Daily News

GREENFIELD — Valley Steel Stamp (VSS) was founded in 1971 by William Capshaw with two employees who made steel marking tools for local industries, particularly hand-tool companies. This week, the company, led by his son, Steve Capshaw, announced the launch of its new name, NE-XT Technologies, and a new website designed to define the contemporary capabilities of its team of more than 200 skilled engineers and machinists.

Although the company has rebranded, it continues to focus on the precision machining of complex, close-tolerance components and assemblies for aerospace, defense, and other industrial applications.

“While we’ve been in business for 52 years, we’re just getting started,” said Steve Capshaw, president and CEO. “In 2010, we started investing heavily in new technologies to become a leader in high-production machining capabilities for all industries. We intend to continue a very aggressive growth rate in the years to come — organically and through strategic acquisitions — so the time is right for a rebrand.”

The rebrand goes much deeper than a new name, logo, and website. NE-XT was acquired by Jefferson River Capital in 2022, which allowed it to expand in terms of capabilities and its leadership team. That year, Richard Havighorst joined the team as chief financial officer and Katie Szelewicki as vice president of Human Resources. Capshaw promised that what won’t change is the company’s commitment to precision, quality, and speed.

“What started as a family-owned local business is now expanding internationally. We are ahead of the industry and ready for what customers and investors want ‘next,’” he said. “Our new name acknowledges the fundamental values that have positioned us for success while highlighting how we are expanding with an eye to the future and the next level of customer needs.”

Capshaw stressed that the company’s future will remain deeply rooted in Greenfield. “We are proud to be a local company based in Franklin County. We appreciate the quality of life in Western Massachusetts and are honored to contribute to its economic outlook by providing exceptional career opportunities for local residents.”

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The West of the River Chamber of Commerce welcomes its newest chamber member to West Springfield: Wood-n-Tap at 955 Riverdale St.

A charity event to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of West Springfield will take place on Saturday, March 4, with 4-6:30 and 7:30-10 p.m. seatings available. The ticket price is $35, which includes food, select beverages, and lots of fun — and the opportunity to be among the first to see the new location before it officially opens to the public on Wednesday, March 8.

For more information about the West of the River Chamber of Commerce, visit www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

Daily News

ENFIELD, Conn. — The Stack Group and the Opera House Players are teaming up to help give area teens access to formalwear this prom season through an initiative called Build a Prom.

Sarah Rose Stack, one of the organizers of the program, said it was inspired by her own experiences as a youth — “money was tight in our family” — and the skyrocketing costs associated with going to a prom today. These costs run from $50 to $120 for a ticket, she said, to as much as $700 for a dress and $130 or more for a tux rental.

“With inflation affecting more families than ever, many teens will not attend their prom simply because they don’t have anything to wear, or because they didn’t have a choice in what to wear,” Stack said.

Build a Prom gives them choices by collecting donations of gowns, tuxes and suits, shoes, accessories, handbags, and gift cards until Friday, March 3. Donations can be dropped off on Thursday and Sunday evenings at Opera House Players, 100 High St., Enfield, Conn. A pickup date, during which teens can try on items and pick what they want, is set for Saturday, March 11 at Opera House Players. Gift cards will be handed out to help with tux rentals, hair, makeup, and other expenses.

“By giving teens an opportunity to choose a dress or suit that they love, they can have the same try-on experience as their peers and pick something that they are proud to wear,” Stack said.

For more information or to schedule a dropoff, email Stack at [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The MDRT Foundation has awarded a $2,000 grant to Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts (GSCWM) in support of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and further its mission to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

The Million Dollar Round Table Foundation gives to charitable organizations worldwide, demonstrating the generosity, service, and impact of MDRT members. This year, the MDRT Foundation will award more than $1.6 million in MDRT member-endorsed grants to more than 300 charitable organizations worldwide.

Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts was nominated for the MDRT grant by Amy Jamrog, CEO of the Jamrog Group and GSCWM board member.

“I absolutely love the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts,” Jamrog said. “I enjoy watching my 9-year-old niece earn her badges and grow in her confidence with my sister as her troop leader. I can see the impact GSCWM has had on my own family, not to mention the perspective I have regionally as a board member.”

The Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a collection of engaging, challenging, and fun activities for girls to develop a strong sense of self, display positive values, seek challenges, learn from setbacks, form and maintain healthy relationships, and learn to identify and solve problems in their community.

“The grant funds go toward helping girls find out who they are, what they care about, and where their talents lie,” Jamrog said.

Community Spotlight Cover Story Features

The Paper City Looks Back — and Ahead

Holyoke City Hall

Go just about anywhere in the Paper City — City Hall offices, manufacturing facilities, the local utility, restaurants, some cannabis dispensaries, anywhere — and you will find pictures of what would be called ‘old Holyoke.’ And some images of the new Holyoke as well.

They’re everywhere. Pictures of the old but still-standing mills, the canals, Mount Tom, High Street in a different age, the Hadley Falls Dam, and especially City Hall, the iconic Gothic Revival structure built in 1871 that is, in many ways, the symbol of this historic city.

These pictures you see everywhere are visible evidence of the enormous pride people from this city, or now doing business in it, take in Holyoke.

You see this this pride in every community in Western Mass., from the small towns in Franklin County to the capital of the region, Springfield. But in Holyoke, it’s … well, different. And it just seems like there is more of it.

This much is made clear in the stories that follow in this special section commemorating the city’s 150th birthday. People from Holyoke take a special pride in being from their city, and for many reasons.

There is history — this is the country’s first planned industrial city. There is architecture. There are landmarks. There are institutions. There is tremendous diversity. There is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Road Race. Mostly, though, there are people — those who lived a century and more ago, and those who call it home today.

As the city turns 150, there is much to celebrate, and certainly not all of it is in the past, although the past is what many people like to focus on.

There was a time when Holyoke was a model industrial city producing some of the finest papers and textiles in the world. The mills producing these products created thousands of jobs, enormous wealth, and tremendous prosperity.

The city’s fortunes changed, obviously, as these mills closed or moved south or overseas starting just after World War II. For decades, the city was in decline, even as it remained a center of jobs and manufacturing.

Today, there is a sense of revitalization and vibrancy, with new leadership, especially Joshua Garcia, the city’s first Hispanic mayor, and an economy that is far more diverse and fueled by everything from a surging creative-arts sector to a cannabis industry that found in Holyoke a welcome mat, millions of square feet of old mill space perfect for cultivation and even dispensaries, and inexpensive, green energy.

Another factor powering this revitalization is entrepreneurship. Through the efforts of EforAll, the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, Holyoke Community College, and other agents of change, Holyoke residents, and especially those making up the minority majority, are creating new businesses, from restaurants to dance studios to fabric shops, that are changing the face of High Street — and the entire city.

These stories and many others are told in the pages that follow. Together, they tell of a city with momentum. A city with vision. A city with renewed optimism about what can be done when people work collaboratively. A city that has a lot to celebrate.


Holyoke. Wanna Make Something of It?

By Darby O’Brien


Unless you’re from Holyoke, you probably won’t get it.

We’re a little like Southie on the other side of the state. Hardscrabble Holyokers have grit and never quit. Holyoke is a city with soul. It’s a city of neighborhoods. Churchill, Elmwood, the Flats, the Highlands, Oakdale, and Springdale. As Liberty Bank President and Holyoker Dave Glidden says, “you can take the kid out of Holyoke, but you can’t take Holyoke out of the kid.”

