opus prepares to close, unless a buyer comes forward to continue the business, Cocco’s shop becomes the latest store on Main Street to close. What she’s outlasted though is a shifting downtown, not just in Greenfield but across cities and towns in America. 

“I don’t think there’s a downtown anywhere that doesn’t have that going for it,” Cocco said, about a shift in the outlook of its downtown. 

Cocco has long been an advocate for the the downtown in Greenfield, often encouraging shoppers to buy local and buy in person. 

When she had first thought about opening up a crafts store, she was living in South Hadley and thought about Northampton. There was something with Greenfield’s thriving downtown that attracted her. It also didn’t hurt that her husband was native to the town. 

“It seemed like it’d be a good spot here in Greenfield, and I’ve been here 30 years,” Cocco said, “so I guess it was a good choice.” 

While she says she doesn’t have the passion for her work anymore, she says her fondest memories will be of her customers. In 2000, nearly two decades ago now, she got into a pretty severe accident. “I must’ve gotten 300 get-well cards from customers,” she said.

“It’s been really rewarding. I value a lot of the friendships I’ve made,” Cocco said. She reflected, thinking it’d be nice if somebody bought the store, even if, “There’s not a damn thing you need in this store. Who thought of that as a business plan 30 years ago?” 

To find the items for the store, Cocco often would head to craft shows in New York, Philadelphia, sometimes in Orlando, or even Las Vegas. In Philly, the shows used to be the best, but she says they’re going through some “growing pains” these days as the industry does so, too. Only two fields of the industry are growing lately, jewelry and glass, she says. 

Her go-to — and favorite — has always been the pottery she sells. 

“Our footprint has always been unique. If you want something different that you can’t find at the mall, you can come here,” Cocco said. 

Part of the allure of it all is the tactile nature to the industry, at least the way she has always seen it. She picked up a vase on display and said how she knows the artist and has seen the work at a show. 

“That’s a part of being a dinosaur,” Cocco said. “If I saw this online, I’m not ordering it. I want to pick it up. I want to talk to the artist. I’d never bring anything into the store that I haven’t seen in person.” 

Cocco has refrained from developing an online footprint for the store. She said she doesn’t own a computer and doesn’t want to, but “the world is getting much more difficult without owning one.” 

The store was all about being brick-and-mortar, and that’s how she has kept it all these years — a store that she’s filled with personal experiences, between the crafts she’s found to place on the shelves and the relationships she’s developed with her longtime employees and longtime customers. 

Wrapping up our conversation on a cool, damp day, a longtime customer had come into the store. The wind chimes rang as they pitter-pattered off the spotless glass door. 

She walked through the warmly lit shop with a soft royal purple carpet sporting a regal, diamond pattern. Oldies music filled the space as they began to exchange comfortable chatter. She headed to a pair of earrings, checking to see if they were still in the display case. They were, and she said she needed to get them before they were gone. After all, Cocco told her, the jeweler just retired, too. They continued their chit-chat, a conversation that’s been ongoing for years between visits to the store, and then she went to check out one of her final purchases at Opus. 

“Thank you for shopping downtown,” Cocco said. 

“You’ve been saying that for years,” she said.

“I know, that’s my mantra,” Cocco said.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264