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Episode 136: November 14, 2022

George Interviews Donald Sanders, executive artistic director of MIFA Victory Theatre

“Is Victory at hand?’ That’s the question Donald Sanders, executive artistic director of MIFA Victory Theatre attempts to answer on the next installment of BusinessTalk. The downtown Holyoke landmark has been dark for more than 40 years, but Sanders explains that the requisite momentum — and funding — exists to turn the lights back on soon. It’s all must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local 413 and sponsored by PeoplesBank.


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The Pieces Are Finally Falling into Place for Holyoke?s Victory Theatre
Setting the Stage

Donald Sanders is convinced that the Victory Theatre will not languish in faded glory, but will be relevant again.

The Victory Theatre has long been a valued part of Holyoke’s past, hosting everything from celebrated singers to Oscar-winning films to high school graduations. Making it a real part of the city’s future has been a 30-year challenge met only with frustration. But a new group, the Mass. International Festival of the Arts, a Holyoke-based performing-arts organizer, has secured ownership and believes it has the friends — and the funds — to finally turn the lights back on.

These days, with red plywood covering all window openings, it might not look like much. But at the Victory Theatre at the corner of Suffolk and Chestnut streets in Holyoke, the magic always came from what is within.

“No expense was spared in materials,” said Donald Sanders. “Staircases are Vermont marble, paneling is rare Brazilian mahogany, windows were made by Tiffany. The exciting thing is that, as we’ve gone through the building, going through the layers accrued over the years, we’ve discovered the original silk wall covering, most likely made by the Skinner family. It is basically intact, stretched on frames over felt and cloth, just the way it was done at Versailles.”

Sanders is the executive artistic director of the 16-year old Mass. International Festival of the Arts (MIFA), a Holyoke-based performing-arts organizer with a history of bringing world-class acts to the Pioneer Valley. Past features include Mikhail Baryshnikov, the National Ballet of Cuba, and players from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, among many others.

Talking with BusinessWest recently, Sanders proudly described the chronology of the Victory Theatre, happy to add the latest chapter in a saga that has spanned close to a century. As of last December, MIFA is the newest owner of the former jewel in the crown of the region’s theaters.

Other attempts have been made to revitalize the structure since the house lights dimmed for the last time in 1979, from homegrown initiatives to a venture funded by the Armand Hammer exhibition of paintings in the city’s Heritage State Park in 1987. None have succeeded in opening the doors.

But Sanders said that important work was set in motion by each one of these steps along the way, and that the theater will not languish in faded glory and the forgotten memories of the city. With ownership now secure, and more than half of funding for a bill totaling $27 million underway, the Victory plans to open its doors to a theater-going public 92 years after the first opening night, on Dec. 30, 2012.

BusinessWest talked recently with Sanders and MIFA’s managing director, Kathy McKean, both basking in the knowledge that, as the banner outside the building proclaims, “Victory is ours!”

Curtain Call

To say that Nathan and Samuel Goldstein built theaters is an understatement. The Goldstein Brothers Amusement Co. was the leading theater impresario of its day in the first decades of the 20th century.

Based in both Springfield and Holyoke, the brothers are responsible for some of the area’s most-cherished venues: the Calvin in Northampton, the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, and a string of long-gone palaces of performing arts in Springfield, Westfield, Ware, and elsewhere. The Holyoke Transcript Telegram of February 1926 valued their business at close to $3.5 million, a staggering sum for the time.

When the business and civic leaders of Holyoke, among them the Parson and Skinner families, decided that Holyoke needed a world-class theater, it was the Goldstein brothers who got the call. What they built in the Victory Theatre was nothing short of their finest achievement. Preeminent theater architects Mowll & Rand from Boston designed the structure, and on opening night on Dec. 30, 1920, Eva Tanguay, a singer Sanders describes as the Madonna of her day, performed. In its heyday, everyone who was anyone took the stage at the Victory.

Sanders said that the legacy of the Goldstein brothers’ building continues to impress. “The quality of the workmanship, down to the bricklaying … all the engineers comment on it,” he said. “It’s also one of the first uses of steel beams to create a fan-shaped auditorium. No obstructions whatsoever, and the beams support the dress circle, what people call the lower balcony. It’s an amazing building.”

Designed at first to be, in Sanders’ words, a “Broadway-style” theater, the Victory was, over the years, slowly turned into a movie house, to reflect changing tastes in entertainment. But for Sanders, he knew the moment he first saw the inside that this was no ordinary hall.

“It isn’t a provincial theater house,” he explained. “The volume of the space is magnificent. For those of us in live performance, you know it the moment you walk in. The focus is entirely on the stage. I was totally flabbergasted that it was in there. Going by there, from the outside, you don’t have the sense of what is in that footprint.”

A 1942 fire damaged the interior of the Victory, which was redecorated to reflect the times. Sadly, very little photographic record exists of the interior prior to the redesign, and both Sanders and McKean said that a current appeal is for anyone with images in their family’s possessions to step forward.

The Show Must Go On

The Victory’s history went on to mirror its home city, and declining fortunes led ultimately to the theater’s closing its doors for the last time in 1979. Unlike the numerous other theaters in this once-elegant city, the Victory was spared the wrecking ball, and for many residents the allure of the building continues to be a powerful force that can’t quite be identified.

Local writers have waxed nostalgic about the Victory, linking it to the city of their childhood memories, halcyon days involving many other ghosts of downtown Holyoke past. McKean said that every time she goes over to the structure, once the door opens, people stop and say, ‘I remember when.’

“Every single time,” she said.

Almost immediately upon its closing, local grassroots efforts went into action to keep the Victory from suffering the same inglorious fate of its contemporaries. The Victory Theatre Commission began raising money in 1980, and it received money from the Armand Hammer exhibition, which went into the important first steps of architectural evaluation.

Those initial funds removed asbestos and shored up the failing roof, but the final price tag, $8 million, was just too much for the group. McKean said that it was important to put that bill into perspective.

“It was at a time when downtown, and the idea of downtown, was not high on the priority list,” she explained. “There were so many other issues facing the city that a theater, and what to do with it, wasn’t going to get the attention, especially with such a price tag.”

MIFA’s involvement with the theater is a story of chance occurrences that ultimately bring about the brightest lights in the Victory chronology. Sanders first became acquainted with the theater in the early 1990s, when a small performance was staged in the lobby.

After hosting the Cuban ballet at the Academy of Music, he realized that a larger venue would be necessary to garner the type of talent MIFA vies for. The Northampton venue seats 800, while the Victory can seat 1,600. He contacted the ‘Save the Victory’ organization, but the word was that it had gone as far as it could.

At that time, MIFA’s long-term strategic planning called for a permanent home in the Pioneer Valley. Sanders remembers thinking that the Victory, with its awe-inspiring possibilities, was too great to ignore. In 2003, the decision was made to make the landmark that home.

MIFA partnered with Nessen Associates out of Boston and Architectural Heritage Foundation, two firms with a successful history of historic restoration. Nessen has completed theater renovation projects in Worcester, at the Hanover, and at the Boston Conservatory of Music. Meanwhile, AHF is a pioneer in urban redevelopment, responsible for the landmark Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market revitalization.

After years of leasing the structure to MIFA, the Holyoke City Council finally agreed this past September to sell the structure to the organization for $1,500. On that day, Sanders wrote on the MIFA blog, “let the fun begin!”

