New England Stores That Do Not Sell Anything

New England is chock full of stores that do not sell anything, or at least nothing that anyone might ever want to buy. This custom dates from at least the 19-th century according to the book An American Girl Abroad in which the author describes the numerous general stores throughout New England that seem to have an old piece of cheese and not much else.

Our impression based on numerous visits to such stores, discussions with the proprietors and employees and conversations with New England natives is that such stores are operated as creative, or perhaps uncreative, outlets for their owners who loathe the idea of restocking and dread nothing more than making large sums of money by selling merchandise. This is most likely a holdover from the attitude prevelant in Old England against being "in trade".

Shopping in Boston, even today, is a lot like shopping in Sofia, Bulgaria. Correction: Sofia under the communists, not modern Sofia.

A Similar Problem in New York City

We actually ran into a similar problem in New York City which is generally an excellent shopping town complete with African immigrants who pop up selling cheap umbrellas with the first drop of rain. We were at the old Armani on Madison Avenue in the women's evening wear section looking through the season catalog. This was the year Armani had come out with a series of blue and green silk dresses we could only describe as "Island Princess" dresses. There were a number of these in the catalog, but none on the racks and the saleswoman could not find any in the store room. "The problem", she explained, "is that there is no demand for these dresses. No sooner than we put one on the rack than someone walks in and buys it." (And this at perhaps $2,500 a pop).

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