Easthampton Downtown, circa mid-1800's
Easthampton, oh how I loved you when we were young. You were the intense, quirky, dirty-kneed factory-working wallflower that I noticed and instantly fell for; I did—and still do—far prefer you to the more flamboyant cheerleader types.
This is the start of an interesting, articulate, and heartfelt essay on the current state of affairs in our little hamlet of Easthampton, Massachsetts. You can read the rest HERE at my good friend Trace Meek's blog. He shares his thoughts and feelings on the current sign controversy, his fears on unchecked expansion, even the flag that hangs over the pond all summer. The survival of the small town, indeed, is a slippery slope. How to maintain the charm and relaxed 'know the name of your mailman' look and feel without scaring away the ever-important business element (translation: the element that keeps taxes down, brings people to town to walk around, spend money, and want to live here).
While I'm tempted to defend my open flag (sure, it's tacky but people get used to seeing it flying, and when it's not there, they often become conditioned to assume you are not open.), Trace makes some great points. I'm proud to have been at least a tiny part of Easthampton's current reinvention. It's not easy to make it in a small town. Sure, the rent is nothing compared to Northampton, but as the nearly a dozen business-owners I've seen come and go on Cottage Street alone since I got here five years ago will attest, cheap rent doesn't guarantee success. On the contrary, you have to work even harder to drive in your own customer base. People aren't going to pop in for a coffee after their walk to Faces or Urban Outfitters, after all.
Easthampton is a great and beautiful place to live. The people are genuine, hard-working, caring folk. Sure, there are signs of growing pains and false starts. But I think that's just part of the process of reinvention. You've got to try a few things before you get it just right.
Or as Trace pleads...
Please, my beauty, consider what’s ephemeral, what’s permanent, and what is potentially damaging on many levels. Realize the weight of your every decision. If you’re feeling sentimental, go into Big E’s and look up at the enlarged images of the way you were more than 100 years ago. Recognize some of that beauty in your current self, and strive to retain as much of it as you can!
I believe in you.