The fun, as in fund-raising, will be a daunting task, but not insurmountable. Nearly 60% of the $27 million price tag will come from Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp. funds, similar to multi-million-dollar theater projects in Pittsfield and Worcester.

McKean noted that the project in Worcester is a bellwether for the Victory. “It’s interesting in that the Hanover Theater has become very successful, and business around it has increased. Not only is the theater doing well, but they’re seeing an increase in restaurants, and foot traffic, that they didn’t see.

“The Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp. did a study, which told them that the number-one stimulant for downtown rejuvenation was theaters and performing-arts centers,” she continued. “This was not an organization naturally drawn to the arts, but it did put an emphasis on their importance.”

At this stage, just under $11 million needs to be raised to ensure the opening night of Dec. 30, 2012. Sanders and McKean both agree that the Victory is finally in the forward motion of renewal. “We have everything in place, and we know what it’s going to cost,” Sanders said. Fund-raising, and ‘friend-raising,’ is the next stage. He expects that the former will come about like other projects have, with the usual mix of corporate and individual donors. Friend-raising, however, might be unique to the theater so ingrained into Holyoke’s civic identity.

“If everyone who loves the theater made a contribution from $10 on up, and the community who really wants this becomes involved, it would be great,” he said. “Holyoke doesn’t have a lot of corporations, and the Skinners and Parsons are gone.”

McKean said that the biggest challenge she faces isn’t fund-raising, but rather making sure that the city understands what the Victory will mean as a city resource. “We’re not going to drop something down into the city and then expect it to be a part of the community,” she explained. “People remember Saturday-afternoon movies, Holyoke High graduations. We want that too.”

Sanders said that, when he heard about the Nessen brothers’ interest in Holyoke, he knew that the project was finally possible, and that it heralds a success not only for the theater, but also for the city itself. When the doors to the theater opened for the first time to the public in September 2008, Sanders said he expected 10 or 15 people to show up. “It was a rainy and cold morning. I didn’t know what to expect. There were people coming in steadily all day.

“There’s been so much hope and disappointment in the past,” he continued, pausing to reflect upon the Victory’s future. “People want that theater back. They don’t necessarily know why, but it is a powerful entity. We finally have the expertise to make it happen. For me, personally, that is wonderful.”

Cover Story

The Next Stage

Donald Sanders, executive artistic director of MIFA Victory Theatre

Donald Sanders, executive artistic director of MIFA Victory Theatre

When asked how many tours he’s given of the Victory Theatre in Holyoke, the landmark that went dark in 1979, Donald Sanders gave a hearty laugh — something he does often — and just shook his head. That was his way of saying ‘more than I could count.’

Those tours have been given to elected officials, economic-development leaders, city department heads, arts groups, members of the media … you name it. They’ve all been in for a look at this piece of history that a city, and a region, have been desperate to renovate and make a part of the future, not merely the past.

And while the tours given today are essentially the same as those given years or even decades ago — they go everywhere from the front lobby to the mezzanine to the stage area — there is a new sense of urgency, optimism, and, yes, momentum — with these visits, said Sanders, executive artistic director of MIFA Victory Theatre, which has been at the forefront of efforts to restore the theater for the past 20 years.

Indeed, over the past several months, there has been a new tone to the discussions about restoring the 1,600-seat facility back to a Broadway-style theater. Specifically, there is a growing sense, after more than 40 years of talk, that this project is real.

“It’s more than just arts and culture; it’s really about impact to community and the secondary impact it offers.”

“I’ve always been optimistic that this could happen, but now, there is greater reason for optimism,” said Sanders, noting that MIFA (the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts) acquired the Victory Theatre from the city in 2009 and has been committed to its revival since because it region’s best option for bringing large Broadway shows back to the Pioneer Valley. “There is a greater sense of momentum now than perhaps ever before.”

Several factors have contributed to this momentum — everything from a visit to the theater by gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey back in late June to a recent bus trip to Schenectady, N.Y. to take in the restoration of the Proctors arts complex, a project that is similar in many ways to the Victory initiative, to progress with the closing of a persistent funding gap thanks to federal ARPA money.

renovated Victory Theatre.

An architect’s rendering of a renovated Victory Theatre.

Some of that money has been aside for “transformative projects” in communities, said Sanders, adding that he and others have long been making the case that a restored Victory Theatre hosting Broadway shows and other large events can and will have a transformative effect on the local economy.

But there are other factors as well, said Susan Palmer, a principal with the Palmer Westport Group, which focuses on strengthening and developing fundraising and leadership capacity of theaters across the country.

She has consulted on a number of projects aimed at bringing formerly dark theaters back to useful life, and she credits the leadership in Holyoke, and especially Joshua Garcia, the city’s first Puerto Rican mayor, with injecting some needed energy and confidence in the Victory Theatre project.

“He has been fearless; he has been relentless,” said Palmer, who was a theater producer at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield and also worked at Jacob’s Pillow, the Colonial Theater, and the Berkshire Theatre Festival before launching her consulting firm in 2005. “He has a three-legged stool of priorities for the city; he wants to increase and improve the housing stock, he wants to improve educational outcomes, and he wants Holyoke to be the center of economic revitalization in that area, and he feels putting the Victory Theatre back in service is a key to that.”

Garcia, who has put together a strike force (led by his wife, Stephanie) to keep the focus on the project and raise funds within the community for the efforts, said the theater project is, indeed, a key element in efforts to revitalize the city and its downtown and bring new businesses and vibrancy to the community.

The theater has been closed since before he was born, but its importance to the city, from a cultural, economic-development, and pride standpoint, is certainly not lost on him, and he believes the remaining hurdles to restoration of the Victory can be cleared.

“This project is in the ninth inning, as I like to say, and we have a short window to close the funding gap,” Garcia said. “The gap is $15 million to $20 million, but a very clear and doable path has been identified.”

He said the trip to Schenectady, during which participants got to take in a performance of Aladdin, showed not only what can be done to restore a landmark, but what doing so means for the community.

children watch a movie at the Victory Theatre in the ’70s

At top, children watch a movie at the Victory Theatre in the ’70s. Above, a view of Suffolk Street and the theater from 1955.

“It was such an eye-opening experience to know what Schenectady has been able to accomplish with their community,” he said. “It’s more than just arts and culture; it’s really about impact to community and the secondary impact it offers; their story felt very similar to ours.”

For this issue, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the Victory Theatre project and at how those involved believe that now, more than 40 years after the last movie was shown there, there is sufficient funding, and momentum, to get this initiative over the goal line.


Marquee Moments

Palmer told BusinessWest that she has been involved with several theater-restoration projects, including the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, a project credited with helping to revitalize a city that had been devastated by the loss of its largest employer, General Electric.

While all of these initiatives differed in some ways, there was a common denominator: time.

Indeed, almost all of these projects took several decades to complete, she said, adding this is an element that is often overlooked in some communities undertaking such initiatives, including Holyoke.

“They all take a long time,” she said. “But the people who are working in these individual communities are only working on their project; they don’t realize that they’re in a pool of companions who have experienced the same thing.

“I worked on one in Ohio, the Woodward Opera House, that took 33 years. So there are two generations of people who have been involved with that. I was brought in in the last three years, and I would talk to people who would say, ‘my parents were working on this back when I was in grade school.’”