Just look at the cast of characters that came out of this place. Start with the famous drummers. Hal Blaine, a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, played with the legendary Wrecking Crew on 40 number-one hits, and Ronnie Hurst played in Steppenwolf. Holyokers Michael and John Shea wrote the Notre Dame fight song. We have Emmy-winning actress Ann Dowd. Alan Eisenstock was a writer and producer on shows like Mork and Mindy, Sanford and Son, and Family Matters. My nephew, Lenny Jacobson, is another one you’ve seen on the tube, from big-time TV spots to shows like Nurse Jackie, and he just won the 2023 JFK Award.

We’ve also got Neil Sheehan, the New York Times writer who released the Pentagon Papers and won a Pulitzer Prize for his book A Bright Shining Lie, considered to be one of the best books about the Vietnam War. Mitch Epstein is a world-renowned photographer. Frank Leja, who lived down the street from me as a kid, signed as a ‘bonus baby’ with the New York Yankees at 17. To this day, he’s the youngest player ever to appear in the pinstripes. The list goes on. Maybe it’s in the water. We’ve got four reservoirs. They’re all closed for fishing now, but we sneak in and cast a line anyway.

Another thing unique to Holyoke is the game of Pickie. We invented the game in the streets and alleys downtown. Just saw off your mother’s broom for a bat, and grab some Pee Gee balls, and you’re set. It’s always been a sports town. Betsy Frey carries on the family business at Holyoke Sporting Goods, probably one of the last independent sporting-goods stores left. Part of what keeps it going is the boatload of Holyoke merchandise she sells in the store, especially around parade time. You’ve heard about Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, right? One of the biggest in the country.

The late “Made in Holyoke” rapper Justin Chavez said, “it’s a city full of pride and hope, a city that’s alive.” My old buddy John Hickey, who was the Water and Power chief, coined the slogan “Holyoke. Best City by a Dam Site.”

Damn right.


Darby O’Brien, a Holyoke native, is the owner of the marketing and public relations firm Darby O’Brien Advertising in South Hadley.

Features Special Coverage

Getting a Leg Up

Pedro Arroyo

Pedro Arroyo says the LEDC mini-grant helped him and his sister, Elizabeth Arroyo, secure better signage for their business.


Tony Bermudez started his digital-media venture just before the pandemic hit.

And like just about everyone else who was in business at the time, he lost considerable momentum — and opportunities — when the state essentially shut itself down.

Indeed, his business has many components, but specially event video work, and for the first year or more of the pandemic … there were no events, or very few of them, anyway.

Bermudez, again, like many others, slogged his way through to the other side of COVID. But money has always been tight, and that’s why he considers himself fortunate to receive, and is very appreciate of, a mini-grant from the Latino Economic Development Corp. He is one of several to get one of the grants in a first round issued late last year, with another nine grants awarded in a second round just a month or so ago. Another round of grants will be awarded later in March.

‘Mini,’ in his case, means $1,100. But Bermudez was able to use it to secure software and some new equipment, specifically a lighting kit, that will help him take his business, Tony Digital Music & Media, to a higher level.

Beyond the small grant, though, Bermudez has been able to secure invaluable coaching from the LEDC, and through it he has been able to make important connections, including one with Mercy Medical Center that enabled him to secure work to create a video to help address the stigma attached to opioid addiction; work is expected to behind on that production soon.

Bermudez’s story is one of many that help bring to life the work going on at the LEDC, a new agency that BusinessWest profiled last year. Its mission, in simple terms, is to help employees become employers, said Andrew Melendez, director of Operations for the LEDC, and enable small businesses to take the next step.

It does this through a unique model focused on everything from these mini-grants to training programs offered by those coaches that will focus on everything from how to qualify for a business loan to workforce training to mental wellness, and much more.

“Capital infusions — putting money into the hands of small business owners — even if it’s only $1,000 or $2,000, can often make a huge impact, whether it’s a new business or even an existing business.”

As for the grants, they are indeed small, with amounts varying from $1,000 to $3,000 in the first few rounds. But small businesses just getting off the ground can use such funds to take important steps forward, Melendez said.

“Capital infusions — putting money into the hands of small business owners — even if it’s only $1,000 or $2,000, can often make a huge impact, whether it’s a new business or even an existing business,” he explained, adding that the grants are funded through $450,000 in overall support awarded to the LEDC by the state. “They can put that money to use in many different and important ways.”

Such was the case with Pedro Arroyo, who used his $2,500 grant to secure new and better signage for his business, Juguitos Healthy Grab & Go, at its new home on State Street in Springfield.

Arroyo and his sister, Elizabeth, saw a unmet need in Springfield for a place where people could get healthy foods in a hurry and moved forward to meet it, despite the pandemic, which was descending on the area just as they were getting started.

Jason Vásquez

Jason Vásquez envisions his business growing and someday being run by his son, Nazareh.

“We saw an opportunity to provide something that wasn’t really available anywhere in the city,” he noted. “We came together, took a chance and said, ‘let’s try this.’

The stories behind these businesses, and people taking chances — and the grants they’ve obtained — help shed important light on the important work being done by the LEDC, and how it is changing the business landscape in all kinds of ways.


Progress Report

It’s called the unrestricted construction supervisor’s license.

Jason Vásquez, owner of Nas Small Repairs, which specializes in small construction projects and repairs to homes and businesses, needs one to take his venture, and his career, to the next level. And he’s using his $1,000 mini-grant to buy the code and regulations books and other materials to help him attain that license.

“I want to enable my small business to grow, and in the future, I’d like to have a program for young people and women to learn about construction and maybe move into the field,” he explained. “And to do that, I need this license and the right personnel behind me.”

Vasquez’s use of his mini-grant is exemplary of the many ways they are being put to use and how important they are to small businesses who need them to gain some momentum with whatever might be written into their business plan.

And the names on the businesses that have received such grants in the most recent round show just how varied these business plans are. That list includes Faded Barber Lounge, Thomas’ Cleaning, 50-50 Food Truck, Agudelo Apiary, Burgos & Son Trucking LLC, and Top-Flight Nutrition.

It also includes Juguitos Healthy Grab & Go, a name that tells you all you need to know (or almost all you need to know), and a venture inspired by personal need.

As Arroyo tells the story, he and his sister, Elizabeth, were both looking to shed some weight and “take back their health,” as he put it, starting with their respective diets.

“It was difficult because I was a videographer, and I was on the road all the time — I didn’t have the time to make prepared meals, and would eat out a lot,” he went on, adding that he and Elizabeth set out to address their own needs, and those of countless others, by creating a business focused on smoothies, juices, soups, sandwiches, and other healthy offerings that, as the sign says, people can grab and go.

The venture started off at 112 State St., a small location that was hindered further by a lack of parking, Pedro said, adding that the business was nonetheless able to thrive at that location, and thanks to $75,000 in ARPA funding secured from the city, he and Elizabeth were able to move into needed larger quarters just up the road, at 133 State St.

The LEDC has provided assistance at many critical junctures, he said, including direction on how to secure ARPA funding from the city of Springfield.

This work in progress is just one of many that the LEDC has become involved with, through technical assistance and coaching, a mini-grant, or both. And it’s just one example of how this agency is trying to change Main Street, or State Street, in this case, by helping more people get into business and put their signs on buildings.

Bermudez isn’t there yet, but he’s moving in the right direction, thanks to many different kinds of support from the LEDC.

As noted earlier, he received a grant that he used to buy equipment that made an immediate impact on his venture, which specializes in video promotion, business presentations and advertising, animation, event photography, and more.

“We saw an opportunity to provide something that wasn’t really available anywhere in the city. We came together, took a chance and said, ‘let’s try this.”

