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Fresh Eyes Column

by Caroline Downs

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Another chapter in Kenmare's story . . .

Posted 2/19/13 (Tue)

Like everybody else last week, I observed the demolition of the old Kenmare Clothing building.

I stared.

I gawked.

All in the name of research, of course, because I had the office camera in my hand.

I probably stood too close at certain points, because dust from the second story rolled over me and the smell of old, musty building filled my nose.

Some of you watched, too, because I saw you there, backed up to the curb on the east and south sides of that corner so you could stay warm inside your vehicle while taking note of progress being made.

Others of you cruised by slowly, and a few of you made the rounds more than one time.

I admit, I had plenty of questions:

What was still in the building?

What did the upstairs look like?

Would they be able to tear down this building without harming the Gift Bank next door?

Could staff and customers in Kenmare Drug hear the commotion?

How long would it take to come down?

When will crews start construction of the new building?

Then I started wondering about the stories contained within that building:

Who were the families who shopped there? Who shopped locally and who came from out of town?

How did the owners and managers choose merchandise and advertise through the years?

What were the conversations those walls heard--the arguments, the flirtations, the mother-child dialogues, the husband-wife discussions, the Christmas shopping decisions?

Who bought clothes for weddings? Funerals? First day of school or first day on the new job?

How were new families and new customers welcomed?

How did the owners and managers, through the years, participate in other Kenmare events and activities? Was this a place where people gathered or a place where people passed through? Did the owners and managers promote the community or focus more on their own operation?

And what all happened on the second story? An old avocado green refrigerator tumbled from one of the upstairs rooms Friday afternoon as the track hoe bucket chipped away at the brick walls. What’s the story of that refrigerator and the people who placed it there? Were those rooms storage, meeting spaces, living quarters or some combination?

What could you see from the windows up there?

I know, I’m a little nosy. And really, the questions are based on my own curiosity, not research for a newspaper article. Some of you know some of the answers, of course, and many of you have memories of shopping there. I’ve heard a few of those stories in the years I’ve been here, and they make me wish I could have browsed the racks at Kitty’s Fashions.

The buildings have been setting with little care or upkeep for 12 years, however. Weather, disuse and neglect take a toll, and those structures were built as a retail setting, not as architectural studies or historical treasures.

I’m not sorry to see them come down.

I don’t have deep roots in Kenmare, but I’ve been on this square five days a week for most weeks of the year for 12 years now, and I’d like to look across the street and see a thriving business with lights on and doors open rather than rundown storefronts with curtains hung askew and piles of dead moths and flies littering the windowsills.

Yes, I’m all for the revitalization project taking place on the west side of Kenmare’s square.

And I’m hoping to bring you stories soon about the new businesses developing there--another chapter in Kenmare’s story.