Main Street’s Open Door Policy

Two summers ago, I blogged about downtown stores that kept their doors wide open. The temperature was not quite 90, but from 1 spot on Main Street I spotted 4 places blasting air conditioning onto the sidewalk.

The post drew 99 comments. In true “06880” fashion they ranged from “I can’t believe they’re wasting so many energy” to “it’s a free country, they can do whatever they want” (with side trips into “our electric grid is outmoded” and “it’s the Gulf War, stupid”).

This afternoon, with the temperature 94 degrees and climbing, I went downtown again.

I am sure you will be stunned to hear that, this time, even more stores had their doors flung wide.

My 1st stop was Blue Mercury. In 2010 it was part of my Gang of Four. Two years later, the only thing that’s changed is that it’s spawned a sister shop, Mercury 2, across the street — and both Blue Mercurys pump cold air basically at each other.

One of the 2 Blue Mercurys. This is on the east side of Main Street.

When I asked why, a manager handed me a card with a toll-free number. I called, and the pert phone-answerer said, “Great! We just had a grand opening there!”

But when I asked why the doors were open, she handed me off to several people. I wound up speaking to someone in corporate communications, who promised that someone else — “most likely our director of operations” — will call back. I’ll let you know if/when he/she does.

Next door, BCBG had its doors open 2 years ago. Nothing has changed, except its name: it’s now the Scrabble-like BCBGMaxazria.

I strolled past the wide-open Shoes ‘N’ More, and up to Brooks Corner. Lux Bond & Green‘s doors were ajar.

Before and after, at Williams-Sonoma.

So was one door at Williams-Sonoma‘s. When I asked why, a woman said, “I just came in. Someone probably opened it. Maybe it’s more inviting to customers?”

She paused. “Maybe I should shut it, to keep air in.”

She paused again. “I’ll do that. I’ll shut it.”

And she did. Twenty minutes later, it remained closed.

Across the street, at Jack Wills, I told a young guy I was doing a story on stores that kept the a/c on, in 94-degree heat.

“Cool!” he said, both non-ironically and bizarrely.  “We like to pump the air.”

But when I asked again about air-conditioning Main Street, he said, “Well, it’s a big front door. Would you come in if it were closed?”

I thought, you mean, the way people do in October and December and April? Instead, I said, “Actually, I’m more likely to shop at store that doesn’t waste energy.”

“That’s interesting!” he replied.

The heavy door at Jack Wills.

For the record: A number of stores kept their doors closed. The list included Banana Republic — a change from 2010 — as well as Gap, J. Crew, Coach and Vineyard Vines.

Also Brooks Brothers Men. (Brooks Brothers Women was open, though. Go figure.)

Oh, yeah: Westport Pizzeria’s doors were shut too. And they’ve got an oven.

60 responses to “Main Street’s Open Door Policy

  1. Curious… Was lululemons door open?

    • Can’t remember. The heat was getting to me. Then again, I should have just stood outside some of the stores and cooled off.

  2. It happens in New York City as well, where it’s illegal (but plastic bags are legal)! See the New York Times:

  3. Terrific blog today (as always!) – indeed, how DO people go into stores in winter when the doors are closed? People have no idea how to get through a shut door??? So wasteful. Along similar lines, I saw a locked, empty Bentley at the Playhouse that apparently was left running during the play so the car would be just-right cool when the owner came out!

    • Yes, idling in either hot or cold days should be unlawful. I saw a car today — someone shopping in Sodaman — same thing (not a Bentley) but a big SUV. That’s disgusting!

  4. And we thought modern businesses were based on the profit notive. This distortion makes no sense. Look to the VP in charge of waste for “profit”.

    Urban Outfitters, Anthopology and Terrain.also follow this practice of offense against our environment. Sad!

  5. Westporter4ever

    This was both funny…and not funny…The bit on the Esthetique is priceless!!!

  6. Sounds like the (blue) mecury was rising

  7. fyi.I think you were referring to the young man at Jack Wills not Esthetique which is upstairs to JW and does not have an open door policy, but rather a make an appointment policy.

  8. Malcolm R. Doak--Spring TX

    Wonnerfull. Often wondered what their thinking was (the open door ers), that is. Ans: They really don’t.

  9. Bloomberg, just last week told businesses to shut their doors!!! Geez…

  10. 7:10 p.m. No call back yet from Blue Mercury. What a surprise!

