Amy Jeschawitz, left, and Beth McLean purchased Nature's Closet on Spring Street on Jan. 2.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — From boots to berries and from sweaters to smoothies, Nature's Closet has been a fixture on Spring Street for 10 years.
It started this year under new — but very familiar — management.
Longtime store manager Beth McLean and friend Amy Jeschawitz bought the combination outdoor store/smoothie shop on Jan. 2 from founder Steve Hinchcliffe.
In between greeting the familiar faces of longtime customers and chasing after a rambunctious puppy who has taken up residence in one of the store's front windows, McLean last week explained that buying with a partner allowed her to maintain the store's unique mix of healthy food and healthy lifestyle accessories.
"Steven always toyed with the idea of me buying it from him," McLean said. "It was just too much for me to do on my own. And Amy has been a friend. And we didn't want to see it … Originally, I was just going to take the Smoothie Spot and go move it someplace else. That would have been doable on my own.
"But I didn't want to see this — and she didn't want to see this — go away. Because it really fills such a niche. And it's super busy and super popular. And we didn't want it to away."
Instead, they plan to offer even more of what Nature's Closet is known for — both in the edible and wearable lines.
In the area of outdoor gear, the pair want to add to popular lines like Patagonia and LL Bean in response to the input they receive from customers. They will continue to sell shoes and do special orders for customers with free shipping to the store.
And in addition to fruit bowls and smoothies, Nature's Closet soon will add avocado toast and a salad bar, McLean said.
The Smoothie Spot was added by Hinchcliffe several years ago, after he expanded Nature's Closet from its original footprint. For years, the smoothies have co-habitated with the Shoe Den, but McLean and Jeschawitz have opted to move the shoes back into the clothing side of the business in order to make room for the salad bar.
"The students are super excited, the locals I've talked to are super excited," McLean said. "We just want to offer good, easy, healthy stuff, healthy options. We're not looking to compete [with neighboring businesses] because there isn't anyone, besides restaurants, who offers salads. You can go and order a salad for a sit-down lunch. But this is that model where you can come in and order something quick and get it to go or sit down."
"And we'll work with local farms where we can, of course, and keep it seasonally appropriate. And we'll kind of just see how it evolves."
Evolution is part of Nature's Closet's DNA. Hinchcliffe started the business in Bennington, Vt., at the turn of the century before moving to Williamstown about seven years later. As part of that move, he added a consignment business for gently used outdoor gear.
Eventually, he decided the market was ripe for smoothies and fruit bowls.
"Steve is originally from California," McLean said. "So he would go back and forth, and he would say, ‘We've got to do these acai and pitaya bowls. They're awesome, they're healthy. I think we could do it.' I was kind of like, 'Are you out of your mind?'
"And we did it, and they're super popular."
McLean said she is excited to be purchasing the Spring Street operation at a time when the town's Village Business District itself is evolving since the opening last summer of the new Williams Inn.
"I think it just makes it more vibrant," she said. "I always poll people when they come in. I'll ask: Why are you here? Where are you staying? I think what we're seeing is people coming to the street to see what's going on. And there's a lot going on. I think we're on the verge of something really cool with everything happening in North Adams, the inn at the end of the street, the Chamber of Commerce really picking up their game.
"The inn has been pretty fantastic. … It's nice having them on the street for sure."
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