Autumn in the North Cemetery.

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

Thursday, August 22, 2013

We Have Met The Enemy...

Yesterday, I received the following email from a reader.

Hi Wally
Hope you had a good summer and been reading your site.  Can I make a suggestion for you as everyone talks about this every day but nobody ever does anything on the net or in writing.
Lets have a posting and let everyone put 5 businesses, entertainment, social etc. that they would like to have here in Sturbridge but currently are traveling to other areas to get this.
For instance, if you want Sporting Goods I have to go to Dicks in Millbury or Northboro for my stuff.   You mentioned in your post a night club for adults.   Trader Joes is another one that I go regularly. 
My neighbor is always saying he has to travel 25 miles to Worcester or Harford area for a Jewish Deli.
Seems all people talk about is these trails but never put on paper the real things that could make Sturbridge a great place to work, live and play.
Just a suggestion, as I feel it most of the people would put a lot of good names to your site and make a list.
Time to show the people what we are missing here as our puzzle is very empty in this town.
Have a Great Day.

Steve C.

After I read the email, I wrote him back, and thanked him for his feedback.  I've written posts on this subject in the past, in fact, I've written about this subject a few times.  It is not so much putting Traders Joe's, and Dicks Sporting Goods on a wish list, it has to go way beyond that.  First a wish list, then a plan to entice a business, make it attractive for them to set up shop.  Allow them the dignity to advertise their business at the street, offer tax incentives, help them navigate the process painlessly, and above all, do not take a business wanting to come to town as an interloper, something to be strong armed.

Yes, I've written on this subject before, and although I may have struck a chord with those living outside of Town Hall, the numbers wanting change, and more business in town are small.

I've done what I can do from where I am.  The town has made Sturbridge so unattractive to business that we are no longer even on the short list of any major company.  We will attract small, start ups, but do not hold your breath for a Dicks, or Trader Joe's.

Taxes, rules, regulations, restrictions detour companies around us.  We have the best location in the commonwealth for business, and industry, yet we are nothing more than Central Massachusetts Version of Bugtussle.

I could go on about electing people with vision, and voting out those that we feel do not serve us well, but I've been down that road, and guess what?

Steve,  your ideas are good, much like my own, and like others in town, but after
years of writing in this space I have come to realize that the enemy isn't so much those behind the tables on meeting night at the town hall, but is complacency.  Our own complacency.  We will occasionally rise up from our complacent sleep, blurt out a need for change, then lie back down again.  I've seen it happen time, and time again over a multitude of issues ranging from trees, to sidewalks, to roofs, to doors without knobs, and everything in between.

Complacency will never grow a town, it is the enabler of the statusquo.  Sturbridge will only change, and become what we envision, when we change, and step out of our comfort zone for awhile in order to make it happen.

Frankly, I don't see that happening anytime soon.  There is no rider on horseback wearing a white hat galloping into our town, and the towns folk are too comfortable to raise their pitchforks in revolt.

Today, I hope everyone has an epiphany like Pogo did 42 years ago, only then can change truly begin.


  1. Hi Wally

    Thanks for your post and email. I am like a lot of people feel that Sturbridge could be the "Wellesley" of Central Massachusetts. We have so many opportunities for growth and to see the real estate values grow if they would wake up.

    But its time our Selectman, Town Administrator, Finance Committee say "Open For Business & Investment", instead of their typical words which are. "This wont fit the look of Sturbridge"...

    I speak a lot to the younger people in this town and all of them say the future is to leave this area. Look at Shrewsbury, Northboro, Westboro, these are towns that are similar in nature to ours. They are moving forward.

    Here is my 5 establishments that we could start with.

    1. Market Basket (I see more people in this store from Sturbridge that you can believe)
    2. Trader Joes
    3. Panera Bread
    4. Dicks Sporting Goods
    5. Kohls

    Another thing I have even told our Town Administrator was why cannot we get a Commuter Train Stop at 49 for Sturbridge. Instead we have to go to Worcester or Millbury to take it to the Boston Area. Be nice we can do like other communities take a train relax and get there without fighting the traffic on the pike.

    This also would help get the Boston Crowd to visit us here in Sturbrige too. Would open up our world to others. Palmer has already hit the state for a stop there, why cannot we do it, there is tracks down there and space for the landing where they pick up the new cars for shipping.

  2. I don't need any of that, I have a thing called amazon

  3. I'll play:
    Trader Joe's
    Christmas Tree
    Moe's Southwestern Grill
    Wawa (you've never seen a convenience store until you've seen a Wawa)

  4. Amazon Would Not Happen in SturbridgeThursday, August 22, 2013

    Anonymous your lucky Amazon did not come to our town to set up operations. You would not be able to brag you use them...

