When the Fairfield Store closed in 1996, everyone wondered what would fill the gaping hole in the heart of downtown.
When that bookstore bid a bankrupt bye-bye last spring, the worries resurfaced.
Now comes news that Fairfield University will open a new, innovative bookstore there this fall.
The “state-of-the-art” operation — an adjunct to Fairfield’s on-campus store — will carry course books, plus clothing sportswear, and gift items from both the college and Fairfield’s 2 high schools.
According to the Fairfield Minuteman, “one of the largest companies and the most valuable technology company in the world” will also share the space.
Can you say “Apple Store”?
And “one of the largest coffee-houses” in the US will also open up shop there.
This is “06880” — not “06824.” So why waste valuable pixels reporting on something a couple of miles beyond our, um, borders?
Because we too have a big bookstore. And even though Barnes & Noble is in no danger of bankruptcy — yet — comparisons are apt.
Unlike Fairfield, our chain store is not downtown. In fact, it’s pretty far away, in one of our many stand-alone shopping centers.
It’s the type of place you don’t just wander into. You have to plan to go there.
Fairfield skirted with disaster when the Fairfield Store — a long-time anchor — departed. It lucked out when Borders arrived — though behind-the-scenes maneuvering probably had something to do with that “luck.”
Now — just a couple of months after Borders shut down — the high-profile property will once again pulse with activity. Shoppers of all ages will come, linger — then wander up and down the lively downtown streets of Fairfield.
Once upon a time we had our own anchor: Klein’s. While the Fairfield Store sold clothing, Klein’s specialized in an eclectic mix of books, electronic equipment, stationery and other “department store” items.
But its role was the same. It drew people in, kept them there — and benefited many other local merchants. Its replacement — Banana Republic — is a big name in retail.
Yet it is also just another clothing chain, on a street swamped with similar stores.
Sometime (relatively) soon, the Y will decamp for its new home. The hole it leaves will be as significant as when first the Fairfield Store, then Borders, departed.
Promises have been made that the Y will be replaced by an exciting mix of commercial, residential and office properties.
We shall see.
We’ll see whether the most important old/new building in downtown Westport draws a diverse crowd, from within our borders and beyond.
Or whether everyone keeps heading to Fairfield for exciting stores, restaurants and fun.