If you’ve been in a neighborhood long enough to have set down roots, you eventually notice the cycles. Maybe you’ve lived in the same house through a couple of new roofs, a replacement water heater or two, too many summer months spent painting one or more sides of the exterior.
You get used to the sounds of the neighborhood’s children, first as babies and toddlers, then racing around the streets and yards, then pulling up in their first cars. Eventually, you notice those sounds are gone, as are the kids themselves. They’ve grown up and moved out, to college or jobs elsewhere; perhaps to an apartment nearby. You realize their parents aren’t the same young adults you once knew. Neither are you.
If you’re there long enough, the cycle begins anew. Seniors move to warmer climates, or closer to grandkids, or into one of those special, expensive developments for the elderly. Young couples scoop up those homes, and soon the sights and sounds of children fill the neighborhood again.
A similar dynamic occurs in the local business community. Those shops and restaurants and agencies you remember opening, or which seem to have always existed, belong to people who themselves are living that aging cycle. So there comes a time when you look around and the neighbors you knew for so many years have disappeared. Every so often the names, even the businesses themselves, turn over.
Keene seems to be going through such a cycle these days.
Bruce Anderson, who’s run Andy’s Cycles for 65 years, announced recently he’s retiring, closing up shop. He’s in his 70s and after teaching generations of area cyclists how to care for their rides, he has had enough. His Winchester Street space will become a dental office next spring.
The same goes for Eric Anderson, aka Anderson the Florist. At 83, he’s selling his Davis Street shop and retiring.
And John Plotkin, owner of the Park Avenue furniture store bearing his family’s name, is taking a similar step. The store opened in 1955, an offshoot of the original Plotkin’s in Athol, Mass., started by John’s grandfather Izzy. Plotkin has owned this one for decades, and is ready to sell his last bedroom set. The beanbag chairs that have adorned the front window for many years, and everything else in stock, is being sold off in a sale coordinated by a Tennessee firm.
One might look at the loss of three stable, long-lasting local businesses as a negative. That was certainly the take of one Sentinel reader, whose social media comment regarding the Plotkin’s news was a simple: “Typical Keene.”
The reader in question writes that same comment often in response to stories others would see as negative, as if something about the city either causes or deserves misfortune. At first, in this case, the response puzzled us. An aging business owner decides to retire, and that’s somehow typical of Keene?
Then it dawned on us the reader was, for once, correct. And in a good way.
That Plotkin, Eric Anderson and Bruce Anderson could each build and maintain a business in the Elm City for decades, relying on the community and, in turn, serving those in it, speaks volumes about Keene. That they could all make a decent living and be set up to retire on their own terms too is something many business owners would envy. For their customers, it will be sad to see them go, though Keene has other furniture stores, other florists and other bike shops to meet their needs, even if not in the same way.
We wish the best to all three and will welcome the new neighbors when they arrive.
The neighborhood is changing. Some of the longtime faces are leaving, and if history is any indication, they’ll someday be replaced by new owners, who’ll settle in and live their lives here.