  5. For people that actually leave their house, a store is an attractive "thing".

  6. I would like to see a Cabelas, or Bass Pro shops in town. I know they are already fairly close by though. Cabelas is opening another in Berlin next year. I have a feeling they probably took a look at Sturbridge as they always set up shop near a major highway.

    How about an outdoor amphitheater. We have a perfect location for such a venue. Hartford, Boston, Providence, Worcester, Springfield are all within a reasonable driving distance for a good concert. I know the BSO plays in tanglewood, thats a hell of a drive, wouldn't we be a better place for it? Rooms would be full at all the motels, restaurants would be packed...

    Imagine if we had a commuter rail dropping people off there? Wow, i could see that being a real hit.

  7. Not an Amazon hermitFriday, August 23, 2013

    Anonymous has a "thing" called Amazon. Big Whoop! Anonymous only thinks about Anonymous, and doesn't seem to get out much with real, flesh and blood people - You know, like older folks who don't care to even have a computer, and other folks who appreciate being out in the stores with other people, and seeing products before they buy them. Anonymous is probably happier out with the bears and raccoons, but we are a diverse people. Some of us like humans, too. Amazon is a good "thing," but stores are necessary and good "things," too. Trees are good "things," but when you go to The Center at Hobb's brook, and as you head down toward WalMart and find a tree planted in front of almost ever stop sign at the exits on the right side, even pretty trees become a nuisance.

  8. The "Wal-Mart" Plaza could not keep an Old Navy or Gap so what makes you think any of those other stores would do well? Sturbridge is Sturbridge not Wellesley Shrewsbury, Northboro, or Westboro.Improvement is good but the economic development committee never did anything. Sturbridge needs to work with what is has to improve. Everyone screamed for a movie theater we have one and not much has changed the tourists are not staying another night to see a movie like what was claimed. Which was a ridiculous claim to begin with. The movie theater was a good thing but growth will not come from one thing.

  9. If Sturbridge changes the way they welcome business and investment then companies will do well. Our problem is we need to extend hours and other avenues. Old Navy, Gap and at Hobbs was battling short hours. It was only recently the Selectman gave them a green light to stay open later on Saturday. You remember Wal Mart was closed at 8:00 not too long ago. Customers like to shop after work, not take a day off to shop, that is why your small shops never do the business they all shut down after dusk.

    How about these to come here.

    Buffalo Wild Wings, we have no sports place. Sonic, Johnny Rockets, Target, BJ's...

    If you bring the mix of good stores people will shop them and they will do well. Even Hobbs needs to be expanded if this is going to have a impact. People in this town need to travel and see the real world.

  10. My contributions as a Sturbridge resident are as follows:

    Wegman's (excellent supermarket chain)
    Legal Seafoods (seafood restaurant)
    Faneuil Hall Marketplace (perfect old bldgs for conversion)
    Bobby Flay's Burger Palace or Johnny Rockets (need a good burger joint)
    Artist Colony/Art Gallery (perfect for empty buildings at OSV)

    I could go on and on, but that's my list of 5.

  11. Longer hours for shops is a start. Big companies don't have the patinece for small town rules and regs when they can do very well 2 miles east. Large stores, like Wegmans would be awesome, but these companies already know what theya re up against her in town, hence, they avoid us. Old Sturbridge Village no longer has "empty building since the lodges have been reefurbished, restored, and reopened this past spring.

    I see 2 options to inspire, and acquire change: (it's the old how do you eat an elephant mentality, here's the first little bite)

    1) Decide on a business/venue that will fit the area, and will attract numbers from all directions. Something that won't burden the road, or the current infrastructure, but may enhance it in order to work. Build it in in an area not used for anything now, such as old Route 15 area, and aggressively market it to big name developers with the idea that their developement is going to be the sparkle to attract more to the area. As a result of them coming to town, we will be gratious with our tax incentives, less restrictive with our archaic rules and regulations (no closing by 9 PM shops), then in torn will assist with infrastructure. The tradeoff should be equally beneficial.

    Swallow, then, take another bite:

    2) Use this success to attract another developement to the area...

  12. There are no rules about stores staying open if they close at 8:00 it is by their own choice. Also there is no land available on Rte. 15 for development. And what happened to the indoor soccer facility and disc golf that was going in on Galonicks land on 15?

  13. Land is always available for a price. Developers that are serious about success, and have deep pockets are the kind needed.

  14. An outlet venue such a Wrentham Outlets would be a big hit for people travelling in and out of the state, maybe along route 15...

  15. Sturbridge Village Outlet

    Coach, Nike Outlet, Ralph Lauren, Guess, Saks Outlet.

    If the Town would advertise in the Business Journals and Welcome these investors they will come and build.

