Heartbreak: Lord’s in Medfield, Mass., Closing After 73 Years

Picture of Lord's Department Store, Medfield MA

Lord's Department Store, Medfield MA (photo by Eric)

I am absolutely heartbroken that Lord’s Department Store in Medfield, Mass., is scheduled to close its doors forever on Feb. 28, 2013,  after nearly 73 years in business.

Picture of a customer's thank-you letter to Lord's Department Store, Medfield MA

A customer's thank-you letter to Lord's Department Store, Medfield MA (photo by Eric)

Browsing through Lord’s this morning, I knew that my reactionary, straight-from-the heart denial that Lord’s would never close were proved otherwise by the ghost town template of already empty sections of the store. Although the front counter lady was pleasant, you could feel part of the innate spirit of Lord’s gone.

As small town America slowly dissipates from the Boston area, Lord’s departure will take away one of our only mom and pop department stores in the region.  Lord’s has been so much more than just a mom and pop department store, however. We are losing  a beloved, household-name landmark and an affordable shopping destination where so many hometown memories were made through several generations. It was a place to buy your first baseball cards, look at the toys you hoped would end up under the Christmas tree, engage in some local conversation at the store’s luncheonette over coffee or a milkshake, and buy some Medfield memorabilia and apparel. Lord’s was a place where it seemed the whole town would turn out for the “midnight madness sales,” or back to school items.  A cast of regulars would visit almost on a daily basis, and the continuous sight of a handshake or a sincere “How are you doing?” confirmed the close-knit feeling here — clearly reflective of a tight, small town community.

Medfield kids worked there during the summer, the owners were seemingly always on site, and the older hired help took on a persona that would remind you of your loving aunt or grandmother

And that huge Lord’s red neon sign out front — what a classic!  Hopefully, the local historical society can save this revered element of Lord’s.

I think Lord’s meant something different to everyone, but with a common theme of us all unconditionally loving the store. For me, I always thought as Lord’s as very similar to Kalil’s store in Inlet, N.Y. Now, that might not mean much to you — mentioning a small general store in a tiny Adirondack town — but the similarities rekindle some wonderful childhood memories. When I see Lord’s, I recall the quiet, still feeling of Kalil’s juxtaposed with the sounds of friendly community chatter, cash registers ringing, muted music in the background, merchandise stacked perfectly in each isle, and an unassuming vibe that no oversized box store could ever capture.

Picture of Ruthie's Diner at Lord's, Medfield

Ruthie's Diner in a luncheonette setting at Lord's (photo by Eric)

What I will miss most at Lord’s Department Store is the personal approach — like Bob (who once worked at the luncheonette and still comes in pretty much every day) offering kids coloring books at the luncheonette, the owners always taking on fundraising efforts to help their hometown, and most recently, Michelle James recently leasing out Ruthie’s Diner at the luncheonette and restoring this breakfast and lunch spot to its glorious, original luster. She expanded the menu with delicious made-from-scratch comfort foods, kept the place spotless, and carried on the tradition — that was lost for a while — of making sure the luncheonette was a place of first-name basis, community togetherness and that customer satisfaction was at its peak. I know she worked extremely hard on making Ruthie’s a special place and hope she can land on her feet at another location. It’s one of the best diners I know of anywhere.

So, why do happy, successful places have to go away? What is happening to small town America? Do we not value tradition? I think these are valid questions of a larger issue of where our country is headed.  You can see a definite paradigm shift into more of a superstore world, but I think in Lord’s case, it was time to go out on top of their game. Long-time owner William Kelley died in May of 2012. I read that the current offspring owners, Tom Kelley and sister Nancy Kalley-Lavin, needed more time to spend with their spouses and children after so many years of 100 percent dedication to the business. I think that’s truly admirable, but I wish that someone well-established in the Medfield community was able to take over the store and carry on the proud Lord’s tradition. So, now the bottom line is that the fate of this site is in the hands of a local developer, and hopefully something good will happen for the town of Medfield regarding this location. It won’t ever be the same with Lord’s gone, but Medfield is innately a wonderful small town, and hopefully a business or businesses that take over will be well aligned with the needs of the town.

I think of Lord’s Department Store in the retail “Hall of Fame” category of other older mom and pop businesses that are no longer with us in the Boston area. Businesses like Joubert’s clothing store and Satler’s fabric store in Whitman, Bowens’s Toy Store in Bedford, Grants in Arlington, Dale Pharmacy in Burlington and Grover Cronin in Waltham,  On a grander scale, amusement parks like Paragon, Whalom and Pleasure Island are long gone despite bringing years of joy to local families. It’s so depressing to have meaningful traditions taken away, isn’t it?

In the southwest suburban Boston area where Medfield is located, you’ll still see some reminders of small town America that have been around at least 30 years like Betro Pharmacy, First Sandwich Shop, and Country Kitchen Donuts in Walpole, Cataldo’s Hardware in Wrentham, Bubbling Book Restaurant and Ice Cream in Westwood, Fiske’s General Store in Holliston, Pisini Shoe Store in Franklin, and the Old Country Store and Emporium in Mansfield. All these businesses seem to be doing quite well and we are thrilled that these examples of mom and pop shops are still with us today. We just wish Lord’s Department was part of that ongoing nostalgic hit parade, but then again, all those great memories of this Medfield icon will never be taken away.

We will remember you forever with fondness, Lord’s in Medfield, but I am still absolutely heartbroken.

Editor’s note: what are your favorite memories of Lord’s Department Store?  Please leave your comments in the box below.