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SouthCoast Today | The Standard-Times
Seth Chitwood (April 12, 2022)
From Yoda to a knife-wielding fisherman: How New Bedford window displays attract customers
NEW BEDFORD — As you’re walking down Bethel Street, you might do a double take thinking you’re seeing a fisherman in the window at the Fishing Heritage Center.
He’s not real — it’s just an enticing image to attract guests. It’s one of a few head-turning window scenes in the downtown area to note.
“We’re really proud of that window,” said Laura Orleans, the center’s executive director.
The man in the window is local scallop Capt. Jeff Swain. He is wearing a shucking apron and holding a scallop knife. “Scallops are hand shucked (or opened) at sea. All members of the crew, including the captain, shuck scallops,” she said.
The window, which was installed in spring 2021, is interesting because visitors can see the image from outside and inside the center. As for observing any surprised onlookers, although Orleans said she hasn’t seen many, she said a volunteer mentioned that it’s a little scary that he’s holding a knife.
(Heads up, if you don’t want to have a fright in the men’s room, there is a fisherman mannequin displayed in the bathroom, too.)
The window treatment was designed by Chris Danemeyer of Proun Design and the photograph was taken by Phil Mello.
In June, Orleans said the center had the privilege of having Swain attend their grand opening event to demonstrate scallop shucking.
“He couldn’t have been more gracious about it,” Orleans said, adding that most fishermen can’t commit to appearances because they don’t know their schedule far in advance.
Leading up to opening their exhibit “More Than a Job,” John Cox of Medium Studio put Swain’s photo in a bow tie and in a party hat for the grand opening event.
The importance of a good window
According to ColorReflections.com, without an eye-catching display, people may walk by a store without taking time to learn about what else the store may have in stock.
Celia’s Boutique on Williams Street has its windows filled with several styled mannequins along with its iconic green dome awning over the entrance.
“Windows are one of the key elements to a store to attract customers,” said co-owner Celia Brito. “It shows them a little glimpse of what you will find, then that is the interaction that they will have between the building and what’s inside to entice them to come in.”
She said many times customers have walked in wanting to see exactly what a mannequin in their window was wearing.
Tanya Alves, co-owner, said they change their window scene almost once a week. “We don’t want it to be stale,” Brito added.
Local window scenes could see change
Brito said their windows were not made for retail because of the black bars across them, unlike typical commercial shop windows that are large, fully clear windows. “The mannequins are cut in half,” Brito said.
She said they’ve considered redoing the windows, but because the building doesn’t belong to them they haven’t had the chance yet. However, they hope Mayor Jon Mitchell’s newly announced storefront program could change that.
On March 29, Mitchell announced an investment of ARPA funding program offering grants up to $40,000 for small businesses to upgrade their storefronts.
The Enhanced Façade Improvement Program is designed to revitalize commercial neighborhoods, stimulate private investment and customer patronage, and preserve and beautify New Bedford’s commercial districts, according to a press release.
“We think that the program is absolutely wonderful and it will absolutely help our business tremendously,” Brito said. “Building owners should take advantage of that and work with the tenants because without us they don’t have the building.”
Notable eye-catching windows
Celia’s isn’t the only window that turns heads. At the Women’s Fund SouthCoast building on Williams Street, its window has several cutouts of female celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.
Inside, behind a desk, is a cutout of the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg that some people have mistaken as a “real person” working.
Paradise McFee Studio has an intriguing window featuring paintings: an old face carved into wood, hourglass and a pink whale, to name a few.
Professional painter and muralist Tuesday Desrochers designed the windows featuring “Star Wars” characters to attract guests into PLAY Arcade. Owner Adam Katz said he constantly gets positive compliments from visitors.
Solstice Skateboarding on Purchase Street has an inviting “green” window scene with several plants and vines on display, while, Cottage Antiques on Union Street fills its windows with vintage toys and other objects from the past.
Before Swain was added to the window of the the Fishing Heritage Center, Orleans said they didn’t have much besides hanging occasional banners to attract interest from the street. It did hinder walk-in guests.
“A wonderful guy who works in the fishing industry, who’s a very talented artist, would paint the windows during the holidays,” Orleans said. “We will kind of miss that because we can’t really do that anymore with the new windows.”
However, Orleans said the installation has garnered a bunch of positive feedback and interest by people passing on the street.
“I think it’ll be fairly permanent,” she said. “It works very well for our center. We couldn’t be happier.”
Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.