“I worked on one in Ohio, the Woodward Opera House, that took 33 years,” she went on. “So there are two generations of people who have been involved with that. I was brought in in the last three years, and I would talk to people who would say, ‘my parents were working on this back when I was in grade school.’”

There are at least two generations of Holyoke residents who have been hearing about, and been part of, efforts to restore the Victory Theatre.

Time has mostly stood still for the landmark since its last showing of the Clint Eastwood comedy Every Way Which Way but Loose in 1979. As one enters the theater, there are some remnants from that final showing, including a few old popcorn tubs, still to be seen.

Movie showings were the last chapter for the Victory, which was commissioned by leading industrialists in the city, including silk-factory owner William Skinner, in 1918, said Sanders, adding that it was intended to be the largest, grandest theater in a thriving city that already boasted many of them.

Turning back the clock a century or so, Sanders said Holyoke had several theaters in its downtown area, as well as a 3,000-seat opera house that stood where a parking garage now exists across from City Hall. The theaters included the Strand, the Majestic, the Suffolk, and the Bijou.

The site selected for the Victory Theatre, a name chosen to commemorate the Allies’ victory in World War I, was adjacent to the Holyoke House, then the finest hotel in the city, said Sanders, adding that this was a pattern followed by many cities at that time.

The Victory Theatre closed in 1979

The Victory Theatre closed in 1979 and hasn’t seen much light since then.

The Victory was what’s known as a ‘legitimate house,’ said Sanders, meaning that it had the finest of accommodations and was the therefore the preferred theater of choice for many performers of that era.

“That terminology means it hosted the highest level of shows and was a theater that was the best-equipped, had the best dressing rooms, etc., etc.,” he said, adding that Holyoke didn’t have a ‘legit house,’ and its leaders were determined to build one.

Fast-forwarding through the history of the Victory, Sanders said its fortunes mirrored those of the city. As the paper and textile mills that enabled Holyoke to boast one of the highest per-capita income rates in the country a century ago began to move south and then eventually offshore, the theater and the area around it started to decline, and the Victory eventually became a movie house.

As the trend in movie theaters shifted to smaller facilities in large complexes with multiple screens, its fortunes faded further until it ultimately closed. After it was taken for non-payment of taxes in the early ’80s, there were various efforts to restore the landmark, said Sanders, adding that, in all cases, the money needed — $9 million maybe 30 years ago and then progressively higher figures as the scope of the work increased — could not be raised.

In 2005, an item came before the Holyoke City Council to raze the Victory Theatre, he said, adding that he lobbied that group to stay the execution, arguing that such a vital landmark — and potential economic-development engine — should not be lost to the past.

The council listened, he said, and the Victory lived to fight another day.

To the casual observer, meaning those who haven’t been in for a tour, the facility seems frozen in time and unchanged. But that’s not the case, said Sanders, noting that a number if improvements have been undertaken over the years to ready the theater for restoration.

Steps have included asbestos removal, installing a new roof, converting the gas utility to electric (a project still underway), restoration of historic murals located near the stage, replacing non-compliant window coverings with new polycarbonate clear coverings, and other initiatives that together total nearly $5 million.

Overall, the structure is very sound, noted Sanders, adding that no expense was spared in building it.


Victory Is in Sight

To bring a project like the Victory Theatre to a successful result, a number of elements have to come together, Palmer said. These include leadership, a commitment from the community, funding, of course, and sometimes a little luck.

In the case of the Victory, the luck, if one chooses to call it that, comes in the form of ARPA money in the wake of the pandemic, funds that are expected to close most, but not all, of a $5 million to $6 million gap between the $58 million needed for the project and what has been raised through various means, including historic tax credits and new market tax credits; private, individual, corporate, and foundation donations; and public grants.

“ARPA money is what helped this project turn the corner,” Palmer explained, adding that the federal government has released $350 billion in funds to individual cities and states, and those working on the Victory Theatre project are currently working with several lobbyists to position this initiative for a $12 million ARPA allocation.

“It hasn’t happened yet … it’s coming in dribs and drabs, pieces here, pieces there,” she said, adding that the ARPA funds will constitute roughly half of what still needs to be raised for the project.

The rest will be raised locally, she said, adding that $7.5 million has been pledged, and there are plans for a community effort with a goal of raising $2 million.

Local fundraising will include mostly smaller donations, Palmer said, but that grassroots effort, which will involve phone calls, knocking on doors, letter-writing campaigns, and fundraisers and friendraisers of all kinds, will bring area residents and businesses into the fight to restore the theater, and it will send a strong message to elected leaders about the importance of the initiative — to the city and region as a whole.

Mayor Garcia agreed, and noted again the importance of the project, not just from the standpoint of the arts, as significant as that is, but to the proverbial big picture in Holyoke and the region.

“The Victory Theatre checks off a lot of boxes,” he said. “When we think of what we’re trying to do in our city, in our downtown, in terms of tourism and economic development, this is just another piece of the greater economic system puzzle that we’re trying to solve here.”

Elaborating, he said the theater cannot exist in a vacuum, and there must be an infrastructure of supporting businesses — restaurants, bars, and other hospitality-related ventures — to make a revitalized Victory Theatre succeed.

Palmer concurred, and to explain, she did some math.

“When the theater opens, it’s going to be substantial — there are 1,600 seats in there,” she said. “The average occupancy, or utilization, rate of any nonprofit regional theater on any given night is 65%, so there will be 1,100 people bopping around that neighborhood several times a week. Right now, there aren’t many things to do, and certainly not enough to accommodate 1,100 people.

“So, there’s a parallel effort we’re working on to make sure, when the theater opens its doors, that the ancillary economic benefit will be ready to go,” she went on, adding that city officials and the strike force are working to help make sure that there is an infrastructure in place to support the theater.

Meanwhile, work continues to build on the current momentum and convince the public that there is a path to getting this done, said Aaron Vega, Holyoke’s Planning director, adding that more than 40 years of waiting for action on the property has created some stubborn skepticism that still must be overcome.

“It does take a long time for these projects to happen, and there has been work done,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s not visible from the outside; people drive by and say, ‘it looks the same as it did 10 years ago or 20 years ago.’ Overall, we need to reinstill some energy and some trust that this project is real.”

The bus trip to Schenectady and the Proctors arts complex was part of this larger effort, said Vega, noting that Schenectady and Holyoke are very similar in that they were both devastated by the loss of large employers (in the former’s case, it was General Electric). And their respective restoration projects are similar as well in that they involved long periods of time and a deep commitment from the community.

“One of the reasons we took that trip is to have people be able to come back and tell the story of what a theater like this could do for Holyoke, obviously, but also the entire region,” he said, adding that these discussions are now being had, generating what he and others expect will be more momentum.

And momentum not just for theater, he said, but what can come because of such a facility.

“I’m hoping that people can see the spinoff,” he explained. “The new restaurants, the buildings that were unoccupied being reoccupied — that’s the thing we want to see, the spinoff and the ripple effect; that’s what is going to affect everyone, not just those who will go to the theater.”


Bottom Line

Returning to the subject of those tours he has given — and will continue to give — Sanders said they do more then enlighten. They also educate and inspire those who take them.