But it has been the coaching, and the connections the LEDC has helped him make, that have been even more impactful, he went on, citing not only the Mercy project, but also a contract in Holyoke to teach video production to young people as just a few examples of how the LEDC has been able to help him seize opportunities.

“They have a great team there, and a forward-looking attitude to help Latino small businesses,” he said, adding that that are dozens of coaches, each with a specific niche, that can help individuals like himself not only create a business plan, but execute it.

Gilberto Amador

Gilberto Amador finds it rewarding to coach small-business owners to greater success.

Gilberto Amador, president and CEO of the Mass 2 Miami Consulting Group, is one of those coaches. He told BusinessWest he and other coaches at the LEDC act as a support network for new and emerging businesses.

He said the process starts with an hour-long meeting at which a game plan is developed for creating momentum and forward progress.

“They leave that meeting knowing what we need to work on,” Amador said, stressing the ‘we’ part of that equation, while emphasizing that the business owner needs to take ownership of the next steps and is held accountable for staying on the set course. “Maybe it’s a business plan, because many people are working on their business but they don’t have a business plan, or it could be marketing … whatever needs to be worked on.

“Sometimes it’s cash flow,” he went on. “You talk to them about cash flow and how their business functions, how they have to pay themselves from their business finances of their business, how to separate business from personal … these are things that a lot of business owners are not aware of or they haven’t been doing, and it’s very important for us to shed some light on these kinds of things so that these become more productive, and successful, businesses in our community.”


Bright Ideas

Amador described this work as very rewarding, especially as he sees small-business owners, such as Bermudez, Vasquez, and the Arroyos, take important steps forward and put their ventures on more solid footing.

“Part of being a business coach is really seeing the success of some of the businesses that are coming in,” he said. “They work so hard every day to do what they have to do … and we help them articulate what it is that they want to do and lay out the steps to get there. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and I love working with them because you get to see those lightbulbs go on.”

Turning on more of these lightbulbs is the unofficial mission at the LEDC, which has been busy handing out grants in recent weeks and will continue to do through the course of the year.

But that’s just part of the story. The other, much bigger part is helping these individuals get on a path to success, and stay on that path.

Law Special Coverage

Change at the Top

Jeff Fialky

Jeff Fialky

It’s called Service at the Pleasure of My Partners: Advice to the New Firm Leader.

And as that title might suggest, this book by Patrick McKenna and Brian Burke is intended for those lawyers who have, or soon will have, the title ‘managing partner’ affixed to their business card.

Jeff Fialky, a partner at Springfield-based Bacon Wilson, bought a copy of the book, which presents content built around real-life issues and questions, several weeks ago, after initial talks with Ken Albano, longtime managing partner at the firm, about passing the torch.

He said he’s read it, marked several passages, and dog-eared several of the pages, an exercise he described as just part of the transition process at the firm, one that should be completed by the spring.

“It’s a good resource to hear from other managing shareholders about coping with some of their challenges — what they encountered and what they had to overcome,” he said of the book.

As he takes the helm at Bacon Wilson, Fialky said he believes the firm is well-positioned for the future. It has what all firms this size — roughly 40 lawyers — are looking for in a solid mix of young lawyers, those at the mid-career stage, and several older, veteran lawyers. It also has an established presence in the region through its main office in Springfield and smaller locations in Westfield, Amherst, Northampton, and Hadley.

“The firm is in a phenomenal place,” he said. “We’ve been here for 135 years, and we have a solid foundation for the firm to succeed well on into the future — for another 135 years.”

There are challenges, though, especially when it comes to hiring young lawyers and maintaining that mix of talent. Indeed, there are fewer people graduating from law schools, and the competition for those who do is considerable and becoming more intense with each passing year.

“I felt the time was right for some new leadership, some younger leadership. Jeff is respected by everyone in the firm, and he’s the one that take the firm to the next level.”

“We’ve had significant challenges in retaining and identifying new talent,” he said. “The past few years have been really difficult to find people; it’s been very competitive, with all forms of employees, be it staff members, legal secretaries, administrative assistants, and lawyers. It’s all about supply and demand.”

Fialky said he is looking forward to leading the firm through these intriguing times and continuing a pattern of strong leadership that has enabled Bacon Wilson to continue to grow and expand its presence over the past few decades.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity,” he said. “My first reaction was just humility and comprehending the enormity of the responsibility and feeling really honored and humbled by it. When I came back to Springfield to Bacon Wilson, I was a mid-career transfer; I’d been practicing for a number of years at that point. I was so fortunate to be given an opportunity to start a career, and to think that, all these years later, I’d be in this position is something I would never have contemplated.

“But now that I’m here, I’m really appreciative for the level of responsibility that’s been given to me by my partners and my colleagues,” he went on. “And it’s something I take very seriously, but also with great energy and enthusiasm; I’m really excited.”

For this issue and its focus on law, BusinessWest talked at length with Fialky about his new role and what comes next for one of the most venerable firms in the region.


Firm Resolve

As he talked about his practice and large case load, his work in the community, the additional burdens that come with managing partner, and how he will manage it all, Fialky summoned that time-honored axiom ‘if you want to get something done, ask a busy person, and they’ll get it done.’

He has certainly been busy in recent years as chair of the firm’s corporate and commercial department, and also a member of the municipal department. He has also been involved in the firm’s governance and was one of the founders of its executive committee.

Overall, he specializes in sophisticated business, financing, and commercial real-estate transactions, representing the interests of business owners and lending institutions, as well as municipalities and landowners.

A BusinessWest Forty Under 40 honoree in 2008 and consistent finalist for the Alumni Achievement Award established several years later, Fialky joined Bacon Wilson in 2006 after nearly a decade in Eastern Mass., where he held senior attorney positions with some of the country’s most prominent Fortune 100 telecommunications and cable-TV companies. Prior to that, he served as an assistant district attorney in Hampden County after earning juris doctor at Western New England School of Law in 1994.

Albano told BusinessWest that, after six years as managing partner, including the three long and very challenging years defined by the pandemic, he felt it was time for a change at the helm. And he considers Fialky to be a logical and well-qualified successor.

“I felt the time was right for some new leadership, some younger leadership,” he explained. “Jeff is respected by everyone in the firm, and he’s the one that will take the firm to the next level.”

Fialky acknowledged that he takes the helm at an intriguing and challenging time for law firms, which are coping with everything from a difficult hiring market to transitioning to new ways of doing work in the wake of the pandemic, to new technology that tempts consumers to find their legal answers online instead of from a trained attorney.

“Technology, as it pertains to the law, is really interesting and difficult to predict,” he noted. “The legal industry is a trailing indicator of technology; we’re never at the forefront of innovation. The next big question is what happens with artificial intelligence down the road. There’s been quite a bit of recent press of artificial intelligence and service professions like the law and accounting. What’s so interesting about the law is that technology is a platform to accomplish the outcome, and how personal the law is relative to an attorney-client relationship.

“With so many of our clients … while they can pick up the phone, while we can Zoom from 15 miles away, they want to come in, they want to sit down, and they want to talk to their attorney,” he went on. “These are relationships that last decades, throughout people’s lives … you can’t replace that with technology.”

When asked about the management style he will take as he addresses these and other issues, Fialky said it will be one grounded in collaboration.

“That’s how I’ve engaged in our commercial department, where we ask for many opinions before we make a decision,” he explained. “But then, when decisions need to be made, we make a decision and stand by it. That’s how I intend to manage.”


Case in Point

Getting back to that book he’s been reading, Fialky said it’s a collection of thoughts from managing partners on subjects ranging from following a successful leader to keeping up morale when a firm is under duress; from creating performance standards to managing one’s time.

