Community members gathered Saturday afternoon to celebrate and bid farewell to Amy Shih, long-time owner of the iconic Auburndale gift shop Just Next Door, following her decision to close the business’s doors.
“We’ve always celebrated all of these events and milestones by going just next door to Just Next Door,” Lauren Berman, founder of ALL Over Newton, said in a speech to the crowd.
Berman helped host the celebration at the Auburndale Community Library. A resident of Auburndale for 25 years, Berman was a regular customer of Just Next Door.
An ideal place to shop to commemorate special occasions with loved ones, Just Next Door saddened the community when it announced its plans to close, according to Berman.
“When my kids were going away to camp, I would get things there,” Berman said. “When they went to high school, college. And we have all these different milestones that we associated with Just Next Door. So I think that just created this emotional response … and we just love the connection that [Amy] created.”
Berman emphasized how shocked the community was by Just Next Door’s closing.
“Amy announced it on a Saturday morning that it was closing, and by two hours later, the store was packed, maybe 100 people in it, all looped around because no one could really believe it,” Berman said.
Many people in the community feel saddened to see Shih leave behind her Auburndale store, which she has owned since 2005.
“I’m really going to miss her,” Sharon Ware, an Auburndale resident, said.
Ware said she always went gift shopping at Just Next Door, and emphasized how helpful Shih was whenever she went.
“I’m devastated,” Ware said. “I knew I could always get a card, I could get a gift. If you went in there and you said to her, ‘I don’t know what to get them’ … she would find something.”
While there are similar stores in Newton, many residents said they felt nothing could replace Just Next Door and Shih’s hospitality.
“Just Next Door was one of those businesses that ties us all together,” Auburndale resident Tom Gagen said. “Most businesses do not. Just Next Door does.”
Just Next Door carried a wide variety of goods to meet the community’s needs and practiced inclusivity by keeping its pricing affordable.
“One of the things that I loved about your shop is that everyone is welcomed there,” Berman said to Shih. “And it’s not just because you were welcoming and kind and generous and helpful, as well as your staff, but you’re so conscientious about bringing in merchandise that appealed to everyone and then also that everyone could afford.”
Shih said she was overwhelmed and humbled by the community’s support, and that she’ll miss her interactions with customers at the store the most. Following the store’s closure, she said she plans to take things easy for a while.
“I plan to have no plans for a good number of months here, just chill out, and then I’ll start to figure that out, keeping all of the options open,” Shih said.
Shih read aloud a letter from Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, who expressed exceptional gratitude for Shih’s presence in the community.
“Amy Shih has contributed to the Newton community in so many magnificent ways as the proprietor of Just Next Door since 2005 … Amy recognized the important role small businesses play in the fabric of the community and always gave her time and resources to make Newton a better place,” the letter read. “It is difficult to imagine Auburndale without Just Next Door and Amy behind the counter.”
Berman further emphasized how much the community will mourn the loss of such a beloved business.
“We’re going to miss you a lot, and we’re going to miss Just Next Door because you’ve created this small business that everyone wants to have in their neighborhood,” Berman said.