  16. 'Problem is that several of our appointed board and committee members get heat rash when anyone mentions any business that can be thought of as a big box store, a business run by a corporation, or even "rectangular." The same people who fought the loudest against WalMart are in the Town Hall now and are still fighting. "SOS" dropped their name but they are still here trying to put heavy handed restrictions on every inch of land, and to plant a tree to block every business sign, and traffic sign. One planning board member even said that a CVS pharmacy in Fiskdale would prevent river cooling. They might try to cool a BROOK for trout down by OSV by removing a dam, but cooling the whole river up in Fiskdale - I don't think so.

  17. The Economic Development Committee has been on hold for nearly a year thanks to the BOS. Perhaps the reason the committee is on hold is because some members of the BOS don't like people speaking truth to power.

    Economic development is more than bringing in stores and tourists. It is a comprehensive plan that will improve the lifestyle of the residents. That means good jobs, services, transportation, reasonable cost of living, etc. It is a long-term plan that contributes to the economic growth of the community as a whole.

    Some people can't seem to get their heads around the concept of economic development. It is not a store here and a store there.

  18. Economic Development is inviting people to invest in your town. Marketing this Town just like the other communities are doing. Malloy in Westboro, is a good example.

    Our BOS & Gang should use the media to market investment. We instead use it for pointing fingers at people...

  19. I wouldn't mind getting a cvs in but I sure as hell don't need to see an outlet mall here. Go to AUburn if you want to live in a mall infested dump.

  20. I would hope that the TA and who ever else is pursuing some sort of higher education institution. I would imagine that there is a college or 10 in the state that is considering a satellite campus somewhere, wouldn't we be a perfect place for it. Good paying jobs, not minimum wage retail jobs.

  21. The recently-closed Monson Sate Hospital would make an ideal campus. Sturbridge? It's all over - SOS has made it just about impossible for any business (large or small) to ever locate here!

  22. Shaun is out looking for a new job. You seen he came in second for the Leicester Job. So he is short lived here till he finds a new home.

    Whats wrong with Auburn Mall, looks a lot better than our historical section across the street from the Town Hall that is turning rentals and a eye sore...

  23. In response to the individual that does not want to see an outlet mall here in Sturbridge, I guess this individual does not mind traveling miles and time to do there shopping.

    So much for our motto of live here, shop here. Where do we go to find the latest trends or do you feel the baggy farmer jeans and white sneakers are this year's fashion statement? I'm sure that Rovezzi's, Cedar Street and Avellino close their eyes every time a Sturbridge person enters their restaurant. But what do I know. Look at the condition of our Main Street so-called route 20 and historical section of town. All it needs is a bulldozer to knock it down and start from scratch.

  24. Why are they so set on doing something at the main intersections, most likely installing roundabouts, at the "gateways" of town? What good will that do for the citizens of Sturbridge?

    When and if the time comes that the townspeople can afford it, and want to do something that costs money, how about making the library handicap accessible? Wouldn't handicap parking spaces by the back door of the library, down by the common, allow handicapped individuals to get inside and onto the elevator to get to the first floor?

    The library walk is very long for physically challenged patrons.

  25. The same person who is against the pure thought of having an outdoor outlet shopping plaza is probably shopping at the Hobbs Plaza all the time..
    Sturbridge is not Auburn so we do not have to fear becoming Auburn. There is nothing wrong with growing, seizing the opportunity and remembering the past while doing so. There is room for history and present to coincide peacefully in this town, if the fearful residents will embrace the future.

  26. Our BOS and TA have to Market Sturbridge and hit the road to meet with business people from other parts of the country who have the cash and desire to invest. We can have a blend of the Old and New as nobody is asking to get rid of OSV, Publick House or any of our landmarks. All we like to see is future with 15 bringing in what we need to live.

    Do you think the new generation really know Sturbridge, the answer is NO. As they have no idea who or where we are. Nor we are a vacation or tourist attraction that fills up our hotels here.

    Yes the Older Generation who came here are retired and in Florida enjoying their golden years and will visit us now and then. But we need to market the future and that population does not even know we exist here. And any of these big land holders thinking somebody is going to come here and offer big money for their property is dreaming. After reading how we treat CVS and expecting them to build the Wall of Sturbridge will no way to Sturbridge.

    We need these investors, and have to invite them and they only way is to have our BOS and TA start to be receptive to change and get out there and market our Sturbridge. We can still have a blend of old and new. Look at the Towns like Northboro, Grafton, Shrewsbury they still have a blend of old and new. Why cannot we have it.

    If this is the case our Selectman should throw away their Smart Phones and use Pen and Paper like the old days because that is what they keep going back to in our vision..

    Lets wake up before its too late, the past is the past now lets get the present and future looking good.


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