Soon, he won’t be reading about such matters, but coping with them in real time.

It’s a challenge he’s looking forward to, one he’s spent a career preparing for, and he knows he will take it on not by himself, but in collaboration with others.

Special Coverage Workforce Development

Fired Up

By Elizabeth Sears


Betsy Allen-Manning

Betsy Allen-Manning

Tunde Oyeneyin

Tunde Oyeneyin

Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts

The Women’s Leadership Conference is turning up the heat this year.

When Bay Path University’s signature annual conference returns to the MassMutual Center on Thursday, April 6, the theme will be “Ignite” — an extension of last year’s theme of “Reimagine.” The goal, simply put, is to ignite the post-pandemic professional plans of conference attendees and help turn them into reality.

“Last year, it felt important to bring the community back together to reimagine what may come next that may have shifted over COVID and from being away from the office place,” said Melissa Welch, Communications and Content director at Bay Path and co-chair of this year’s Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC). “That went so beautifully last year, with people in the community coming together to reimagine what came next for them. So this year, how do we build on that? How do we bring that same excitement and motivation back to the community?”

Bay Path President Sandra Doran echoed this sentiment.

“We want them to reignite their passion,” she said. “They’re professional women looking to further their career, looking to further their own professional journey, whether it’s in their existing career or looking outside of that. And this is the place to do it.”

The university’s 26th annual conference will feature TV host Robin Roberts and several other speakers (more on them later). The conference typically draws attendees not only from the Pioneer Valley, but from Eastern Mass., Connecticut, New York — anywhere within driving distance, due to the power of the speakers and the power of community.

“This is a new group, a new community … they’ve got their work community, they’ve got their family community, but now maybe they have a professional-development community. That is incredibly powerful,” Doran said. “If you are a mid-level manager or somebody who’s looking to executive leadership, or somebody who’s just entering into your career, and you’re trying to figure out, ‘what are those skills? What are those attitudes? What’s that growth mindset that is going to propel me to success in the workforce?’ Those are the professionals that you will find in the audience.”

“It’s very much experiential. Some people describe it as transformative. Some people describe it as the only conference they go to in any year because of the value that it brings to them personally as well as professionally. “

She explained that people keep coming back year after year because they’ve experienced growth, and they want to share that growth with others in the room. The conference provides a unique environment — a sort of support system — where professionals can share how they’ve grown in their career, and what comes next on that journey.

And this isn’t a conference where people just come and sit in rows to listen to speakers, Doran continued.

“It’s very much experiential. Some people describe it as transformative. Some people describe it as the only conference they go to in any year because of the value that it brings to them personally as well as professionally. I can’t emphasize enough how this is not a conference where we’ve just got 1,400 chairs lined up in a room. It is not that — everybody sits at a table. Every table is a conversation topic around something to do with personal or professional growth.”


Face Value

This is the second year WLC has returned since a two-year absence during the pandemic. With such a deep focus on the experiential quality of the conference, a virtual alternative was simply not an option, so no conference at all was held in 2020 or 2021.

“I think what was telling in the pandemic is a lot of things stopped, so in our case, our conference stopped for two years — and to come back last year and have 1,400 people come … people missed it so much over those two years,” said Karen Woods, Bay Path’s assistant vice president of Brand Strategy, Marketing, and Integrated Communications and WLC co-chair.

In addition to individuals who buy tickets to attend, Woods noted that companies call in inquiring about the upcoming conference far in advance. Businesses eagerly await to hear who the speakers each year will be and buy tables for their employees, knowing the professional-development value the conference holds.

Sandra Doran emphasizes the interactive nature of the conference, which is not a place to sit in rows and just listen.

Sandra Doran emphasizes the interactive nature of the conference, which is not a place to sit in rows and just listen.

Indeed, this year’s keynote speakers come from vastly different backgrounds and careers, but share something in common: the ability to ignite motivation in others.

The conference will begin with a motivational and humorous talk from author and speaker Betsy Allen-Manning that will guide attendees through exercises that aim to set the tone of the conference and ignite a day of learning. The founder of Corporate Culture Training Solutions, a leadership-training company, she specializes in creating positive employee experiences as well as developing leaders who are equipped to handle a hyper-competitive marketplace.

“Success doesn’t necessarily mean the top person in the company,” Woods said of the first keynote session. “Every single one of us needs that secret sauce to our own success, and how do we get there?”

The luncheon keynote talk will be given by Tunde Oyeneyin, a cycling and bike boot-camp instructor from Peloton who has become known for her empowering and motivational cycling sessions.

Oyeneyin was a professional makeup artist for 15 years, but after lifting the confidence of her clients through her beauty skills for so long, she realized that her true calling was in motivating others. She became a cycling instructor in Los Angeles and ended up being hired onto Peloton’s instructor team. She trains up to 20,000 riders per day through her live motivational classes. Now, she’s taking to the WLC stage to spark the energy of attendees and bring forward their inner passions.

“When you’re going to ignite new business plans, and you’re going to bring those forward, whether it’s personal or professional goals, you really need to have that ability to trust your gut — to find your voice, to be able to advocate for what’s next in your career,” Woods said.

The day will end with a keynote talk from Roberts, well-known as a Good Morning America co-anchor, Emmy Award and People’s Choice Award winner, author, entrepreneur, and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, among other achievements. She’s going from the screen to the stage for a moderated Q&A session with Doran.

“We are so excited to introduce Robin Roberts to our WLC audience,” Woods said. “Everything she has done has been a way to ignite what’s next. From the court, when she played basketball, through all of her interviews, those that she’s spoken with and worked with over the years, to writing books — award winners — she’s the perfect person to end our day.”


Breaking Out

The conference will also feature four breakout sessions offering lessons and activities designed to give attendees valuable takeaways that can be applied to their professional lives.

Session A, titled “Forging and Managing the Hybrid Workspace” and led by Alexandra Samuel, will address how attendees can better navigate the hybrid workspace culture that emerged post-COVID. Samuel is an author and digital-workplace expert who seeks to help her audience solve the puzzle of balancing in-person and remote work in hopes of making the now-popular hybrid format a more viable piece of their workday.

Session B is called “Igniting Your Innovation and Understanding Your Onlyness” and will be presented by author and speaker Nilofer Merchant. She will discuss the concept of ‘onlyness’ — identifying what you alone bring to the table that somebody else can’t, what makes you stand out in the workplace, and how to find power in this self-knowledge. Merchant will help attendees discover their ‘onlyness’ and teach them how to socialize it to create real change.

Session C is titled “You’ve Got the Seat at the Table, Now What?” and will be led by Pirie Jones Grossman, a TedX speaker, author, and life-empowerment coach. She will offer an extension to the common conversation of how to reach corporate positions as a woman — and what to do once there. Sharing her research, she will challenge the idea that successful women in the corporate world need to show up like men, instead offering information on the unique leadership instincts and strengths of women’s brains.

Session D is called “The Power of Inclusive Leadership,” and will be led by Juliet Hall, an advisor, leadership consultant, speaker, and author. Objectives of this session include how workplaces can transform their leadership teams to build a strong foundation and promote equity, how workplaces can adjust their internal work teams to create a more inclusive environment for their employees, understanding unconscious bias and microaggressions, and how leaders can remodel internal culture.

For more information on the 2023 Women’s Leadership Conference, visit www.baypath.edu/events-calendar/womens-leadership-conference.

Health Care Special Coverage

Critical Condition



An “inflection point.” 

