Marcia Trementozzi and her daughter, Lindsay, scoured the color-dotted aisles of Windsor Button for the perfect shade of blue yarn earlier this week, knowing it might be their final visit to the 77-year-old Downtown Crossing store.
The shop at 35 Temple Place is closing once the inventory is sold off at discounted prices, according to its owners. As the news of Windsor Button’s demise has spread, knitters and crafters from across the region — many of them decades-long customers — have been coming to stock up on materials and mourn the loss of one of the last independent yarn and crafts stores in New England.
“It’s been here all my life,” said Trementozzi, who is 84. “I’ve grown up with Windsor Button, so I’m just beside myself.”
For Barbara Lynch, another longtime customer, monthly visits to the store are a regular part of her life. “I came here as a kid, and then when I worked in Downtown Crossing I always came here on my lunch break,” she said.
For years, the shop has been one of the only places to carry what to many people must sound like archaic products: spools of thread, skeins of yarn, embroidered patches. But these days, niche stores like Windsor Button have been squeezed down to slivers as more crafts consumers have turned to the convenience of national chains and speciality websites.
Susan Baker, who has owned the small store with her husband, Stanley , for the past 15 years, said the building’s landlord has planned extensive renovations that would require the shop to relocate, something that isn’t financially feasible.
“Our closure is going to leave a big hole in the hearts of a lot of people,” Baker said. “I get e-mails, phone calls, customer comments all the time from people who used to shop here with their aunt, or grandma, or mom decades ago. People who got their first job here, or bought their wedding veil. This place holds a lot of memories.”
Many customers this week headed for the counter in front of the store’s “button wall,” where row after row of buttons are stashed in wooden boxes, categorized by shape, size, and color. Baker said the stock of about 3.5 million buttons is one of the most extensive in the country.
“Whenever my mother would finish a sweater, I always got to come here to pick out the buttons,” said Mira Whiting, who pushed her son around the store in a stroller. “I have no idea what I’m going to do now that I have a little one to knit for, too. This is just my go-to place.”
Windsor also carries a huge selection of yarn — almost 500 different varieties — in colors such as fuchsia and bright turquoise. Sewing materials, instruction books, ribbon, trim, multicolored sequins, zippers, and other materials add to the orchestrated chaos, creating vibrantly colored displays.
“I’ve never left Windsor Button without buying something,” said Gail Press, who is the president of the Greater Boston Knitting Guild. “They’re an extremely valuable resource that will never, ever be replaced.”
The Koplow family founded Windsor Button in 1936. At the company’s height in the 1980s, it expanded to 10 stores in malls across the region, reaching as far as Lincoln, R.I., and Newington, N.H. But as mall owners raised rents or opted for national chains over regional ones, the company dwindled. The original store in Downtown Crossing (it moved from Chauncy Street to Temple Place in the early 1990s) has been the only remaining Windsor Button for the past 20 years.
In an age where mass-produced clothing is often treated as disposable, the Bakers took pride in positioning their store as a monument to a time when mothers routinely made their children’s mittens and handmade sweaters or hats were common Christmas presents.
“Stepping into our store is kind of like stepping back in time because we’ve been here for so, so long,” said Baker.
Customer Erin McDonald, who writes the blog Knitting in Beantown, said Windsor once played a role in many people’s lives, especially when it came to important events.
“You might walk through all these rows and rows of things today and say, ‘Well, what would you use that for?’ But if you were going to make your own wedding veil, that was the place you went,” she said.
McDonald said popular fabric and craft stores such as Michaels, A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts, and Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores, can’t replicate the atmosphere of a tiny stand-alone shop like Windsor.
“It’s not like any other big-box store, it’s a family,” she said. “It feels like a place of welcome and encouragement and inspiration when I walk in.”