    • Maybe you should do another story on kids who eat bagels at Stews and finish them before checkout.

  11. Elisabeth Rose

    I was downtown this afternoon and a salesgirl from that store on Main St. next to the Y was taking a break, leaning against the open door. I asked why it was open, wasting all that energy, and she answered, “That’s what my boss said to do.” It seems that everyone is just “following orders” w/out thinking, because yes, in fact everyone shops during the rest of the year when the stores have their doors shut!

    I think it’s particularly vile when a place like Terrain has their doors open even though it pretends to be all about gardening and beautifying the world. 🙁

    • Elisabeth Rose

      Oops, I meant “…has ITS doors open.” Too hot to pay attention much to grammar!

  12. And another thing....

    And they don’t need to keep it freezing inside either….. I end up taking a sweater with me everywhere I go in the summer because the air conditioning is so friggen cold. Would people wilt if it was set at 75 instead of 65?

  13. I think it’s shameful that stores are wasting so much energy this way. If they don’t care about the environment and our limited resources, I would think at least they would want to save money in these tough economic times!

  14. mary ruggiero

    Could it be that the doors are kept open to avoid frost shock from the too cold AC when folks enter? Of course, the solution to that non-problem is to keep the AC level lower. Solves both problems easily!

  15. Westport Convert

    Who cares? As Dan so aptly predicted, I will be the one to say “it’s a free country.”

    Now everyone move on to more important issues, like house tear downs and cupcake wars…


    • The most important issues in Westport all involved forcing the other guy to do what you want him to do no matter his preference.

    • Tired of the retoric

      So glad you’re the new voice always sticking up for a person’s right to be an a**hole in Westport, WC. Don’t you get tired of being so argumentative? Boring. Most people balance THEIR rights with the COMMON GOOD, and it sure makes life more pleasant here in town.

      • “common good” No common good is involved. WC is correct. Trampling on the rifghs of individuals does not advance the “common good”.

  16. Who cares? About Westport, and the environment? We all should care. With freedom comes responsibility. Dan, thanks for bringing this up and starting this discussion – right on target.

    • Westport Convert

      Those buildings are privately owned — not public. Unless someone can prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is harming the general public you have no ground to stand on.

      I do not necessarily agree with the decisions but as I always say, it is their property (or, more accurately, their landlord’s) and it’s their right to do with it as they please — provided they are following the laws and not harming others.

      I think our precious Westport wildlife will survive a few air conditioners on Main Street. Give me a break.


  17. Dan didn’t write that what they’re doing is illegal – it’s just stupid and wasteful. I can appreciate that it may not be possible for everyone to understand that, which is fine. I’ll speak slowly: Have a nice day!

  18. Who cares. Open doors attract customers into the store. Maybe you all should complain about the 6,000+ ft McMansions that run their AC all day so that the family of 3 or 4 comes home to a cool house! Or large half- empty SUVs that run AC, even when parked! Let’s just ban all air conditioning in Westport !!!

    • “Open doors attract customers into the store. ”

      Oh really?


      I guess all of those businesses must suffer huge losses in revenue in the Winter when Al of their doors are Shut!


  19. Maybe Gordon could issue a “Just close the damn door” policy. It seems that some companies/management only take directives from above, without using New England common sense.

    • We need more policies and rules from King Gordon.

    • Cool Breeze

      Maybe I should declare, “mind your own damn buisness, it’s not your store” policy!
      If you don’t like it, tell your story walking (or jump in your pious) and go somewhere else!
      How’s them apples?!

  20. Just came back from Main Street on this hot summer Saturday. Blue Mercury had its doors closed at both locations. Kudos to you, Dan. And as I entered Banana Republic, I pulled the door closed behind me. Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s all it takes, customers closing the door behind them like their mothers taught them.

  21. Jamie Walsh

    Just thinking…wouldn’t be great if these retailers shut the doors…saved some energy and $’s and passed the savings on to the consumer

  22. I’m not shopping where doors are open in this heat! Yes it’s a free. Iuntry but responsibility toward the planet trumps that card in my values. Here’s a town that can outlaw plastic bags (which I recycled and reused), drives gas guzzlers often, and air conditions the sidewalks.