That’s what Dr. Robert Roose says hospitals have reached when it comes to their bottom lines and the ongoing challenge of making ends meet at a time when revenues continue to fall and expenses continue to rise. 

Hospitals have perpetually struggled from a fiscal standpoint amid continually rising prices, the need to constantly upgrade technology and innovate, and reimbursement rates from payers that have historically been below 80 cents on the dollar, Roose said. But trends and conditions that existed before the pandemic have only been exacerbated over the past three years, and now, hospitals are at a critical, and extremely challenging, crossroads. 

“There’s no way to sugarcoat it — hospitals and health systems across Massachusetts, and across the majority of the country, are finding themselves struggling in many regards, and at an inflection point where there are going to need to be continued efforts to support hospitals, or there will continue to be systems and hospitals that remain in distress,” said Roose, chief administrative officer at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, part of Trinity Health Of New England. 

He quantified the situation by noting that Mercy is on a path to lose roughly $25 million for the fiscal year that will end in June, about the same amount as last year. 

“There’s no way to sugarcoat it — hospitals and health systems across Massachusetts, and across the majority of the country, are finding themselves struggling in many regards, and at an inflection point where there are going to need to be continued efforts to support hospitals, or there will continue to be systems and hospitals that remain in distress.”

Dr. Robert Roose

Dr. Robert Roose

“It will be challenging to persist with the current models that are in place in the same ways that we have in the past,” Roose went on. There are a multitude of reasons for that, but the challenges remain significant, and the pathways forward are going to require multiple initiatives and ongoing support from a variety of different angles. 

Dr. Lynette Watkins, president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Hospital, an affiliate of Mass General Brigham, agreed, noting that COVID put the challenges that all hospitals are facing under a brighter spotlight. 

“The past three years have been particularly challenging,” she said, citing everything from staffing issues to the aging of the population and the pressures they put on hospitals. “What COVID laid bare is that all of these issues are there, and that it’s incumbent on us to be creative, accelerate the solutions, and leverage a lot of the tools that we were in many ways reticent to use, such as telehealth and virtual visits. 

“While this situation has challenged us, it has also provided us with an opportunity to think differently, to treat patients differently, to engage differently — with our patients and with the community,” Watkins went on, adding that she and her team at CDH are working to taking full advantage of that opportunity. 

Spiras Hatiras, president and CEO on Holyoke Medical Center (HMC), concurred. In remarks made to BusinessWest for its annual Economic Outlook, he spoke of both challenge and opportunity, on several fronts, but especially when it comes to workforce issues. 

The ongoing workforce crisis, while it has impacted all sectors, has put healthcare providers, and especially hospitals, at an extreme disadvantage, especially when it comes to nursing and the need to fill vacancies with contract or ‘travel’ nurses, which can cost two or three times what a staff nurse might, Hatiras noted. 

“In healthcare, there is a great deal of concern, and the most concerning part is the continuing shortage of personnel, which has created this market for temporary staffing at rates that are truly outrageous,” he said. “To put things in perspective, we have about 20 nurses on temporary staff that we get through agencies. Those 20 nurses, on an annual basis, cost us $5 million; each nurse costs us $250,000 because the rates are exorbitant — the nurses get a lot of money, but there’s also a middleman that makes untold amounts of money from this crisis. 

“As a nation, the federal government is doing a lot of things — they did some things with railroad workers, they’re helping Ukraine, they’re talking about a lot of things. They should have stepped in and regulated this and said, ‘the pandemic created a tremendous amount of shortage; we cannot allow private companies to go out and profit from that shortage of staffing and bring hospitals to their knees.’ With all this, it’s going to be very difficult for hospitals to cope, and that’s why all our strategy centers around finding a way to attract nurses here.” 

For this issue, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the fiscal challenges facing hospitals today, and what must happen for these institutions to weather this severe storm. 


Dollars and Sense 

When asked how hospitals arrived at this inflection point, as he called it, Roose said it was a combination of factors, but, as he and others noted earlier, it comes down to an exacerbation of, to borrow an industry term, some pre-existing conditions. 

These include a trend toward outpatient, rather than inpatient, care, which certainly impacts overall revenues, and also shortages on the workforce front, which increase the cost of doing business in many ways, and sharp rises in prices of … well, just about everything, from medications to PPE. 

“What COVID laid bare is that all of these issues are there, and that it’s incumbent on us to be creative, accelerate the solutions, and leverage a lot of the tools that we were in many ways reticent to use, such as telehealth and virtual visits.”

Dr. Lynette Watkins

Dr. Lynette Watkins

“We’ve been dealing with the aftershocks of one of the most significant public-health crises of our time,” Roose explained. “And it occurred at a point where many shifts in healthcare were already underway, including a shift from inpatient care toward the delivery of care in a lower-cost outpatient, ambulatory setting where the trends of consumers, our patients, were beginning to change, but where the reimbursement for those services had not been able to keep up with those changes. This was layered on top of an existing healthcare-workforce shortage. 

“So, the pandemic caused a significant challenge amidst what was already several headwinds that were providing stiff challenges for smaller hospitals across the country to overcome,” he went on, “forcing them to transform, to look differently, to meet those challenges and the needs of our community.” 

Elaborating, he turned the clock back to late 2019 for perspective. He said that there was already significant movement in how healthcare was being delivered. More services were being provided in settings outside hospitals, he explained, with surgeries taking place in outpatient, ambulatory settings. Meanwhile, insurance companies were adjusting as well, covering certain types of procedures, such as joint replacements, only if they took place in those lower-cost settings. 

“With that, inpatient volume was beginning to decline by a few percentage points,” Roose said, adding that those shifts were beginning to accelerate when the pandemic hit. Overall, there has been movement away from the fee-for-service model that had dominated healthcare delivery for decades and a shift toward promoting wellness, he explained, but not enough movement to shelter hospitals, especially smaller community hospitals, from those headwinds he described earlier. 

“It has certainly not kept pace with the dramatic impact on volume and the lack of reimbursement for fee-for-service care that has occurred to make up that gap,” he went on, adding that staffing shortages already existed before the pandemic, but they, too, were exacerbated by COVID and its many side effects. 

Watkins agreed, and, like others we spoke with, she said revenues have certainly improved since the depths of the pandemic, but they are still not at pre-COVID levels. 

And there are many other forces at play that are challenging hospitals, she added, including a shortage of workers at post-acute facilities such as nursing homes, which often leaves patients who are otherwise ready for discharge with no place to go, putting more pressure on hospitals. 

“We have two, three, or sometimes more patients who are ready for medical discharge, but when we don’t have a place to send those patients, so they stay with us,” Watkins said. “And that means that some patients who need to in an acute-care facility are in the emergency room or cannot get in; that’s been a huge, huge challenge.” 


Work in Progress 

One of the factors greatly impacting hospital finances is the ongoing workforce crisis, which has certainly increased the cost of providing care. Roose told BusinessWest that, while Mercy’s overall workforce is down perhaps 20%, due to a variety of factors, its workforce costs are still 7% to 8% higher than before the pandemic. 

Indeed, with many positions, not just nurses, hospitals have had to rely on contract employees, which are considerably more expensive than those on staff. 

“In healthcare, there is a great deal of concern, and the most concerning part is the continuing shortage of personnel, which has created this market for temporary staffing at rates that are truly outrageous.”

Spiros Hatiras

Spiros Hatiras

But there are other factors as well, said Watkins, including additional overtime, bonuses needed to attract job candidates, shift bonuses, and more. 

