Filene’s gets makeover

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BOSTON (AP) – Filene’s Basement, a landmark for downtown Boston shoppers for nearly 100 years, is considering temporarily closing its flagship store in the coming months, much to the dismay of longtime customers and Mayor Thomas Menino.

The Boston Globe reported Saturday that the Downtown Crossing store will close within the year, but Filene’s Basement spokeswoman Pam McDermott said no closure decisions have been finalized. She said company officials would announce their plans Monday.

The building at the corner of Washington and Summer streets that housed the Filene’s department store before it closed recently and that still houses Filene’s Basement is slated to undergo extensive renovations.

“The safety of our employees and customers is our top priority,” McDermott said.

Having already witnessed the closure of Filene’s – a separate business entity from Filene’s Basement, Menino is concerned about the declining vitality of the Downtown Crossing shopping district.

“He’s concerned about the area as the store closes. And he’s going to do everything to help the businesses in Downtown Crossing,” Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce said. “He’s hopeful for a new day when all the businesses are back, and it’s a more beautiful Downtown Crossing that people will want to come to.”

Filene’s Basement pioneered the concept of automatic discounting. Merchandise bears a current price and the future date of an automatic markdown price. Bargain hunters must weigh their desire for a sweet deal against the risk that someone else will buy the item before the price drops.

The store became so famous among shopping enthusiasts that one of the most common questions from tourists was, “Which way to Filene’s Basement?”

Lenore Martins, 65, grew up in Boston and remembers when Filene’s and neighboring Jordan Marsh – which has been bought and renamed Macy’s – each had seven floors filled with merchandise.

“This is where you bought everything. You bought a mattress or a pair of stockings,” she said. “It’s sad. I sure hope they open up again.”

On Saturday, a sign with an ironic message hung from the wall of a stairway leading down to the basement store. It read, “Filene’s may be leaving … But the Basement stays.”

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