GROTON -- As summer comes to a close this year, so does a "field of dreams" endeavor on Main Street.
At the end of August, noa jewelry, fine handcrafts and gifts co-owners Barbara and Ian Scofidio will shutter their Main Street store at the end of August.
Noa will reopen in September at 88 Charles St. in the city's Beacon Hill section.
Barbara Scofidio talked about upcoming move in a recent interview. She and Ian, her husband and business partner, made the call a couple of years ago, she said.
Former New Yorkers with several personal and professional talents and traits between them, they both "crave the city," she said. Small by NYC standards, one of Boston's most alluring characteristics is that it has hometown character, too. Especially neighborhoods like Beacon Hill. "We're very lucky," to have found the new space, she said.
But leaving the town they call home isn't easy. "It was a bittersweet decision," she said.
When noa the store, spun off from the gallery of the same name six years ago, they hoped a retail renaissance would eventually follow, Scofidio said.
She and others who shared their vision for a revitalized Main Street did all they could to make it happen, she said, citing promotional initiatives such as Groton's Art Walk. "We envisioned what the town center could be," she said.
Besides niche stores and eateries, that vision included tackling traffic in the town center.
One idea was
She even has professionally designed plans that map out a safe, pedestrian-friendly Main Street, she said. Strategic signage, signal lights, cross walks, measures to control the relentless tide of commuter and truck traffic that streams through the center of town during peak "rush hours."
The big picture she painted is balanced by structural and natural ambience already there, such as gracious antique buildings and a venerable lineup of stately shade trees.
Having shelved such visionary schemes for now, Scofidio still thinks that with creative clout and resources, Main Street could become an eclectic, pedestrian-friendly shopping district in the tradition of West Concord's Main Street, where noa opened a second store three and a half years ago.
Not now, though. Which is why the business is moving on. But the family will stay put. A longtime resident whose two kids, nine and 16, attending school in town - Florence Roche and Lawrence Academy, respectively - Scofidio said she and Ian have no plans to pull up stakes any time soon. They both love Groton and will continue to live in their beautifully renovated antique home off Main Street.
She didn't rule out a future come-back for noa, either. "Maybe someday," she said.
In the meantime, they're excited about opening the Boston store.
The new space on Charles Street is bigger than its Groton counterpart, bright and just right, nestled in a welcoming neighborhood, friendly to foot traffic and unique boutiques. Noa is moving into a spot formerly occupied by another "niche" store that is moving further along on the same street.
The West Concord store will stay open.
As for the retail revival that never happened in Groton, Scofidio might have cited political problems tied to technical hurdles, but she declined to do so. In a general sense, however, she said it takes time, leadership and shared commitment to turn the wheels of progress, and whatever the reasons, that can-do combination just wasn't there.
"This isn't about us," she said. It's about like businesses clustered in accessible spaces where amenities compliment one another. The West Concord/Station Avenue area or Nashua, New Hampshire's Main Street, are good examples of the layout she had in mind. Not easy to accomplish in Groton, but doable, in her view.
But disappointment over what might have been is offset by new challenges, and the Beacon Hill location was a marvelous find. "I just love it there," she said. "Residents support their independent businesses."
The cause she championed in Groton called for change, and that can be a hard sell. Anyway, for any number of reasons, the stars didn't align this time around.
It bothers her, though, that other ventures might not make it, either.
That Shaw's Plaza hasn't become the huge draw it's size would warrant, for example. And that a smaller, still relatively new venue such as Mill Run has lost stores it once had, including shoe stores, a kitchen shop, a trendy boutique and a children's clothing store.
A quaint gift shop next to Johnson's Restaurant, farther out on Route 119, also closed.
Currently, Noa isn't the only business closing its doors in town, Scofidio continued. Clover Farms has closed and a local toy store also plans to leave, she said.
Sketching the in-town trend over the last few years, she said that as businesses left Main Street, some newcomers didn't fit the downtown shopping district mold.
"Two of the best spots on Main Street were taken by banks," she said ruefully, indicating what's wrong with this picture.
But it's not all about aesthetics. Or even attracting retail establishments.
Rather than see Main Street speckled with chain stores, she favors independent shops and a "think local" movement. "An important focus" would be to encourage retailers to sell local products and services, she said. And customers must be motivated to shop that way, too.
"It breaks my heart to see people shopping for gifts at CVS," she said. Why not come to noa instead? She could have reached for a tag line here: Something like elegance on a budget, perhaps, or one she coined in Boston Magazine's hub-centric style and shopping report, "Bostonista," in which she is quoted. "In a way, we're like the farmer's market of retail," Scofidio said. with a focus on "affordable pieces," and "unexpected materials."
Gorgeously displayed and looking more lavish than they cost, noa's inventory is extraordinary on any given day. One-of-a-kind pottery, hand-painted silk scarves, a jewelry collection made from sea glass.
A recent visit turned up a few finds: Striking pieces of blown glass stemware, a delicate crystal bracelet, just the thing to send cross-country for a loved one's birthday. And a personal purchase: a ceramic barette, hair décor in one of several luscious colors.
Noa customers can expect knowledgeable, friendly service, and yes, they gift wrap.
Her own store aside, Scofidio suggested several "think local" options. Rather than choosing a drive-through for morning coffee, for instance, why not think the Blackbird Café? Or why not give Groton's Ace Hardware a try versus one of the big box stores?
In the end, it's a choice, but it's also a cycle. Small businesses can't survive if local folks don't shop there regularly, she said. And it helps area artisans, trades people and growers when local stores carry their wares. That's the essence of "think local," Scofidio said.
Noa has embraced that philosophy from the start, featuring the work of 200 New England artists such as Julia Groos and Devaney Bennett, of Boston, Sandra McCaw of Southborough and Martha Seely of Carlisle, to name just a few.
She stressed that the stores that have closed in Groton, mentioned earlier, are gone for good. "We've lost them," she said.
But noa will still be around, albeit someplace else. If Boston is too much of a trek, the West Concord store is closer, not much more of a drive than Nashua's Pheasant Lane Mall. "Come see us ..." Scofidio invited.