“It’s a huge challenge, and it significantly affected our financial performance, as well as that of other systems in the Commonwealth and across the country,” she said. “And we have to make sure that we are staffed to take care of the patients here that are sicker and that are staying longer.” 

Elaborating, she explained that Cooley Dickinson used very few contract nurses prior to the pandemic, but the need for such personnel has risen dramatically due to retirements, burnout, and individuals simply leaving the profession to do something else. 

These forces have left hospitals to fill the gaps as best they can and, for the long term, focus energies — or even more energies, as the case may be — on attracting and retaining personnel across the board. 

Indeed, Hatiras told BusinessWest that closing the staffing gap is critical because it will bring down the overall cost of doing business and help hospitals cope with lower amounts of COVID relief and revenue levels still below those from before the pandemic. 

“With ARPA funds drying up, we’re going to have pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. So our emphasis is on closing the staffing gap,” he said. “If we can do that, and not bleed money on the expense side, I think we’ll be OK; I think we’re poised to have a good year, as long as we’re able to attract nurses here.” 

Elaborating, he said closing this gap involves making HMC a preferred place to work, one where applicants with choices will want to go — and hopefully stay, thus reducing the high cost of continually filling vacancies. 

“We’re doing OK because we had to respond to what was going on in the market by creating even more attractive reasons for coming here — we raised our rates, we’re enhancing benefits, and at the same time, we’re looking at economic assistance for the lower-earning employees,” he said. “Where it’s more difficult is with the professionals because the dollars are significantly more, so competing just on price is difficult. The key for success — what keeps people here and makes them come here — is the culture of the place, so we put a tremendous amount of effort in the 10 years I’ve been here on creating a good culture. Now, it’s become a differentiator, and we’re pushing it even more. We’re an employer that listens to employees, responds to their needs, and cares. That’s what people want.” 

Roose concurred, and told BusinessWest that the recent challenges that hospitals have faced have put even more emphasis on the importance of people in the overriding task of providing quality care to patients — and the overall success of a provider. 

“Never has it been more apparent, and critical, to realize that people are the vehicles through which we deliver healthcare,” he said. “We do not deliver services that can be provided by machines; we’re reliant upon the great skills of care providers — and we don’t take that lightly.” 


Bottom Line 

Moving forward, Roose said, as hospitals cope with these various challenges — and, again, there are many of them — state and federal governments need to step up and continue to provide needed support. 

“The ARPA funding and other sources of relief through the pandemic and beyond, which is greatly appreciated, is not enough to close the gap from the challenges that we have encountered,” he noted. “The cost structure for delivering care has increased so dramatically, the models for fee-for-service care have not shifted quick enough, and the rates from commercial and other payers has not kept up with inflation. 

“So even with all that support, hospitals like Mercy Medical Center are expected to lose about $25 million this year, which is very similar to what it was the year before, and Trinity Health Of New England lost $65 million in fiscal 2022 from operations,” he went on. “And that puts incredible stress on hospitals.” 

Indeed, it does, and these losses, and the forces behind them, explain why hospitals are at an inflection point, and why change is needed if they are to move from critical condition fiscally to something far more sustainable.


Hazen Paper Co.

This Family Business Has Been Innovating for Nearly a Century

President and CEO John Hazen

President and CEO John Hazen

John Hazen figured there was some risk in purchasing his first holographic printer back in 2005. But, as the third-generation co-owner of Hazen Paper Co. in Holyoke, he also saw the potential.

“I always say I was like Jack and the beanstalk,” he told BusinessWest. “Dad sent me out with a bag of beans — ‘grow the business, son!’ — and I bought this crazy thing called a holoprinter.”

But he was determined to build Hazen’s footprint in the world of holographic printing, and plenty of other technology at the company sprung from that first investment.

These days, Hazen regularly wins awards from the Assoc. of International Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators for everything from beverage packaging to annual programs for the Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and the Super Bowl. The 200-employee company has also been recognized for workforce-development efforts like an internship program with Western New England University that helps engineering students gain experience.

Clearly, Hazen Paper has come a long way from its origins in 1925, when Hazen’s grandfather, also named John, launched the enterprise as a decorative paper converter and embosser. His younger brother, Ted, joined Hazen in 1928 to help manage the growing company, which grew rapidly in the 1930s and expanded into printing and foil laminating by the 1940s.

Ted’s son, Bob, joined the company in 1957, and John’s son, Tom, signed on in 1960, and the second generation dramatically expanded the company, which became known worldwide for specializing in foil and film lamination, gravure printing, specialty coating, and rotary embossing. Hazen products became widely used in luxury packaging, lottery and other security tickets, tags and labels, cards and cover stocks, as well as photo and fine-art mounting.

The third-generation owners, John and Robert Hazen, joined the company at the start of the 1990s, and have continued to grow and expand, with a special emphasis on coating, metallizing, and — of course — holographic technology.

“It really was a startup, a technology startup in an older company. And ultimately, we really reinvented Hazen Paper,” John told BusinessWest. “The holographic technology ended up feeding the old business. So it’s like we installed a new heart in an old body.”

—Joseph Bednar



Nicole Ortiz Has Turned a Love of Food into a Growing Enterprise

Owner Nicole Ortiz

Owner Nicole Ortiz

Nicole Ortiz was born in Springfield, but became intrigued by food during her four years in Cleveland.

There, she worked her first job in a kitchen, prepping and washing dishes in a small Puerto Rican restaurant, and the city’s West Side Market — filled with fresh foods from all over the world — became her favorite place, where she became captivated with food culture, local ingredients, and … food trucks.

After moving back to New England in 2016, she put her business degree and an itch for entrepreneurship to work, enrolling in the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Center, then winning a pitch contest and setting up a successful pop-up restaurant experience at HCC. She bought a food trailer, graduated from both HCC and EforAll Holyoke, and launched a food-truck business called Crave, specializing in modern Puerto Rican cuisine, all in 2020.

“My father is from Puerto Rico, and my mom’s family is from Italy and Finland,” she said. “I think the food we offer is different and unique, and draws inspiration from the many walks of life that I have had the opportunity to experience.”

Despite opening into the teeth of the pandemic, Crave Food Truck was a big-enough hit that Ortiz started sharing storefront space on High Street with Holyoke Hummus early in 2021, where she could prep meals and sell takeout orders. In June, she solely took over the lease, and Crave had a full-service restaurant, which now offers sit-down and takeout service, in addition to the food-truck operation and catering gigs.

Now managing a staff of eight, Ortiz is proud to be part of an ongoing entrepreneurial renaissance on High Street (see related story on page 36).

“We want to build on that and let people know what’s going on down here. Before, this street had a bad image, and a lot of people didn’t want to come down here. We created a High Street Business Association to look at all the businesses here on High Street and get all of us on the same page, working for a common goal — you know, bringing more people down here. That’s really exciting.”

—Joseph Bednar


Nick’s Nest

Area Residents Relish Visits to This Holyoke Landmark

Co-owner Jenn Chateauneuf

Co-owner Jenn Chateauneuf

If you’re looking for perhaps the most iconic hot dog this side of Fenway, look no further than Nick’s Nest — a Holyoke landmark since 1921.

What originally started as a simple popcorn cart evolved into the well-known hot dog stand it is today, more than a century later. It started when founder Nick Malfas was told by his wife that the original location looked like a little bird’s nest — and the name ‘Nick’s Nest’ stuck.

The current owners of 18 years are Jenn and Kevin Chateauneuf.

“We always worked in the restaurant business; my husband was a bartender, and I was a waitress,” Jenn said. “We always wanted to venture out and own our own place. I’m from Holyoke, he’s from South Hadley, so obviously we knew of Nick’s Nest. When it came up for sale, we just jumped at the opportunity.”

