I promised to tell you about Thorne’s Marketplace many months ago, this quirky shopping attraction in the heart of our quirky town of Northampton, before I got sidetracked by summer and visitors and illness. Now that the cold weather’s upon us, it’s time to move indoors and make that long-delayed visit.
First of all, what is it exactly? It isn’t really a department store — if anyone remembers what that is, they seemed to dwindle and die away somewhere around 1980 — because there are many different individual small stores under the one roof behind the green awning. And it isn’t really a mall by my definition — because malls are either nonedescript strip malls of rather dreary stores huddled in a featureless parking lot — or they are multi-story structures with food courts and both vast and tiny stores, many of them chains, the whole huddled in a huge agglomeration of parking lots and garages.
No, no, this is Northampton! And Thornes is different from either of those. It’s situated on a steep hall, so that shoppers at the back enter on subbasement 2 —Cornucopia organic food market is the star here:
while shoppers on Main Street enter at street level, called Level 1, which turns out actually to be level three of the building. Drivers have yet another option: Thornes is connected to the equally quirky parking garage by a glassed-in walkway from the garage’s third level to Thornes ditto.
The spiffy new website for this veteran shopping emporium tells us that “150 Main Street has been the cornerstone of downtown Northampton and at the center of shoppers’ row for more than a century. Pressed tin ceilings, hardwood floors and staircases, and a host of period details give this contemporary shopping center an old world charm that belies its 55,000 square foot size.”
And charming is just the word! Rickety is not the word, although the wooden staircases and banisters and alcoves are exceedingly well worn. But that’s part of its charm. There is an elevator — but I find the stairs more appealing (although it’s tempting to stop off at Booklink for a minute, or a half hour, first):
There’s no food court at Thornes, but you can snack on ice cream (Herrells, basement) and chocolates (Heavenly Chocolates):
or have a full meal at vegetarian-very-friendly-although-not-exclusively Paul & Elizabeth’s. Not to mention Rao’s great coffee, pastries and sandwiches at any time..
And we haven’t even begun to shop yet! Are you tempted by fancy European style women’s boutiques? Try Monella’s:
Prefer something Nordic? There’s Scandihoovians — (And can you spot the window shoppers?)There’s lots more clothes, including clothes for guys, there’s jewelry, there are several shoe stores, there’s a florist, a computer place, Pride and Joy gifts, you can see the whole munificent array on the website. For writers and wannabes, the shop called Noteworthy is a wicked temptation:
And then there’s the Cedar Chest, which is sui generis. I’ve never seen a store quite like it. It sells negligees and pajamas, every scent of fancy soap known to man or woman, pop-up greeting cards of incredible intricacy, rubber duckies ranging from an inch or so to a good six inches, adorned with yachting caps and Statue of Liberty tiaras and anything else that you might dream of — and that’s the teensiest tip of the iceberg. There’s an upstairs, at which point Cedar Chest changes personality and becomes a kitchen store and something else I’ve never explored because I always get lost among the kitchen gadgets until I run out of time.
I don’t know about you, but I can find shopping tense and wearisome and boring. It never is, though, at Thornes, just a delight from beginning to end.