  23. If they were independently owned stores who paid the electric bills the doors would be shut and AC kept low.

  24. “Trampling on the rights of individuals…” Nobody’s took anyone’s rights away – let’s put the guns back in the holsters. It’s called free speech, and I’m happy to see it practiced here. By the way, as has been widely discussed on the public stage, corporations are not individuals.

    • You must have missed the call for Joseloff to produce a policy. The stores are run by people. As to the status of corporations, the SCOTUS held a somewhat different opinions at least as it pertains to speech.

    • Westport Convert

      And I also have the right to disagree with you. So please, put your gun back in your holster, too.

      By the way, I suggest you take your “open door” issues up with the executives of these corporations – not the store owners. They simply do as they are told and you cannot blame them.


      • I always worry when people do as they are told, and not what they know is right. This has gotten a lot of people in trouble throughout history.

        • Westport Convert

          We have no way of knowing how the store owners feel. Do you? Humorous of you to assume otherwise. Perhaps they fear their job would be in jeopardy if they went against whatever corporate policies are enforced. I cannot fault them for wanting to keep their jobs. We have no way of knowing what the corporations want — how about you contact them and ask?

          I hope you are never at the mercy of a large corporation. For others, it is their livelihood. You make personal sacrifices but it also puts food on the table. A storefront street of open doors blasting air conditioners is the least of our problems in today’s society.


          • I work for a global organization with more than 50,000 worldwide. Just today, we got an email encouraging us to speak up if we don’t agree with something, and reminding us that retribution is not tolerated. The headline read: “Say what you think. Not what others want to hear.” And part of the text included the sentences: “If you’re uncomfortable about something you’re being asked to do, don’t fake agreement or smile and say nothing. Or if you’re asked what you think about something that was said or done that you feel is questionable, don’t hide your opinion.

            Speak up. Calmly, but firmly, make your opinion known, and explain your rationale. Listen to what others say. Differing opinions are important, and deserve to be heard.

            In fact, you will be setting an example that may empower others to say what they think.”

            Wish everyone worked for a organization like mine.

            • Every company for which I’ve ever worked has encouraged employees – often rewarded employees – for noticing wasteful practices and suggesting improvements. I can’t imagine any store taking offense to this discussion, which is obviously intended to be helpful and constructive.

          • As noted in my story, I left a message at Blue Mercury’s corporate headquarters, but never got a call back. I also tweeted the CEO (and included a link to my story). No response either.

  25. `mr woog has become one of the most passive aggressive people in `westport. tell us how you really feel… oh and by the way you live in westport.

    • I feel that I will continue to give you the opportunity to express yourself on issues in Westport — past, present and future — and to do so anonymously if you wish.

  26. Storeowners, large or small, who leave their doors open, is a sign of “welcome” come on in, to the prospective shopper. It’s hard economic times plus competition, the factor to bring in the customer. Let’s not always be so concerned about the Green issues or wasting of energy. If you cannot generate sales, the store closes, the Green issues and any question of energy waste evaporate.

    John G. Lambros

    • I Googled this issue and found that many municipalities, large and small, attempt to discourage stores from this practice – sometimes with fines (NYC for example). A lawyer who worked on NYC legislation to this effect is quoted in the NYT as saying (paraphrasing), “The only ones who should be in favor of the open-door AC practice are in OPEC.” I was part of a generation at Staples that saw the first Earth Day, and I recall our fond hopes that by the next century (we’re here!) people would “get it” and there would no longer be a need to lobby anyone into caring about conserving energy and the environment – it should by now be self-evident. Energy wasters and their proponents, especially anonymous ones, are the ultimate example of passive aggression.

      • The only ones who should be in favor of more intrusive laws are lawyers. BTW Mexico and Canada are our biggest suppliers of oil. Why do NY lawyers dislike Mexicans and Canadians?

    • On the other hand, if the environment evaporates, the store will close too.

  27. Dan,
    You might want to ask The Big Y supermarket chain about the “air door” in their Stratford location. Customers walk right through a downward air draft into the air-conditioned interior.

  28. Dan,

    Maybe if you had to work in such an environment (retail), then you would understand this predicament a bit better. You have a complete outside perspective, which I admire, but it is not the end all be all.

  29. Crikey! This is mob collectivism! Where I am from you’d be told to pixx off and mind your own business! Open the door? Yes, please. Shut it? Yeah, for a minute or two. Thank God for freedom! Thank God for capitalism. Otherwise, we’d have to listen to and behave according to how a sub-group of white people think the world should behave!