Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?
These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.
Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...
...seems to be working so far
Monday, August 18, 2008
This morning I'm going to do some venting.
Mary came home the other day and told me there was a "For Sale Business and property" sign in front of Yankee Pedlar. Well, at least its not closing for good is all I could think when she told me. The Yankee Pedlar is a great place to get all those things that you just can't find all together in other places. Lots of primitive decor, lampshades, signs, furniture, candles, little things like bobble head dogs, and things I have no idea what they are, but must have a name. The store is jammed, and I mean jammed packed with inventory. This is a tourist/shoppers paradise. Anytime I needed a kliebish or a flendagle for a visiting relative, or a gift to bring to my sister in South Carolina, I'd stop here and choose something appropriate. Always had just the right thing, even if it took me an hour to rummage the floors and shelves. Every town needs a place like this, especially a tourist town like ours.
After Mary told me about the signs, I wondered why it was for sale. Owners retiring, or it is just time to move on? Or worse, is it because business has fallen off too much in recent times? I don't know, but it would be a shame to see the store gone forever.
The next day, after I was told about the Yankee Pedlar, I was driving Route 20 east, and there beside the Mobil station at the junction of 20 and 131 was a sign: "Linens 'n Things Closing--this Store Only--SALE".
This one I can figure out all by myself. Corporate is not thrilled with the numbers coming out of the Sturbridge store. Low performance compared to other stores in the chain. They probably gave it some time to correct itself, but was finally given the ax, but the main reason the store is closing is that Linens 'N things is bankrupt. The head office blames the "current economic downturn". Too bad, I like this store. I have dropped a lot of coin at this place, and would continue to do so, but unfortunately, there are not enough of me to save the company.
So, are the changes mentioned above a reflection of the town?
They are what they are, and this time Sturbridge had nothing to do with the changes that will be coming.
Now, here's the "venting" part: What if the Yankee Pedlar can't sell the building and business? What then? What if they can sell the building, but the new owner wants to make condo/loft apartments are we worse off as a town, or better off? And, who is to replace the hole in the mall when Linens "N Things hits the road? Let us all pause and say a prayer right now that a Family Dollar Store doesn't want in. (shudder).
Think about it. What other uses would you be comfortable with for these two businesses? We have a few empty buildings in town now that were once thriving businesses, but nothing has filled their walls since they vacated. Can we afford to have more empty space in town? Can our town that is focusing on growth, from all angles, present it self as a positive site to attract future business if there are empty buildings all over town?
We certainly don't need more restaurants in town. The ones we have now are fantastic, but the last thing we need is another pizza joint in town. How many different ways can you make the pie anyway, and I don't think there is a town ordered by-law indicating so many pizza parlors per capita. We have enough.
What about a Trader Joe's, or Whole Foods food store where Basketville used to be? Different foods, and healthy (pardon the pun) competition for Shaws and Super Stop & Shop.
The little building that used to be the bakery beside Basketville could become something great if one used their head. Since we already have a great Tourist Information Center in town, what about a one stop info center for sportsmen/women? A place to get all the licenses you would need during the year for hunting, and fishing. It could offer trail maps, and brochures of the public land, and waterways in the area. Maybe it could have kayaks and canoes for rent outside, and offer outdoor type merchandise as well.
Just a thought.
All the negative changes that have occurred here in town over the last several years can be taken advantage of, and something even grander made of them. It's what some call opportunity, and when it comes a-knockin' don't think its a woodpecker on the roof and shoo it away, it's then time to think, and thinking out loud to those that are smarter than we are is one way to light the fuse of positive change.
Consider the fuse lit.