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Loving Lechmere in Cambridge, Mass.


Lechmere, a retail chain in New England, seemed destined to last forever. It didn't, going out of business in 1997.

But this amazing store will, at least, last forever in my mind.  How could a New England household name-caliber store with everything you could ever need or want under the sun at great prices go out of business? Very sad, indeed.

The original store at 88 First St. in the "Lechmere" section of Cambridge, Mass. (now known, as Lechmere Square), remains strongest in my mind.  With a no-frills, plain facade and a palace of high quality merchandise inside, I remember, most prominently, the audio and television department on the left near the front entrance and the conveyor belt to the right delivering merchandise to you from the second floor. As a kid, I always wanted to visit that second floor. Was it Santa's elves working up there, or some guy named Joe? Did they work in the dark up there while dodging spider webs, or was it posh with a game room and snack bar with pizza and ice cream? I once heard someone belch from up there, so perhaps it was the latter.

Further back in the store -- past the appliances and luggage -- near the lighting department was a terrific toy section with every board game, G.I. Joe, stuffed toy animal and stone age electronics game (compared to what is out there now) you could imagine -- why, to me it was like a kid walking into a toy store coming here!

Although the colorful holiday lights, beautiful artificial Christmas trees, and even-more-expanded toy section during the Christmas season brought incredible joy, I also loved the Washington's Birthday time when Lechmere offered full-size Table Talk cherry pies for, as I recall, 10 cents!

The help was dedicated and knowledgeable with some employees making it a career here. Our Arlington neighbor, Charlie Linskey, was a good guy who worked the Cambridge location for many years and reflected the hard-working presence of the Lechmere staff.  Additionally, the owners -- the Cohen family -- would often walk around the store interacting with customers. Don't you miss those days when the customer mattered most and the owners went out of their way to make you feel important and wanted?   I certainly do.

Seemed like a lot of straight-shooting, decent, working-class son-of-a-guns shopped and worked here. Maybe it's a sign of the times, but so many people today seem to walk around stores in a daze -- like they are the only ones in the store -- while glued to their cell phones or social media devices. Back then, customers came to Lechmere Sales with a brisk step and a purpose, spending wisely their hard-earned money and loving their local Lechmere store as if it was a close friend. This was real-life "social media" at its finest back!

We, unfortunately, lost this close retail friend. But, as mentioned, you can never take away the special memories of a place like this and I plan to embrace this happy constituent of my childhood, forever.

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