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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. A new location is giving new life to an institution that is closing in on its first half century of operation. Amy's Cottage, with roots that go back to 1969, will take up residence on Spring Street on the first of March. Owner Amy Bryan said she was considering closing last year the gift shop and clothier she has operated for 19 years on Water Street. "I actually hadn't even ordered spring clothes," Bryan said. "I was plum tired and ready to close up shop." Then she heard about a prospective opening on Spring Street, where the Harrison Gallery was closing. "I thought, 'Well, this is cool,' " she said. "It's bigger, and we're really squished right now. And it would just be a change. It would be like having a whole new experience." The new, expanded Amy's Cottage is about 2,700 square feet, up from 1,588 at the Water Street location. "It feels good to spread out," Bryan said as she surveyed the store, still a work in progress, on Monday, Feb. 15. "The things that are in here now are things that were never in the other store some baby clothes, a line of frames and signs. This whole jewelry rack is a new product line. And that Vintage Pearl [jewelry] over there makes custom, hand-stamped pieces. "We added more yoga wear casual fitness wear which we didn't delve into before because we didn't have the space." And, Bryan feared, the Water Street location did not have the right visibility to be sustainable. Even though the shop has a loyal and well established customer base, it's tough to attract new customers as they zoom by on Water Street/Route 43. "With the Cottage, if you don't know it's there, it's really hard to spot that little window," she said. "We try our best to put a big window display out there, but if you don't know it's there, you might never find us. "We tend to be a destination shop. Most of the people who come in tend to come in to pick something up for a gift. Maybe now we'll get some more people who just stop in to check us out." Debbie Donovan founded The Cottage in March 1969 in Sharon, Conn. She subsequently opened locations in Pittsfield and Williamstown. Bryan purchased the latter in 1997. "We're the last one standing," Bryan said. She is proud of the tradition of being a woman-owned and operated business and notes that in her nearly two decades at the helm, she has had just one male employee. "Not that we wouldn't hire a man, but we've succeeded solely as a woman-owned business," she said. Of course, no matter who you are, it is tough to be a sole proprietor especially in a market where, as Bryan notes, the population is declining and the costs of doing business continue to rise. She is happy that the opportunity to reinvent Amy's Cottage gave her the impetus to keep the shop alive. "I was seriously considering closing," she said. "I was so tired. It's a lot of work. "And then I went and added more work, which is kind of crazy. But it's refreshing work. It's different. It's setting up something new." A grand opening celebration for the new Amy's Cottage is scheduled for Thursday, March 3, from 5 to 8 p.m., with raffles, door prizes and hors d oeuvres. Find out more about the store here.
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