Once upon a time, in a picturesque Connecticut River town, there was a small village with a hardware store, dress shop, a movie theater, a beauty shop and an A&P, which was probably considered large when it was opened. Grand houses also lined Main Street, and elegant ladies and gentlemen tended their colonial houses with great care. Card parties and modest socials were often had.
Over time, this little riverside town became a tad bit what we call “touristy.” The New York Times discovered it, and included it in their “If You Were Thinking of Living In…” series.
Eventually, all that was useful and practical in Essex was gone. The hardware store became one of several gift shops. The dress shop became one of several real estate offices. And the supermarket became a big art gallery.The dowager ladies who lived along Main Street eventually died out. A few of their houses are now trophy estates, but the rest are offices, antique shops or sell ice cream.
And I’ve always loved visiting our corrupted little riverside town. A friend of mine lived there in the 1960s, when it was a tight-knit little community. As a tourist place, it’s actually pretty cool, too, although it’s probably a little overheated with upper middle class baby boomers trying too hard to have fun (e.g.: Banjo Night at the Griswold Inn).
So where was I going with all this? Oh yeah. These days, the tourist places that displaced real stores and residents have been in trouble for the last few years. The latest case in point, the Left Bank Gallery, which inhabits the old supermarket, won’t be inhabiting it much longer.
The 5,000-square-foot Left Bank Gallery was (still is, for now) a great way to pass time in Essex. Comprised of about 50 cubicles rented by artists, visitors enjoyed a wide variety of works, some better than others, often with a glass of wine. The owners cultivated a festive atmosphere with good art at decent prices.
They’re closing for good this month. Their last day is Monday, June 27. I can’t imagine what will take over that old supermarket space. In this economy, maybe the shops will become homes again and the market will be an IGA.