After 27 years on Larchmont, Pickett Fences is now closed, a victim of the economic disruption caused by the global pandemic. Joane Hennenberger Pickett told the Buzz that small businesses like hers just didn’t get the support they needed from state and local leaders.
In the early days of the pandemic, businesses like hers were ordered to shutter, Pickett said, but large big box stores like Walmart and Target were deemed essential, so customers who wanted to buy a greeting card from Pickett Fences, wrapping paper from Village Heights, stationary from Landis Gifts and Stationery or a book from Chevalier’s were forced to shop online.
It was exhausting, she said. Working everyday since March, Pickett told us she was torn between struggling to stay open and facing the reality of a weak economy and a virus that is still surging. Just this week, we reported the state’s action to lift some restrictions, while at the same time urging everyone should stay home as much as possible. The vaccine rollout is slower than expected and new variants of the virus pose greater challenges as we to contain it.
In the end, the uncertainty was just too much for the Picketts, who posted this message on their social media accounts on Friday:
“Mr. & Mrs. Pickett have closed shop for the last time. We have loved you Larchmont for 27 years & will keep loving & wishing you well. It has been our great honor to be a part of your Christmas & Hanukkah celebrations, baby & bridal showers, birthday parties, Mothers’ & Fathers’ days, Valentines & more! Thank you for allowing us to celebrate so many happy times with your families. We made so many wonderful friends & have a lifetime of great memories. Thank you for all the support & love ❤️.”
It was not an easy decision, explained Pickett when we stopped by to visit the store one last time on their last day.
“The neighborhood really stepped up to support us,” said Pickett. “As soon as we could re-open, we tried everything, even selling from the front door!”
We remember that too! But ultimately, it takes a full economy to operate a store as large as Pickett Fence, explained Pickett. And the pedestrian traffic on Larchmont is now a fraction of what retailers need to operate normally. Even though they got through the holiday season with decent sales, Pickett just couldn’t see a way forward.
“COVID killed our business,” said Pickett. “Our entire local economy is really struggling. The supply chain is completely broken, no one could fulfill orders, we couldn’t plan because we didn’t know if we would be shut down again. And when employers like Paramount, with some 4,000 people don’t re-open, no one is passing by on their way to work downtown, etc. It’s really hard to replace that foot traffic on the street.”
Pickett spent much of the last 27 years working to improve business opportunities on Larchmont. When she and her husband Wiley Pickett opened their shop in 1994, Larchmont was a much quieter street.
A young couple with no children at the time, they put their heart and soul into the store. Joane curated the inventory, selecting LA-made clothing, often carrying brands before they made it big (Juicy Couture comes to mind), but which reflected the casual, chic vibe of the store where Wiley hand crafted nearly all the fixtures. (The dressing rooms were made by Wiley from wood he salvaged from neighbors who were forced to tear down a garage that was damaged in the Northridge earthquake a year earlier.)
Pickett Fences became a local institution over the years. That sentiment was captured in a recent social media post by Heather Boylston, friend and Co-Executive Director of the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District who wrote:
“It’s with a heavy heart that Larchmont Village says goodbye to Pickett Fences. In a Village that prides itself on our history, change is hard. Pickett Fences is where we all gathered to buy birthday gifts, holiday gifts, a new dress for a party, jeans when we finally lost that baby weight, or jeans when we gave up on losing that baby weight. It was where we told our kids to go if they needed an adult when we let them take those first walks alone to Larchmont. We felt better knowing that there was a part of our community in the Village. Pickett Fences always supported our school fundraisers, sports teams, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts. We know we must move on and accept change, but we will all treasure our memories of Pickett Fences and the community that it created.
Thanks for the memories! 😘
Maybe less well known is Pickett’s contribution to the Larchmont Business Association. As a young and enthusiastic business owner, Pickett quickly got involved in the Larchmont Business Association and set about enlivening the street to support the local businesses. She served on the LBA board since 1996, leading the group as president for many years.
Together with Councilmember Tom LaBonge, whose sudden passing came on the day Picket announced the closure of her store, she worked to improve access to the shops with handicapped ramps and decorative crosswalks (now paved over with asphalt), planted the medians, installed the stone river monuments, and – perhaps more importantly – a 35-foot height limit capping all the buildings at two stories in 2007. (The height limit was 45 feet or three stories, and local homeowners worried taller buildings could tower over the adjacent homes.) There’s little doubt that, without that restriction, new owners would very likely have increased the scale of the buildings on Larchmont to maximize their investments.
“Tom [LaBonge] loved Larchmont and he spent a great deal of time, first as a staff member for his predecessor John Ferraro and then as the councilmember. In addition to spending time on the street, he also invested money from his discretionary funds,” said Pickett.
But although she’s sad to be leaving the street, Pickett isn’t bitter.
“I am incredibly grateful for this life we have and being in this community,” said Pickett.
And, fortunately, we aren’t saying goodbye to the Picketts entirely. They live in Brookside and Joane told us she will still be active in the neighborhood as Larchmont plans to celebrate its centennial later this year.
About Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
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