Western Massachusetts Businesses Closing due to the Pandemic


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Red sign hanging at the glass door of a shop saying “Closed due to coronavirus”.

Patrick Sweeney, Chief Editor

The coronavirus pandemic has led to many consequences in the United States. Over 600,000 individuals have lost their lives fighting the virus. Frontline healthcare workers have been pushed to the limit. Their mental health has decreased due to the mental strain they are put under every day. In addition to this, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. However, one can argue that the hospitality industry has been hit hardest by the pandemic. Many businesses in Western Massachusetts have had to shut their doors, devastating local communities. When the pandemic ends, the world will look extremely different. One of the major differences that will be seen is in respect to restaurants and businesses that have collapsed under the strain of the pandemic. 

There are many local restaurants in Western Massachusetts that have closed between March of 2020 and August of 2021. One notable location includes the Holyoke Hummus Cafe, which was located on High Street across from City Hall. The restaurant, which opened its doors in 2017, had a somber message to share with customers earlier this month. On their website, holyokehummuscompany.com, the staff stated that they had “important news to share,” going on to state that they have had “great momentum from two years on the road in our food truck.” They cited the stress of the pandemic, stating that they have “not had enough traffic to keep the restaurant open.” The High Street location is now being used exclusively for catering services. The chefs will still be in the kitchen doing the cooking for the food truck and special events. Holyoke Hummus Cafe was an integral part of the community and will be greatly missed in the city for their falafel balls, wraps and salads. The city of Holyoke lost another vital business when Hampden Papers announced that they would be shutting down late last summer. The business had been a Holyoke staple for more than one hundred and forty years since it opened in 1880. The building was located in the “Lower Canal District” portion of Holyoke in a 300,000 square foot warehouse. After the closing of this historic business, over one hundred employees lost their jobs. There were various reactions from the community after this announcement. Andrea Marion, who works at the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, stated on masslive.com that she was “saddened” that the business was closing, adding that “the loss of tax revenue and jobs alone could have a huge impact on the city, its residents and our local businesses. As a community, we need to work harder to foster our current businesses while we continue to grow and bring new business to our city.” Hampden Papers closing has led to many outcries from Holyoke city officials to not forget about the history of the city. Holyoke was once known as the “paper capital of the world” years ago due to the various paper mills located throughout the city. Individuals want to make sure that this history does not disappear. Over the past seventeen months, Holyoke has lost many important businesses. Holyoke Hummus Company and Hampden Papers will be greatly missed by the community. 

The city of West Springfield has lost many wonderful businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. One of these businesses was Freihofer’s Bakery Outlet, which was located on Westfield Street. The bakery was a community staple for many years and sold everything from breads to donuts and pre-packaged Boboli pizza dough. The bakery had to shut down at the start of the pandemic but had a difficult time making ends meet after it reopened. On Facebook, Gary Wolf of Freihofer’s shared the grim message with fans and community partners. He said, in part, “due to the COVID-19 crisis we shut down March 20th and we were looking to reopen. Unfortunately the bad news came today that they will not be reopening the West Springfield location.” He later added, “It has been my pleasure to serve those from the local communities of  Agawam, West Springfield, Westfield and several other surrounding areas.” Freihofer’s will be missed because it became a staple for individuals to buy the necessary essentials for their families and could count on a good bargain while shopping at the store. The closest Freihofer outlet for people in Western Massachusetts is located across from the Friendly’s ice cream plant in Wilbraham.

Easthampton, Massachusetts has also lost many businesses due to complications during the pandemic. One of these restaurants was Coco and the Cellar Bar, which was located on Main Street. The restaurant posted a message on their website that read, in part, “it is with profound regret that we must close Coco and the Cellar Bar, effective immediately. It has been a truly difficult 18 months since the pandemic started and this is the best decision for our family.” The chef at the Cellar Bar, Umbki Abkin, was nominated for many awards, including “five consecutive nominations for the James Beard Award.” The city councilor in Easthampton also had many positive things to say about Coco and the Cellar Bar. He said, in part, “Many thanks to the amazing staff,” then adding, “I am saddened to see [the coronavirus pandemic] claim this gem from our city.” Fans of the restaurant who were not initially informed of the closure were even more saddened when they called the next morning and received no answer. The city of Easthampton also mourned the loss of another local staple, which was Manchester Hardware. This store was located in the heart of Easthampton’s downtown district, across from many quaint shops and eateries. The store announced its sudden closure last September after being a member of the Easthampton community for one hundred and twenty five years. The shop’s owner, Carol A. Perman, announced the decision on Facebook, writing to her loyal customers, “While I love the store and serving the community, I have reached a fork in the road. The entire inventory as well as the fixtures and equipment will be on sale.” Perman also added that the building had been up for sale for two years before she announced closure, saying that she wanted to downsize but found no good opportunities. This announcement has exposed the steady decline in the number of hardware stores around Western Massachusetts. Both Coco and the Cellar Bar and Manchester Hardware were wonderful establishments that will be sorely missed by the community. 

 Western Massachusetts has lost many businesses since the coronavirus pandemic began, many of which were integral parts of their individual communities. Various businesses have closed here in Holyoke, from Holyoke Hummus Cafe to Hampden Paper, whose owners acknowledged that they could no longer keep up during the pandemic. In West Springfield, community staple Freihofer’s had to shut their doors, affecting many families who frequented the store. Lastly, Easthampton has lost both a popular restaurant and a hardware store, both of which were thriving before the pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has tested the strength of every community both in the United States and around the world. Businesses have shut down and communities have been torn apart. Despite these obstacles, everyone has come together as one. We have risen above the tragedies and devastation and managed to make the best of the situation. We thank all of the essential business workers for their service, both the ones who are still working and those who have had to shut their doors. They are the backbone of our communities and keep things running on a day-to-day basis. As Thomas Watson Sr. once said, “To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.”