Sawyer News Co. in Shelburne Falls to close after more than 150 years in business

  • Sawyer News Co. on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls will close come Dec. 31. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • Owner Ellen Eller outside Sawyer News Co. on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls. The store, which was first opened in 1863, will close come Dec. 31. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • Owner Ellen Eller outside Sawyer News Co. on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls. The store, which was first opened in 1863, will close come Dec. 31. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • Owner Ellen Eller inside Sawyer News Co. on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls. The store, which was first opened in 1863, will close come Dec. 31. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 11/11/2021 2:08:42 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — After more than 150 years as a local newsstand, Sawyer News Co. on Bridge Street will be closing come the new year.

Owner Ellen Eller, 73, said she is closing the business by Dec. 31. A new business, a potential gift shop, may be set to move into the space in 2022.

According to Eller, Sawyer News Co. has been open since 1863. A decorative tin ceiling and window pane above the front door made from melted glass are signs of the storefront’s age.

“It’s been a landmark. I used to say, ‘Established in 1863, Abe Lincoln could have bought his newspapers here,’” Eller said with a smile.

She and her late husband, Michael, came to town from Long Island, N.Y., after she lost her job working at Doubleday Book Club in 2004. They had visited this area, where her best friend from college lived, and decided to move. Two years later, in 2006, the two bought Sawyer News Co. from Don and Cathy Upton. Michael, Eller said, had a retail background and experience in office supplies sales.

“He saw there was a sign in the window that this was for sale, and thought it would be an opportunity for him,” she said. “And it was a wonderful way for us to become part of the community.”

Michael kept track of inventory and invoices in handwritten notebooks, a system Eller said she has kept in place since he died on Nov. 8, 2016. The two ran the store by themselves seven days a week, but after Michael died, Eller began to close on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which she now considers her “weekend.” She gets to see community members on the true weekends, when people are spending time on the downtown strip.

“People come in here all the time and say ‘Oh, I came in here when I was a child,’” Eller said.

Today, the diverse store contains rows of greeting and birthday cards, office and art supplies, candy, local jewelry and more. The store has a copy and fax machine available for public use. There are also hats embroidered with “Shelburne Falls,” and postcards with images of local landmarks and scenic views photographed by Eller and her daughter, Emily.

Eller has longtime, loyal customers who come to pick up certain newspapers at Sawyer News Co. She puts their regular selections aside for them and, just like the owners before her, spreads the rest of the day’s newspapers out on the glass countertop to display the front pages of the latest issues from the Greenfield Recorder, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Berkshire Eagle, New York Times, Boston Globe, Springfield Republican, Brattleboro Reformer and more.

“Mr. Upton set it up on this counter just perfectly,” Eller said. “It’s sort of like being a bartender. People come in, belly-up to the newspapers and tell me their stuff, and they listen to me when I sound-off about whatever.”

While she’ll miss these interactions with community members, Eller said she has “come to peace” with closing the store after weighing the decision for more than a year. The business has meant a lot to her, and she knows it has meant a lot to the community.

As she wraps up her time at Sawyer News Co., Eller already has plans for her next chapter. She will have more time to spend with family as her daughter, Emily, works as a special needs teacher at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley. She will also keep working in a second job as a freelance editor for local poets and authors, and has plans to develop a podcast.

A new business, which Eller said may be more of a gift shop, will be moving into the space and paying rent to the building owner. Unfortunately, this prospective owner “didn’t want to buy Sawyer News,” Eller said. But, according to Eller, they did “pretty much agree” to keep selling some traditional items like office supplies.

However, after 158 years, Shelburne Falls residents won’t be able to buy their newspapers at 61 Bridge St. She said the business has provided a service to townspeople and she feels “terrible” about the looming loss of the “priceless” town landmark.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling, being the last in a long line of people since the 19th century,” Eller said of her decision to close. “It’s kind of sad that nobody’s going to be selling newspapers here in town. It’s the heritage. … You don’t make money at it.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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