In most all ways, they are better than a marketing brochure, better than talking to someone about the history and importance of this landmark.

“It’s our biggest selling point; it’s much better than me saying, ‘we have the last Broadway house in the region,’” he noted. “People walk through the door, they see 800 seats and the stage … and they realize what a treasure this is.”

It’s been 43 years since this treasure was anything more than a piece of history, but if all goes well — and things are tending in that direction — it will soon be an important piece of the future.


George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

40 Under 40 Class of 2023

Executive Director, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce: Age 33

Jordan Hart

Jordan Hart

Jordan Hart was attending Holyoke Community College and waiting tables at the Yankee Pedlar in Holyoke in early 2013, not really knowing she wanted to do with her life.

She saw an ad for a part-time administrative assistant at the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, thought about applying, but didn’t, because she thought the job would interfere with her college schedule. But a chance conversation with the chamber’s director, Kathy Anderson, when she came to the Pedlar for lunch prompted her to change her mind.

And that decision changed the course of her career.

Indeed, a decade and a few different positions with the chamber later, Hart is now in Anderson’s former role. And she’s not just leading the chamber, but leading it through an aggressive and much-needed change of course.

Under her direction, the chamber has become more responsive and also more inclusive, a place for business owners of all backgrounds, languages, and experiences.

“I worked for a chamber for a long time, and over the years, I’d seen how businesses had continued to change, but chambers had not changed with business,” she explained. “We weren’t seeing a lot of young entrepreneurs, we were not getting a lot of new members, and we were seeing members drop out because they felt they were not getting value for their membership. And we also weren’t doing much to engage the Latino business community in Holyoke. So I became really motivated to make sure we were a hub for business support and a bridge between Holyoke and its business community.”

Among her many initiatives, Hart has made the chamber an active part of many events and activities, including Holyoke Pride, the Paper City Food Festival, and the Great Holyoke Brick Race. She has also undertaken a rebranding, giving the chamber a new, more modern logo.

Meanwhile, she has made the agency more responsive to the needs of solo-preneurs and startups, which are a huge part of the Holyoke economy, with one-on-one technical assistance available to members free of charge.

Over the years, Jordan herself has become a fixture in Holyoke, lending time and talent to such initiatives as the food festival, the MIFA Victory Theater Entrepreneurial Strike Team, the city’s 150th-anniversary celebration, and the Holyoke Transformative Development Initiative with MassDevelopment.

When not doing any of that, she may be found playing softball, rollerskating, or bartending at Brennan’s, the legendary bar in downtown Holyoke.

In short, Holyoke has become more than a focus; it’s become a passion.


—George O’Brien

Museums 10 picked a unique subject for its first endeavor as a formal organization – Dutch culture. More notable than the topic from which the museums and several other groups and businesses will derive inspiration, however, is the increasingly expansive nature of the Go Dutch! program, which is spanning the region and attempting to break down invisible barriers between the counties of the Pioneer Valley.

Unpack your tulip vase and dust off your wooden shoes … it’s time to Go Dutch.

In less than a month, a multi-organization, cultural exhibit will kick off in the Pioneer Valley, offering art, music, literature, floral, and other programs to the public, all centered on the theme of Dutch culture and both the modern life and historical relevance of The Netherlands.

What makes this project different from other cultural exhibits, however, is that it involves several non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses, serves as the first major program spearheaded by a new partnership between 10 Hampshire and Franklin county museums, and will run for several months, drawing in visitors from both the local area and surrounding cities and states.

And it is expected to break through the ‘Tofu Curtain.’

That’s what some people call the invisible line that separates Hampden from Hampshire and Franklin counties, and often stalls cultural partnerships between them. A joke referring to Hampshire and Franklin counties’ reputation as the more liberal and artsy portion of the Pioneer Valley, and to Hampden County’s more industrial identity, the Tofu Curtain gives some levity to a very real issue in the Pioneer Valley — the disconnect between many cities and towns in terms of the cultural tourism initiatives of the region.

Nora Maroulis, director of Development and Marketing for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and a member of the marketing team of Museums 10, a cultural partnership launched last year, said the primary goal of the organization’s first major project, Go Dutch!, will be to promote the cultural gems of the Pioneer Valley as a whole, not separated by town lines.

“This project is completely unprecedented,” she said. “Chambers of commerce in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties are all sitting at the same table, along with the GSCVB (Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau), several organizations, and businesses across the region. And we’re all talking about one thing: tourism.”

The Power of 10

Museums 10 was officially launched last year, following many years of successful partnerships on a less formal level among the museums’ directors.

The organization now consists of seven college museums, all located on the ‘Five College’ campuses in Amherst, Northampton, and South Hadley: The University Gallery at UMass, Amherst; the Mead Art Museum, Emily Dickinson Museum and Homestead, and Museum of Natural History at Amherst College; the Hampshire College Art Gallery; the Smith College Museum of Art, and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum.

Two independent Amherst museums – the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and the National Yiddish Book Center – and Historic Deerfield complete the group, and a suite of materials promoting the museums as one set of attractions was also created last year.

Maroulis explained that the marketing professionals of each museum were asked by the museums’ directors to begin meeting on a regular basis, as the directors had with some success.

“You put a group of marketing directors in the same room, and it’s inevitable that some major brainstorming is going to happen,” she said.

The first byproduct of such brainstorming is Go Dutch!, a region-wide exhibition of Dutch art and culture that will be anchored by a traveling art exhibit slated to appear at the Eric Carle Museum from March through July, titled Dutch Treats: Contemporary Illustration from the Netherlands. The other museums in the organization will also hold exhibits, performances, and other events in keeping with the same Dutch theme.

However, as Maroulis was quick to note, not only Museums 10 galleries will be participating in Go Dutch! – museums, businesses, and other venues across the Pioneer Valley have pledged their support and participation, creating a partnership that is a first in the area.

In addition to Museums 10, more than 25 businesses and organizations across the valley are slated to offer some type of exhibit or event in keeping with the Go Dutch! theme, including the Springfield Museums, Chandler’s Tavern and Yankee Candle in South Deerfield, the Springfield Armory, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the UMass School of Architecture and Regional Planning, the Log Cabin, the Paradise City Arts Festival, and several others.

Rediscover the Spring and Summer

Maroulis said the number of participants continues to grow as the start date for Go Dutch! nears, and added that in addition to the growing numbers of participants across the valley, other aspects of the project are expected to factor into its overall success, including the ever-important issue of economics.

“We didn’t want the museums to create new programs for Go Dutch!, because creating programs costs money,” she explained. “Instead, we asked them to look inward at their existing collections for art work or potential performances and events that would fit the theme of Dutch culture or the Netherlands.”

