A Small Business Microcosm: Willimansett, Massachusetts in the 1960's

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The basic concept of this site is to explore the changes that have taken place over the last 50 years along a one-mile stretch of Chicopee Street in Willimansett, Massachusetts. This small business microcosm connects my childhood home and the elementary school that I attended from 1958 through 1967. At the time, Chicopee Street was the main route connecting the city centers of Chicopee and Holyoke. The walk to and from school presented me with a wide variety of businesses, each of which fascinated me, even at a very young age, and had a story to tell. During the years between kindergarten and 8th grade, things were rapidly changing, and businesses that had thrived for years were already closing. Most importantly, the changes that took place in my microcosm were taking place - or were soon to take place - throughout America.

Was the neighborhood movie theater a victim of television or the mobility that made it easy to drive across the Connecticut River to the new multi-screen cinemas in West Springfield? Or did the owner simply decide to throw in the towel after he realized that there was no money to be made with 25¢ Saturday double-feature matinees and the candy concession? Consumption patterns changed dramatically in my microcosm in the 1960’s, and this was still years before the development of shopping malls, the cancerous growth of Wal-Mart, the dawn of the Internet, the influx of cheap goods from China, or the “maturation” of the baby boom generation which would bring new meaning to the concept of obsessive overconsumption. As neighborhood businesses have fallen by the wayside against the backdrop of these new market forces, it is truly surprising that any could survive. Not simply a walk down Memory Lane, let’s walk my “mile” to see if there are any lessons to be learned.

If you would like to contribute any “missing pieces” to my story, particularly if you have period photographs of the neighborhood and any of the businesses which I have cited (both “before” or “after”), .

Peter Pelland
Haydenville, Massachusetts

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Content originally appeared in posts on Website Development for Small Businesses
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