town

When a university closes for COVID-19, its college town may not survive

AMHERST, Mass. — For more than a century, the office supply store A.J. Hastings has opened its doors to the public every day without fail, a community staple in a quintessential college town.

That streak endured through the 1918 flu and world wars, national holidays and even a move. “Through thick and thin,” said Sharon Povinelli, who co-owns the store with her wife, Mary Broll.

Located in the heart of Amherst, the store has been a mainstay for students at Amherst College and Hampshire College, and the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts.

“We’ve been here almost as long as the universities here,” Povinelli said.

The third-generation-owned business never broke its opening streak — until the coronavirus pandemic hit. A.J. Hastings, along with millions of other businesses across the country, closed in March to curb the spread of COVID-19, while colleges shut down their campuses and turned to remote

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