Nick’s Nest has been at its current location on Northampton Street since 1948, but Jenn and Kevin have since expanded the menu from its original offerings. “Our specialty is hot dogs; when we bought the place, it was hot dogs, baked beans, and popcorn,” she explained. “We’ve added french fries, onion rings, homemade soups … we have homemade potato salad, homemade macaroni salad.”

Nick’s Nest continues to be the area’s go-to destination for hot dogs. In fact, the venerable eatery has won ‘best hot dog’ honors in the Valley Advocate’s reader poll every one of the 18 years the Chateauneufs have owned the restaurant.

In addition to its food offerings, Nick’s Nest has an assortment of branded merchandise including T-shirts and hats that display the name of the establishment along with its slogan — “A Holyoke Tradition” — for patrons to proudly show their love of good food and community.

Though Nick’s Nest has achieved much success over the years, Chateauneuf noted that it hasn’t been without its fair share of trials.

“We try to do a lot for the community because, obviously, they support us,” she said. “They were tremendous through COVID. We’re happy that we’re still standing after those couple of years because a lot of small businesses can’t say that.”

—Elizabeth Sears


Star Dancers Unity

This Business Helps Young People Take Positive Steps

Alex Saldaña has made important moves to improve his community — dance moves, that is.

He’s been the owner and operator of Star Dancers Unity on High Street in Holyoke for the past 10 years. He originally became an enrichment dance instructor for Holyoke Public Schools, which is what inspired him to open his own business.

“I pretty much didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he said. “But it’s just finding the opportunity — to be able to open a center in our community for youth that can benefit from dance services.”

Saldaña knew he wanted to use his background in dancing for good within the community, and he envisioned a space where area young people could go, noting high rates of teen pregnancy at the time of the studio’s opening.

“My inspiration was to be able to help some of those kids get some different activities besides being on the streets or doing things other than being productive in the community,” he said.

Star Dancers Unity currently has 65 students enrolled, said Saldaña, adding that Holyoke has been a great place to run his growing dance studio.

“The community has been supportive of my business, and also the aspect of understanding that I serve not just the youth but families in povery,” he explained. “I try to keep my tuition in a reasonable price range where it could be affordable to all families.”

As an extension of this work, Saldaña has taught salsa and hip hop for Holyoke Public Schools, and has been a visiting teacher in local afterschool and summer programs throughout the region. Currently, he works as a family coordinator for Holyoke Public Schools.

Star Dancers Unity not only participates in dance competitions, but is involved in many community events as well, from Celebrate Holyoke to performances at Holyoke High School for Hispanic Heritage Month.

“We partner up with different art pageants and do things for the schools,” Saldaña said. “When they have cultural diversity times, we also do presentations there.”

Clearly, by creating a safe, inclusive space, Star Dancers Unity is offering young people much more than dance lessons.

—Elizabeth Sears


Black Rose Trucking

These Two Women Are Hauling a Load of Ambition

Co-owners Yolanda Rodriguez (left) and Ashley Ayala

Co-owners Yolanda Rodriguez (left) and Ashley Ayala

All Yolanda Rodriguez and Ashley Ayala needed to start a hauling company was … well, a truck. Soon, they will have two. And they’re not stopping there.

That second truck is the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign on Patronicity, bringing in $21,448 from 35 backers, more than their goal of $19,950. It’s an example of growing by thinking outside the box.

“Our long-term goal is to have more equipment and do more transport, which means more employees and growing our company,” said Ayala, the daughter in the mother-daughter ownership team that launched Black Rose Trucking three years ago. “We definitely have big dreams of having a lot of trucks, and being able, in the future, to offer different services than what we do now.”

Rodriguez has been in the commercial trucking industry for a long time, and Ayala eventually caught the bug. “She had a dream of owning her own business,” Ayala said. “She’s passionate about what she’s doing, and that kind of rubbed off on me. So a few years ago, I ended up getting my commercial driver’s license as well. And we decided to make a business out of it. Her dream kind of became my dream.”

COVID-19 delayed the process, and Black Rose didn’t start taking jobs in earnest until early 2021. “We just kept going until everything kind of opened up,” Ayala said.

They haul asphalt and other materials to and from construction sites, as well as doing paving and milling work for contractors and on highway projects, all the while taking pride in their position as women of color in a male-dominated field — and pride in their city as well.

“I was raised in Holyoke, so I see how Holyoke has progressed. And I’ve seen all these small businesses also come about and grow,” Ayala said. “We see these restaurants and other businesses come about that are owned by women of color. You can see every day how they’re progressing, and they’re still around. It’s definitely a nice feeling to be a part of that.”

—Joseph Bednar


Holyoke Sporting Goods

This Venerable Institution Helps Foster Team Spirit

Owner Betsy Frey

Owner Betsy Frey

Nothing says ‘team spirit’ quite like matching uniforms, and whether you’re on a sports team, a sales team, or even team Gas & Electric, there’s a place in Holyoke to find your team spirit — Holyoke Sporting Goods.

Originally founded in 1928 in downtown Holyoke by James Clary, the company moved to its current location on Dwight Street under current owner and operator Betsy Frey in 2005.

“It’s in a much easier section of town to get to, we’re right off of the highway, which is convenient,” Frey said. “We have our own dedicated parking lot, which is nice, too; you don’t have to park on the street.”

Holyoke Sporting Goods caters not only to sports teams, but to many area businesses. “We do a lot of schools; we sell their sports equipment and their uniforms,” Frey said. “Then we do leagues like Little Leagues — we’ll supply them with all their baseballs, their equipment, their uniforms. I also do a lot of municipal stuff for the city of Holyoke or the city of Springfield, like Holyoke Gas & Electric, Water Works, Housing Authority, all the uniforms that they wear — they’ll wear shirts and stuff with a company logo on them. So we do all that.”

And with St. Patrick’s Day — along with Holyoke’s famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade — right around the corner, look no further than Holyoke Sporting Goods for related merchandise.

“Right now, we’re doing a lot of stuff for St. Patrick’s Day,” Frey said, “so I have a lot of Holyoke stuff with shamrocks and things like that.”

Frey said she enjoys running a business in Holyoke, adding that she gets a real team-spirit feeling from the city.

“Oh, it’s great,” she said. “Holyoke’s a great place to be in business. The people here are extremely supportive; they like to support their local businesses. I sell a lot of stuff in the store that has ‘Holyoke’ on it or is related to Holyoke. The people in Holyoke are wonderful; they support the business. This is a good community to have a business in.”

—Elizabeth Sears


Hadley Printing

For 125 Years, This Holyoke Staple Has Been on a Roll

Owners and brothers Greg (left) and Chris Desrosiers

Owners and brothers Greg (left) and Chris Desrosiers

Hadley Printing has been a family-owned business for 125 years. Currently in its third generation under the direction of brothers Chris and Greg Desrosiers, the commercial printer offers digital printing, offset printing, and mail services to a wide variety of customers in New England.

The business originated in South Hadley, but in 1976, it moved to its current location on Canal Street in Holyoke. When asked about operating a business in the 33,000-square-foot building alongside one of the city’s historic canals, Vice President Greg Desrosiers had a lot to say.

“We’re in an old mill building … it used to be a silk company years and years ago; that’s when it was originated, so we’re kind of in an old silk mill,” he said. “The building itself serves us well — these mill buildings were made really well back in the day; so long as you take care of them, they serve you back really well. Obviously, it has tons of windows with natural light. In a manufacturing setting, that’s really, really welcomed and beneficial.”