To that end, several museums, including the Mead Art Museum and the Springfield Museums, will showcase paintings or sculpture by some of the Dutch masters, including Rembrandt and Vermeer, and the botanical gardens of Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges, for example, will use their existing stores to create Dutch-inspired flower and plant shows. But all of the planned programs are unique in their subject matter, and include a wide-range of topics, for instance:

  • From March to May, the Emily Dickinson Museum will allow visitors to explore unexpected connections between the Dickinsons and cultural influences of the Low Countries, and throughout the spring, the museum grounds will be peppered with tulips and other bulb-grown flowers;

  • Showcasing tulips and other spring flowers on a grander scale will be the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden Spring Flower Show, dubbed On the Dutch Waterways, from March 4 to 19;
  • The Smith College bulb show, also opening March 4;
  • The Arcadia Players, a baroque ensemble based in Northampton, will perform a Dutch Baroque organ music program at First Church in Amherst on March 4;
  • From March to June, the Smith College Museum of Art will exhibit Dutch prints and drawings from its collection. The selected prints represent the art of 17th century Holland, often called the Golden Age of Dutch art;
  • Similarly, the Springfield Museums at the Quadrangle will also exhibit prints and drawings from the Golden Age during the same time;
  • A Family Day is planned for March 11, offering a preview of Go Dutch! From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at no cost, on the Mount Holyoke College campus. Families are invited to enjoy a variety of activities, including a scavenger hunt focusing on the museum’s collection of Dutch art;
  • From March 31 to May 19, the University Gallery of UMass Amherst will exhibit of works by contemporary Dutch artist Avery Preesman, whose abstract paintings and wall reliefs are gaining notoriety;
  • Beginning April 1 and running until late December, Historic Deerfield will offer At Home in Holland: Dutch Decorative arts from the Historic Deerfield collection to all visitors. Colonial-era objects created in or inspired by Holland will be on display at the Flynt Center of Early New England Life;
  • The Yiddish Book Center, which already stages several programs a year to promote Yiddish culture and literature, has scheduled 10 individual programs throughout the spring and summer as well as two art exhibitions as part of Go Dutch!, which will include a concert titled Music from the Time of Anne Frank on April 23, and on view in the Gerson Gallery, a series of etchings created by illustrator Joseph Goldyne, depicting scenes inspired by the diary of Anne Frank; and
  • From May 5 to 7, the Mass. International Festival of the Arts (MIFA) will stage a theater production of Van Gogh’s Ear, a new musical theater work based on the painter’s letters, at the Rooke Theater, Mount Holyoke College.

A Blooming Economy?

Some funding for the various programs as well as advertising for the Go Dutch! project was made possible by a matching grant from the Mass. Cultural Council (MCC), which provided $50,000 to Museums 10 that the organization must match with cash or in-kind contributions.

As the program continues to grow across the region, said Maroulis, Museums 10 is focused on recruiting more for-profit businesses to serve as partners or sponsors with the museums and other cultural outfits comprised in Go Dutch!, in order to ensure those matching grant funds are secured and also to underscore the importance of cultural tourism to the Pioneer Valley’s overall economic health.

“We’ve already seen programs like this succeed in other areas,” she said, noting as an example a recent county-wide endeavor in the Berkshires, titled the Vienna Project. “In that case, businesses and restaurants were very involved, and we want to mirror that involvement here.”

Christine Noh, marketing manager for the Eric Carle Museum, added that not only would the involvement of more for-profit businesses benefit Go Dutch!, but the program can also provide some unique marketing opportunities for those businesses.
“This is a groundbreaking project, and some savvy business owners, particularly in the small business sector, have been quick to jump on board,” she said. “Go Dutch! is going to get a lot of play up and down the I-91 corridor, but also outside the area in key markets like Boston and New York.”

Noh explained that, in addition, a lengthy booklet is being published by Museums 10 that features all partnering organizations and businesses, as well as a ‘passport’ program that allows visitors to Go Dutch! exhibits to receive stamps that make them eligible for an all-expense paid trip to the Netherlands. There are advertising opportunities within the booklet, which will be distributed throughout the Pioneer Valley and outside of the area as a visitor’s guide.

“We’re trying to remind people that live here of what is so great about the valley, and of everything we have to offer culturally,” said Noh, “but we’re also working to bring new tourism in. Several small business owners have been very responsive to that goal, and the hotels are joining us quickly, too. We have a core group of people who understand the value of cultural tourism that is very strong.”

Still, Noh and Maroulis agreed that to give Go Dutch! that final push, greater involvement from some of the area’s larger companies is necessary.

“Businesses need to understand that the cultural and academic organizations of the area bring in more than 500,000 visitors to the area a year,” said Noh. “That’s a lot of people who will come back, or better yet, stay, if they like what they see.”

Maroulis added that Museums 10 is sensitive to the financial obligations of for-profit organizations, but added that in terms of Go Dutch!, the positive marketing opportunities could outweigh economic factors and also give many businesses a boost.

Home Improvements

“We would like very much to see some of the larger employers in the area become corporate sponsors,” she said. “With the support we’ve received from the GSCVB and from the MCC, we have been able to be very successful very quickly with branding ourselves as a permanent fixture in the area, and Go Dutch! is sort of the big event that is heralding the arrival of Museums 10.

“We’re not going anywhere … and we want to work with major businesses to increase the visitorship to their stores or increase awareness of their services, as much as we want to promote ourselves,” she continued. “It all helps us work toward the same goal – benefiting and promoting the place we call home.”

A home she hopes will soon include more open doors and windows of opportunity, unfettered by curtains of any kind.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]


A BusinessWest Podcast Series

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times

The Hosts

Joseph BednarJoseph Bednar, Editor of BusinessWest & Healthcare News. Joe is a veteran writer and copy editor with more than two decades of experience covering Western Massachusetts.

George O’Brien, Editor and Associate Publisher for BusinessWest & Healthcare News, is one of the region’s most experienced and respected journalists, with more than 30 years’ experience as a writer and editor.

Episode 181: October 2, 2023

George Interviews Dr. Mark Kenton, chief of Emergency Medicine at Mercy Medical Center

Dr. Mark Kenton has seen it all during a long career in emergency medicine, from the fast pace and constant challenge of daily cases to a pandemic that sorely tested emergency departments in unprecedented ways. Through all of it, he says effective care, especially of individuals often facing the worst days of their lives, begins with listening and forging personal connections with patients and their families. On the next episode of BusinessTalk, Kenton, chief of Emergency Medicine at Mercy Medical Center, talks with BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar about his important work — both inside the ER and often far outside it as an outspoken advocate — for which he has been honored as one of BusinessWest‘s Healthcare Heroes for 2023. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

Sponsored by:

Episode 180: September 25, 2023

Joe Interviews Diana Szynal president and CEO of the Springfield Regional Chamber

After several years leading the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Diana Szynal took the reins as president and CEO of the Springfield Regional Chamber last summer, and in the year-plus since, she has listened to — and learned from — hundreds of business, government, and economic-development leaders in an effort to ensure the chamber is playing an effective role in the growth and vibrancy of the Greater Springfield economy. On the next episode of BusinessTalk, Szynal talks with BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar about all this and much more, including some exciting upcoming events, including a reimagined Super 60 that has expanded its categories to recognize a wider variety of businesses and nonprofits. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.


Sponsored by:

Episode 179: September 18, 2023

Joe Interviews Dave Wisseman, the tenth-generation leader of this venerable family farm

What started out as an artistic inspiration more than 20 years ago has become one of the region’s most anticipated fall attractions: Mike’s Maze, a massive, visually striking (at least from above) corn maze at Warner Farm in Sunderland. (This year’s edition is a thoughtful reflection on the growing role of artificial intelligence in society.) The maze has become a significant revenue driver for the farm, a welcome benefit in a year when farmers have faced unusually harsh challenges. On the next episode of BusinessTalk, Dave Wisseman, the tenth-generation leader of this venerable family farm, talks with BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar about the farm’s rich history, how the mazes are created, how the annual attraction has evolved, and much more. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.


