Annie Minifie is closing her Great Barrington Byzantium clothing store after 43 years in business | Business | Popgen Tech
GREAT BARRINGTON — Another longtime store on Railroad Street is closing and liquidating in part because of how pandemic forces have reshaped clothing retail.
But also because its owner wants to invest her energy in her art and other things – she is a painter.
Annie Minifee, who opened women’s clothing store Byzantium 43 years ago, said she will be out of her upper Railway Street storefront by January 31 and hopes to sell everything in it by the beginning of the month.
“I’m retiring,” Miniffee said. “It’s not for lack of business. I am very grateful. I’ve had such wonderful clients.”
She said she has agreed to remain mum on what business will replace her at the location, although she said there will likely be some remodeling. Its landlord, Richard Stanley, also said the new tenants had asked him not to reveal their plans.
Byzantium offers a wide range of styles and sizes of women’s clothing at a wide range of prices. The store has had loyal customers and staff for decades, as several generations of families have worked there, Miniffee said.
“I’m going to miss him very much, my customers and the people who worked there for 25 years — another one who worked there for 40 years,” she said.
Her store is not the first on Chigunachna Street to be forced to close by the pandemic. Others — such as Byzantium’s former neighbor, the “Gifted Child” — were pushed by the crisis to exit.
Longtime customers, she says, are now “wringing their hands” about where they can find what Minifie offers, which bucks trends and serves as a quality product that won’t go out of style. One shopper, Nicky Wilson, wrote in a letter to the editor that the news of the store’s closure made her feel “punched” considering all the times she had shopped there.
“I wore them to their weddings and then to their daughters’ weddings,” Minifi said. “There is an aesthetic dimension to the choice of clothing and the awareness that you are dressing the clients and not yourself. I had to think about all the different forms of all the different women.”
“I was very, very happy,” Minifi said. “But I had to stop.”
The pandemic accelerated the exit she had planned. The crisis has changed not only the garment industry, but also people’s shopping habits due to curtailment of events and work in offices.
It became more difficult for her to work.
“Business has become more complex,” Minifi said.
She didn’t want to put the shop up for sale and stay for a few years of consulting.
Minifee, who lives in Washington, D.C., moved to the Berkshires from New York with her husband. While living in the city, she worked as a fitter and model.
Now she has projects for houses and is very keen to volunteer. She had to take care of her late mother’s affairs, and she wants to “get deep into painting.” She is also a photographer.
“The sand runs out of the glass, as they say, and I need the next 20 years to do what I want,” she said.