Hampshire Mills Closing
Salamanca Last of the Five Locations to Close
By Nicholas Pircio
Those who love and operate the Hampshire Mills store, serving Salamanca for fifty years, are resigned to move on. The long run is over, with the store located in the city’s west end to close by the end of March. Salamanca is the last of five Hampshire Mills locations to close its doors.
Store owner Michael Zaprowski points to the economy, the fact that he is 71 years old and wants to retire, as reasons for closing. He talks about changes at the store. “We started out with nothing but clothing. We added a gift shop, we have foot ware, and all kinds of merchandise now.”
Hampshire Mills has been sold to Kevin and Melinda Palmer, who operate the nearby Allegany Gas and Smokes plaza. They were not available for comment as to their plans.
Store manager Jenna Zaprowski, Michael’s daughter, said business has been brisk as the days wind down. “Yesterday (February 5) was crazy. We’re selling a lot of different things, so obviously people are coming in.”
Jenna Zaprowski has managed the Salamanca store for the last twenty five years. Is she sad that they are closing? “Oh absolutely, my father wanted to retire and he got an offer for the building. What will she miss the most? “Definitely the people. And then I enjoyed what I did, I loved being a buyer.” She liked the fact that, wearing the many hats of small business, she did not have to do one particular thing all day long. “That’s what I enjoyed most about my job.”
Hampshire Mills has become more diverse over the years. Jenna Zaprowski said you see that with most stores. “Many stores had to become more diverse in order to survive. We followed suit with that.” Adding a gift shop about fifteen years ago was “a big change” along with foot ware, but since then, clothing “has really made a comeback.”
Online selling has definitely brought competition. Jenna notes, “Places like Bon Ton and such I don’t worry about them anymore. You’re also competing with brands you sell in your own store, since those goods are being sold online. So I stay right on top of being competitive, it’s something I have to do.”
What advice does Jenna Zaprowski have for anyone wanting to start a small business today? “I’m old school, as I still feel small business is the backbone of America. Big corporate businesses have come in, it’s too bad. There’s certainly a place for online business.”
“It got to a point where the country was just over retailed. I said this a long time ago, at some point it was going to bust, and that’s exactly what’s happening. But I do see a turnaround happening and people are making more of an effort to shop small and locally again.”
A startup entrepreneur needs to have a niche, says Jenna, in that you have to fill a need. “We were just lucky enough, we were in a small town and we really did service the area. You just have to be really smart about it, and be very careful about how you spend your money. I feel there are plenty of people out there who can be successful doing small business, but you have to be smart about it.”