Sponsored by:

Episode 178: September 11, 2023

BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks with Gene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition

Staging a 17-day fair on the scale of the Big E is a year-round job, one marked not only by hard work and meticulous planning, but a dose of luck (what’s the weather forecast?). This is an event with plenty of momentum, even after more than a century of bringing food, music, and activities to the masses and raising the profile of the region’s agricultural sector. On the next episode of BusinessTalk, Gene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition, sits down with BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar to talk about last year’s success — five record-setting days! — what’s in store for this year’s edition, which opens Sept. 15; the massive regional economic impact of the Big E; and how to keep things fresh year after year.It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

Sponsored by:

Episode 177: September 4, 2023

Joe Bednar talks with Joel Doolin, MiraVista’s executive vice president

At a time when behavioral-health issues, substance misuse, and family and workplace stressors are all on people’s minds, the need for responsive services is higher than ever. MiraVista Behavioral Health Center in Holyoke has been meeting those needs since 2021 with an array of inpatient psychiatric services, outpatient substance recovery programs, and community outreach to educate people about mental wellness and the resources available to achieve it. On the next BusinessTalk episode, BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks with Joel Doolin, MiraVista’s executive vice president, about these services, his passion for behavioral health, and why there’s still progress to be made when it comes to talking openly about mental health and overcoming the stigma too often associated with it. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

Sponsored by:

Episode 176: August 28, 2023

BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar sits down with Chris Kelley, MGM Springfield’s president and COO

Many people vividly remember their excitement when MGM Springfield opened its doors five years ago — as well as the early returns, which didn’t meet the lofty expectations casino proponents had laid out, followed by the pandemic shutdown and, later, a halting return to activity. What people might not realize is that the casino’s last three quarters have been its best, while legal sports betting and an impressive recent slate of music and comedy shows bode well for an even stronger future. On the next installment of BusinessTalk, BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar sits down with Chris Kelley, MGM Springfield’s president and COO, about rising expectations, how to continually improve the customer experience, the challenge of maintaining a large workforce, and much more. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

Sponsored by:

Episode 175: August 14, 2023

Joe Interviews Dr. Andrew Lam, retinal surgeon with New England Retina Consultants

Dr. Andrew Lam has forged an intriguing dual career. The first is in medicine, as a retinal surgeon with New England Retina Consultants, an attending surgeon at Baystate Medical Center, and an assistant professor of Ophthalmology at UMass Medical School. But he’s also turned his lifelong passion for history into four acclaimed books: two in the realm of historical fiction, and two nonfiction works about the often-surprising lives behind modern medical advances. On the next installment of BusinessTalk, Dr. Lam talks with BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar about his latest work, The Masters of Medicine, and how he goes about bringing history to life on the page — when he’s not helping patients salvage and improve their sight, that is. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

Sponsored by:

Episode 174: August 7, 2023

George Interviews Matt Flink president of  Appleton Corp.

These are interesting and challenging times for commercial real estate and property management, and an equally intriguing chapter in the career of Matt Flink, who took the reins as president of Appleton Corp. last year and seeks to steer the firm, one of the venerable O’Connell Companies, into continued growth. On the next episode of BusinessTalk, Matt joins BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar for an energetic, wide-ranging conversation about what goes into effective property management, the leadership skills he’s honed from both his past roles and coaching youth sports, the ways in which the post-pandemic world is changing the way people work … and much more. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

Sponsored by:

BusinessTalk Podcasts Season 4

Episode 173: July 31, 2023

Joe Interviews Chikmedia’s Meghan Rothschild

Episode 172: July 24, 2023

BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks to Valley Blue Sox General Manager Tyler Descheneaux

Episode 171: July 17, 2023

BusinessWest contributing writer George O’Brien talks with CDH’s president and CEO, Dr. Lynnette Watkins

Episode 170 : July 10, 2023

Joe Bednar talks with Craig Della Penna, president of the Norwottuck Network Inc. board of directors and broker at the Murphys Realtors

Episode 169: July 3, 2023

BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks with Hubert Benitez, president of American International College

Episode 168: June 26, 2023

Joe Bednar Interviews Nicole Polite, CEO and Founder of MH Group

Episode 167: June 19, 2023

Joe Bednar talks with Nicole Blais, CEO of Holyoke Chicopee Springfield Head Start

Episode 166: June 12, 2023

Joe Bednar interviews Jessye Deane, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and Regional Tourism Council

Episode 165: June 5, 2023

Joseph Bednar Discusses Hooplandia Gene Cassidy and  John Doleva

Episode 164: May 30, 2023

Joseph Bednar Interviews Erica Swallow, Top-selling Realtor for Coldwell Banker

Episode 163: May 22, 2023

BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks with Alison Berman, council director of Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts

Episode 162: May 15, 2023

Joe Bednar talks with Paul Lambert, president and CEO of the SSO

Episode 161: May 8, 2022

George O’Brien Interviews Meredith Wise, soon-to-be-retired president of the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast

Episode 160: May 1, 2023

George Interviews Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau

Episode 159: April 24, 2023

George Interviews Dr. Negar Beheshti, chief medical officer for MiraVista Behavioral Health Center

Episode 158: April 17, 2023

George Interviews Corey Wrinn, Managing Director of Rivel

Episode 157: April 10, 2023

George Interviews Michelle Schutt, president of Greenfield Community College

Episode 156: April 3, 2023

George Interviews Robert Westerfield, vice president of Casino Operations at MGM Springfield

Episode 155: March 37, 2023

George Interviews Steve Graham

Episode 154: March 20, 2023

George Interviews Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin

Episode 153: March 13, 2023

George interviews Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee Member and Sponsor, PeoplesBank

Episode 152: March 6, 2023

George Interviews Gary Rome, owner the Gary Rome Auto Group

Episode 151: February 27, 2023

George Interviews Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley

Episode 150: February 20, 2023

Kate Campiti Interviews Emily Leonczyk, executive vice president of the Markens Group

Episode 149: February 13, 2023

George Interviews Carlo Bonavita, owner of the Springfield Wine Exchange

Episode 148: February 6, 2023

George Interviews Megan Burke, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Mass.

Episode 147: Janruary 30, 2023

George Interviews Amy Jamrog, Holyoke-based financial advisor, coach, and consultant

Episode 146: January 23, 2023

George Interviews Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Community College

Episode 145: January 16, 2023

George Interviews Cheryl Malandrinos, president of the Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley

Episode 144: January 19, 2023

George talks to  Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Mass Economic Development Council

Episode 143: January 13, 2023

George Interviews Paul Stelzer, president of Appleton Corp

BusinessTalk Podcasts Season 3

Episode 141: December 19, 2022

George Interviews Mike Fenton, Springfield city councilor and chairman of the city’s Casino Oversight Committee

Episode 140: December 12, 2022

George Interviews Meg Sanders, CEO of Canna Provisions in Holyoke and Lee

Episode 139: December 5, 2022

George Interviews Tom Senecal, PeoplesBank President and CEO

Episode 138: November 28, 2022

George Interviews Bob Bolduc, founder of Pride Stations and Stores

Episode 137: November 21, 2022

Jim Young, the ‘Centered Coach’ an expert on this subject, and author of a new book —  ‘Expanding Intimacy: How Tough Guys Defeat Burnout.’

