Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Mercantile seeks new ownership

By Luis Fieldman

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Samantha Halm/Daily Collegian

(Samantha Halm/Daily Collegian)

The Mercantile, the second oldest shop in Amherst’s town center, is hoping to extend its business into the future.

The North Pleasant Street shop has been a local fixture for over four decades, but owners Elizabeth and Dan Neville have begun looking for someone else to take over.

Last September, the shop moved across the street due to construction of the Kendrick Place apartments. A majority of shops in the Cousin’s Market plaza have shut down and moved out due to the scheduled demolition for new housing.

The Mercantile’s Northampton storefront closed Feb. 6, forcing manager Robert Stafursky to liquidate the rest of his inventory in Amherst.

Stafursky, a Westfield resident, has been managing the store for the last two and a half years and believes that what the store has to offer cannot easily be found elsewhere.

“It’s a niche business,” Stafursky explained. “It’s not like any clothing store, it’s a certain kind of clothing store. We’ve got a certain kind of product. You’re not going to find this at the mall.”

“In so many people’s minds we are more than just a store,” he continued. “We’re sort of an Amherst institution. It’s always been here, and for so many people, its not even a thought that The Mercantile won’t be here. It’s just part of the history.”

When new students arrive, Stafurksy said The Mercantile gets “a whole new batch of people who come and see us as a brand new place.”

“Everyone is very friendly and I just love the whole vibe of it. It’s a great place to get presents, but I also love their jewelry,” said Sarah Dash, a senior at the University of Massachusetts.

The store opened in 1973 when Adrian and Connie Wilkins found their candle and jewelry making had generated enough interest to start a business. After finishing art school, both the Wilkins were activists pushing for social change, and Stafursky notes that many of the things they were talking about in the ’70s continue to resonate today, and the store continues to mirror that.

Elizabeth and Dan Neville had worked at The Mercantile for a few years prior to becoming owners themselves in 2012. The Nevilles have been away for several weeks and were not available for comment.

Kathleen Winkworth, a Leverrett resident, has been to The Mercantile several times over the years, and even got her slippers that she uses for Tai Chi practice there.

“The store has a nice variety (with) fun and unusual gift ideas. It’s unique in what they have to offer,” Winkworth said.

Heather Lalli, a Belchertown native living in Amherst, is a self-described “big fan” of The Mercantile.

“I love the incense, primarily, and also candles. I like the Grateful Dead and I’ve found some of their stickers here, too,” Lalli said.

The Mercantile continues to attract visitors with its colorful displays of tapestries, foreign ornaments and even Tarot card decks. The jewelry that made them an Amherst novelty continue to shine on, and perhaps someone new can step in to continue the tradition.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at [email protected]

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