Episode 136: November 14, 2022

George Interviews Donald Sanders, executive artistic director of MIFA Victory Theatre

Episode 135: November 7, 2022

George Interviews Mark Paglia, COO of Mira Vista Behavioral Health Center

Episode 134: October 31, 2022

George Interviews serial entrepreneur Peter Rosskothen

Episode 133: October 17, 2022

George Interviews Ivan Shefrin, executive director for Comcast Business Managed Security Services

Episode 132: October 10, 2022

George Interviews Andrew Melendez, director of Operations, Latino Economic Development Council

Episode 131: October 3, 2022

George Interviews Ann Kandilis, Springfield Works and the Working Cities Challenge Initiative

Episode 130:September 26, 2022

George talks with Gabrielle Gould, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District

Episode 129: September 19, 2022

George Interviews Square One President and CEO Dawn DiStefano

Episode 128: September 5, 2022

George Interviews Mark Rivers, event producer for Hooplandia, the giant 3-on-3 basketball tournament coming to the region next summer

Episode 127: August 29, 2022

George Interviews Jeff Daley, president and CEO of Westmass Area Development Corp

Episode 126: Austin 22, 2022

George Interviews Ray Berry, founder of White Lion Brewery


Episode 125: August 15, 2022

George Interviews Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

Episode 124: August 8, 2022 

George Interviews Lisa Ekus, founder and partner with the Ekus Group in Hatfield

Episode 123: August 1, 2022

George Interviews Jennifer McGrath, communications manager at Six Flags New England

Episode 122: July 25, 2022

George Interviews Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition

Episode 121: July 18, 2022

George Interviews Nate Costa, president of the Springfield Thunderbirds

Episode 120: July 11, 2022

George talks with Peter Picknelly, chairman of Peter Pan Bus Lines and president of OPAL Development

Episode 119: July 4, 2022

George O’Brien talks with Hubert Benitez, the recently appointed president of American International College

Episode 118: June 27, 2022

George Interviews Diana Szynal, the incoming president of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce

Episode 117: June 20, 2022

George Interviews Anthony Gleason II, president and co-founder of the Gleason-Johndrow Companies and winner of BusinessWest’s Alumni Achievement Award for 2022

Episode 116: June 13, 2022

George talks with Amy Roberts, executive vice president and chief Human Resources officer at PeoplesBank

Episode 115: June 6, 2022

George Interviews John Regan, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Mass.

Episode 114: May 30, 2022

George O’Brien talks with Charlie Epstein, senior vice president of HUB International and Epstein Financial

Episode 113: May 23, 2022

George O’Brien talks with Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group

Episode 112: May 16, 2022

George talks with Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health

Episode 101: May 9, 2022

Editor George O’Brien talks with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal about the prospects for momentum on east-west rail in the Commonwealth

Episode 110: May 2, 2022

BusinessTalk With Ted Mendoza, A Capital Projects Manager At UMass Amherst


Episode 109: April 25, 2022

George Talks Andrew Michael, manager of Dave DiRico’s Golf in West Springfield

Episode 108: April 18, 2022

George talks with State Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee, who recently announced he will not seek re-election

Episode 107: April 11, 2022

George Interviews Darby O’Brien, founder and principal of Darby O’Brien Advertising

Episode 106: April 4, 2022

George Interviews Ira Helfand, a retired emergency room physician at Mercy Medical Center and co-chair of Physicians for Social Responsibilty’s Nuclear Weapons Abolition Committee

Episode 105: March 21, 2022

George Interviews Sandra Doran, president of Bay Path University

Episode 104: March 14, 2022

George Interviews Marc Joyce, chairman of the 69th Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Episode 103: March 7, 2022

George Interviews Ryan Stelzer, co-author of the book ‘Think Talk Create; Building Workplaces Fit for Humans.’

Episode 102: February 28, 2022

George Interviews Tanzania (Tanzi) Cannon-Eckerle, Esq., an employment law specialist — and a brewer

Episode 101: February 21, 2022

George Interviews Brian Houser, general manager of Balise Hyundai and Ready Credit Used Cars in Springfield

Episode 100: February 14, 2022

George Interviews Beth Ward, director of Community Affairs at MGM Springfield

Episode 99: February 7, 2022

George Interviews Barbara Trombley a financial advisor and CPA with Wilbraham-based Trombley Associates

Episode 98: January 31, 2022

George Interviews Tom Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank

Episode 97: January 24, 2022

George Interviews Cheryl Malandrinos, president of the Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley

Episode 96: January 17, 2022

George Interviews State Senator Eric Lesser

Episode 95: January 10, 2022

George Interviews Paul Stelzer, president of Appleton Corp

BusinessTalk Podcasts Season 2

Episode 94: December 27, 2021

George Interviews Rick Sullivan, President and CEO of the Western Mass. Economic Development Council

Episode 93: December 20, 2021

George Interviews Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer for Mercy Medical Center

Episode 92: December 13, 2021

George Interviews Peter Rosskothen, owner of the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House, the Delaney House restaurant, and other hospitality-sector businesses

Episode 91: December 6, 2021

George Interviews Matt Yee, a principal with Enlite, a Northampton-based adult-use cannabis dispensary

Episode 90: November 29, 2021

George Interviews Tracye Whitfield, one of BusinessWest’s recently named Women of Impact for 2021

Episode 89: November 22, 2021

George Interviews Jessica Collins, one of BusinessWest’s recently named Women of Impact for 2021

Episode 88: November 15, 2021

George Interviews Madeline Landrau, one of BusinessWest’s recently named Women of Impact for 2021

Episode 87: November 8, 2021

George Interviews Bob Nakosteen, a professor of Economics at UMass Amherst

Episode 86: Nov. 1, 2021

George Interviews Tim Netkovick, a partner with the Royal Law Firm

Episode 85: Oct. 25, 2021

George Interviews Tony Cignoli, president of ther A.L. Cignoli Company

Episode 84: Oct. 18, 2021

George Interviews Peter Picknelly, chairman and CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines

Episode 83: Oct. 11, 2021

George Interviews John Garvey, president of Garvey Communication Associates

Episode 82: Oct. 4, 2021

George Interviews Lenny Underwood, owner of Underwood Photography and Upscale Socks

Episode 81: Sept. 27, 2021

George Interviews Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Mass. Economic Development Council

Episode 80: Sept. 20, 2021

George Interviews Delcie Bean, CEO of Paragus Strategic IT and the presenter for a recent BusinessWest Webinar

Episode 79: Sept. 13, 2021

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien interviews David Godaire, president and CEO of HassHire Holyoke

Episode 78: September 6, 2021

George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Big E

Episode 77: August 30, 2021

George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer for Mercy Medical Center

Episode 76: August 23, 2021

George O’Brien interviews Peter Rosskothen

Episode 75: August 16, 2021

George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Mary Flahive Dickson

Episode 74: August 9, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Tara Brewster, Vice President of Business Development for Greenfield Savings Bank

Episode 73: August 2, 2021

George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Meghan Rothschild, president and owner of Chikmedia and one of five finalists for BusinessWest’s coveted 40 Under Forty Alumni Achievement Award

Episode 72: July 26, 2021

George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, another of the finalists for BusinessWest’s coveted Alumni Achievement Award

Episode 71: July 19, 2021

George Interviews Massachusetts State Sen. Eric Lesser

Episode 70: July 12, 2021

George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Ray Berry, founder and owner of White Lion Brewing

Episode 69: June 21, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Charlie Christianson, president of East Longmeadow-based CMD Technology Group

Episode 68: June 14, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce

Episode 67: Monday, June 7, 2021

George O’Brien talks with John Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame

Episode 66: June 1, 2021

George Interviews Chris Howland, director of procurement, logistics, and special projects for Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst

Episode 65: May 24, 2021

George Interviews Joel McAuliffe, deputy chief of staff for state Sen. Eric Lesser and a city councilor in Chicopee

Episode 64: May 17, 2021

George Interviews Julissa Colon, special programs coordinator for the Gateway to College program at Holyoke Community College

Episode 63: May 10, 2021

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien begins a series of shows devoted to the 40 Under Forty Class of 2021 by talking with top scorer Jessica Bossie, primary care doctor for Health Services for the Homeless

Episode 62: May 3, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health

Episode 61: April 26, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Meredith Wise, president of the Employers Association of the Northeast

Episode 60: April 19, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Suzanne Murphy, CEO and founder of Unemployment Tax Control Associates in Springfield

Episode 59: April 5, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Dave DiRico, owner of Dave DiRico’s Golf & Racquet

Episode 58: March 29, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Judy Matt, president of the Spirit of Springfield

Episode 57: March 22, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Mark Melnik, director of economic and public policy research at the UMass Donahue Institute in Amherst

Episode 56: March 15, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Vince Jackson, executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce

Episode 55: March 8, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Peter Rosskothen, owner of the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House, the Delaney House, and other hospitality-related businesses

Episode 54: Mar. 1, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Aaron Vega, the former state representative who is now director of Planning and Economic Development in the city of Holyoke

Episode 53: Feb. 22, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Kirk Jonah, a man who is trying to “Make Courage Contagious.”

 Episode 52: February 15, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, which oversees Bradley International Airport

Episode 51: February 8, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center

Episode 50: Feb. 1, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Carol Campbell, president of Chicopee Industrial Contractors

Episode 49: Jan. 25, 2021

George O’Brien talks with State Sen. Eric Lesser, co-chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies

Episode 48: Jan. 18, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Mass. Economic Development Council

Episode 47: Jan. 11, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Andy Yee, president of the Bean Restaurant Group

Episode 46: Jan. 4, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Amy Royal, a principal with The Royal Law Firm and an employment law specialist

BusinessTalk Podcasts Season 1

Episode 45: Dec. 28, 2020

George O’Brien talks with Bob Nakosteen, a professor of Economics at the UMass Isenberg School of Management

Episode 44: Dec. 21, 2020

George O’Brien talks with Sheila Coon, co-owner, with her husband, Dan, of Hot Oven Cookies

Episode 43: Dec. 14, 2020

George O’Brien talks with Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank

Episode 42: Dec. 7, 2020

George talks with Nick Morin, founder and president of Iron Duke Brewing

Episode 41: Nov. 30, 2020

George Interviews Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce

Episode 40: Nov. 23, 2020

George Interviews Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition

Episode 39: Nov. 16, 2020

George O’Brien talks with Tony Cignoli, president of the A.L. Cignoli Company

Episode 38: Nov. 9, 2020

George Interviews Peter Rosskothen, owner of the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House

Episode 37: Nov. 2, 2020

George Interviews Tom Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank

Episode 36: Oct. 26, 2020

George talks with Nate Costa, president of the Springfield Thunderbirds

Episode 35: Oct. 19, 2020

Editor George O’Brien talks with Meredith Wise, president of the Employers Association of the Northeast

Episode 34: Oct. 12, 2020

George O’Brien talks with Pam Victor, founder of Happier Valley Comedy

Episode 33: Oct. 7, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Angela Lussier, CEO and Founder of Speaker Sisterhood

Episode 32: Oct. 5, 2020

George Interviews Sandra Doran, President of Bay Path University

Episode 31: Sept. 30, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Waleska Lugo-DeJesus, CEO of Inclusive Strategies

Episode 30: Sept. 28, 2020

George Interviews James Leahy, Holyoke City Councilor

Episode 29: Sept. 23, 2020

Thom Fox Interviews Amy Allen, Partner at BlumShapiro

Episode 28: Sept. 21, 2020

George Interviews Carla Cosenzi, President of TommyCar Auto Group

Episode 27: Sept. 14, 2020

George Interviews Peter DePergola, Director of Clinical Ethics, Baystate Health

Episode 26: Sept. 9, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Samalid Hogan, Regional Director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (MSBDC

Episode 25: Sept. 7, 2020

George Interviews Mike Fenton, Shareholder at Shatz, Schwartz, and Fentin

Episode 24: Sept. 2, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, Executive Director of EforAll in Holyoke

Episode 23: Aug. 31, 2020

George Interviews Paul Kozub, founder of V-One Vodka

Episode 22: Aug. 26, 2020

Thom Interview Bill Cole, President of Living Local.  Living Local

Episode 21: Aug. 24, 2020

George Interviews Donna Haghighat, CEO of The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts

Episode 20: Aug. 19, 2020

Thom Interview Scott Foster, Partner at Bulkley Richardson

Episode 19: Aug. 17, 2020

George Interviews John Gannon, employment law specialist with Skoler Abbott

Episode 18: Aug. 12, 2020

Thom Interviews Paul Silva & Kelly Minton of Innovation Accelerator

Episode 17: Aug. 10, 2020

George Interview Senator Eric Lesser

Episode 16: Aug. 5, 2020

Thom Fox chats with Nancy Urbschat, Principal at TSM Design


Episode 15: Aug. 3, 2020

George Interviews John Doleva, president and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Episode 14: July 29, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Pia Kumar, Co-Owner and Chief Strategy Officer of Universal Plastics

Episode 13: July 27, 2020

George Interviews Chris Thibault, Owner, Writer & Director for Chris Teebo Films

Episode 12: July 22, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Tricia Canavan, President of United Personnel Services

Episode 11: July 20, 2020

George Interviews Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

Episode 10: July 15, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Westfield Starfires Co-Founder/Owner Christopher Thompson

Episode 9: July 13, 2020

George interviews serial entrepreneur, Peter Rosskothen, Owner of The Log Cabin, Delanry House, D. Hotel Suites & Spa, and Delaney’s Market.

Episode 8: July 8, 2020

Thom Fox interviews David Cruise, President and CEO of MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board [MHHCWB]

Episode 7: July 6, 2020

George Interviews Mark Keroack, President & CEO of Baystate Health

Episode 6: July 1, 2020

Thom interviews Raymond Berry, Jr., President and General Manager of White Lion Brewing

Episode 5: June 29, 2020

George Interviews Bob Nakosteen of UMass Amherst, Isenberg School of Management

Episode 4: June 24, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Rick Sullivan, President & CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts

Episode 3: June 22, 2020

George Interviews Christina Royal, President of Holyoke Community College

Episode 2: June 17, 2020

Thom Fox interviews Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle

Episode 1: June 15, 2020

George interviews Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber

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