Desrosiers noted that many manufacturing settings don’t have any windows to allow natural light to come in, so having the abundant natural light of one of the Holyoke mill buildings is much preferred to the usual dreary setting of four solid walls. The water view of the canal is not only another added bonus for day-to-day working pleasure, but it actually helps with the printing itself — Desrosiers can say with certainty that at least 50% of the company’s power is hydroelectric, but noted the actual percentage is probably much higher than that.

Hadley Printing, with 30 employees working across two shifts, has found another advantage to being located in Holyoke aside from operating out of the former silk mill. The company services customers in Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, the Boston area, and Albany, in addition to local customers, making Holyoke a sweet spot.

“It’s really the crossroads of New England, with 91 and the Mass Pike intersecting right through Holyoke,” he explained. “It’s the center of our customer base. We’re in the middle of who we service.”

Elizabeth Sears


International Volleyball Hall of Fame

For a Half-century, It Has Lifted Up Its Sport and Its City

Executive Director George MulryStaff Photo

Executive Director George Mulry

Honor. Preserve. Promote.

Those three simple words reflect a robust, multi-pronged effort to celebrate the sport of volleyball and secure its future, and George Mulry detailed just a few of those prongs. Or spikes, if you will.

“On the honor side, we certainly recognize the inductees and those worthy of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame,” said Mulry, the Hall’s executive director. “But with some of our awards, we’re recognizing local individuals and organizations that are doing great things, not just for the sport of volleyball, but to help move the Volleyball Hall of Fame forward, which in turn helps move the city of Holyoke forward.

“The preserve side is really where we’re focusing a lot of our time now,” he added. “We have our Archival Preservation and Community Access Project, where we’re going through our entire archive, cataloguing it, and trying to digitize it and make it available as a resource library for the area. That will help bring some scholars in, which will give us an opportunity to improve the exhibits that we have and improve some online exhibits as well.

“And on the promote side, we’re not only trying to promote the growth of volleyball, but we want to promote volleyball itself within our region,” Mulry said, listing events like a summer volleyball festival, the collegiate Morgan Classic tournament at Springfield College, and no-cost youth clinics. “We’re just promoting the sport as a whole, while at the same time promoting the Hall of Fame as that vehicle for telling the story.”

From the Hall’s inception in 1971 to the opening of its current facility on Dwight Street in 1984 through today, with conversations taking place about what a future Hall of Fame might look like, Mulry said Holyoke has always been top of mind.

“For over 50 years, the city has really embraced being the birthplace of volleyball and used that as an economic driver for tourism and economic spinoff,” he explained. “There are a lot of really exciting things going on. But it’s the support that we’ve received from the city of Holyoke that really makes the whole thing go.”

—Joseph Bednar


Valley Blue Sox

This Team Has Become a Summer Tradition in Holyoke

If you visit Holyoke during the summertime, you might catch the Valley Blue Sox in action at Mackenzie Stadium.

The Blue Sox, originally known as the Concord Quarry Dogs, began in New Hampshire but have since rebranded and have called Holyoke their home for more than a decade now. The team is part of the New England College Baseball League, with players coming from all over the U.S. each summer.

“Having a team in Holyoke is great for us; you have a really loyal fan base, the same fans that usually come to a lot of games, so we get to know the same people throughout the summer in the city,” said Tyler Descheneaux, the new general manager. “The community really rallies around it.”

He went on to explain the team’s national impact as well as local significance.

“The purpose of this league is to try and have players that are trying to make it to that next level, to the major leagues, play summer ball,” he explained. “Our league is ranked as one of the top leagues in the entire country for summer leagues — last year, we were number two in the entire country. It’s a highly coveted league, so a lot of MLB scouts or even college scouts will come to our games to see how these players are.”

The team is going to bat with plenty of new promotions this season, including a partnership with Michael’s Bus Lines on a raffle, with one lucky fan winning a free bus ride for 25 people. Additionally, opening weekend will feature a giveaway of shirts to the first 250 fans who come to the game, and these aren’t just any shirts — the team is debuting a new logo this season, and this will be the first chance for fans to sport the team’s new look.

The Blue Sox are actively involved in the community — on and off the field.

“One thing that we do every summer is we always hold different youth baseball clinics, which usually last a week. We always hold one in Holyoke, and that’s coming up,” Descheneaux said.

With so much in store for the team and the community, this summer seems to be shaping up to be a home run.

—Elizabeth Sears


Marcus Printing

For Almost a Century, This Press Has Found Success

The printing industry has seen plenty of changes over the past century, but they’ve only accelerated in the new century, said Susan Goldsmith, president of Marcus Printing.

“Technology in printing has changed more rapidly in the past 20 years than the 100 years before that,” she noted. “We have basically kept up with technology, starting with eliminating film from the printing process and going direct to plate, and then getting into the digital world and most recently expanding into mailing as well as wide-format; we’ve become a little bit of everything to everybody.”

It’s a model that works for Marcus, she added. “We couldn’t be just a standalone digital shop, or a standalone offset shop. We’re a mid-sized print shop. That’s where we’re most comfortable — not printing a million pieces, but we can print 50,000, or we can print two for you. That’s been the niche we always wanted to serve.”

The third-generation family business was established in 1930 by Phil and Sarah Marcus at 32 Main St. in Holyoke, who moved to 109 Main St. in 1942. Back then, it was strictly a fine letterpress printing company, installing its first offset press in 1945.

In 1961, Marcus moved to a 7,000-square-foot space in the former Skinner Mill on Appleton Street. During the next 25 years, it expanded its offset production, purchased the building, and expanded to use all of its 21,000 square feet on three floors. The current location, at 750 Main St., is a 33,000 square-foot facility, all on one floor.

The company’s 30-plus employees pride themselves on customer service, Goldsmith said. “We don’t make promises we can’t keep, and we do everything in our power to get it to you when you need it. And we try to employ as many Holyoke people as we can.”

She’s also proud of her company’s place in the Paper City.

“Holyoke has a great business community, and printing and paper have been at its foundation. We just had a conversation with John Hazen about work our parents did together, and I’m guessing maybe our grandparents. It’s nice to have that long-term connection with the history of what the city is built on.”

—Joseph Bednar


Pride and Promise

Jim Sullivan

Jim Sullivan says Holyokers, like himself, share a deep sense of pride in their community.

Jim Sullivan says he’s not really sure where it comes from. Like most people from Holyoke, he’s just taken it for granted.

He was referring to the immense pride people take in being from this city and, in a great many cases, still living in it.

“There’s been a lot of change over the years, but what hasn’t changed is the spirit of the people,” said Sullivan, president of the O’Connell Companies, which was started in Holyoke and is almost as old as the city itself (it will mark its own sesquicentennial in six years). “There is a very proud heritage in the city of Holyoke, and it still exists today. Even with the youth today — and I like to spend some time with them at the Boys & Girls Club, where I’m a trustee — you get a sense of pride with the folks that you talk to.”

This pride is something that’s almost palpable as you talk with people from this city, and it was referenced by just about everyone we talked with for this special section — in one way or another.

“There’s a saying … as Holyokers, we can talk bad about Holyoke, but you can’t talk bad about Holyoke,” said Gary Rome, owner of Gary Rome Auto Group, another Holyoke native, and someone with a huge presence in the city. “People here are very committed and passionate about their city.”

Beyond this omnipresent pride, Rome, Sullivan, and other business leaders we spoke with see many other qualities in Holyoke — history, tradition, diversity, economic progress, collaboration, energetic new leadership, new businesses, new business sectors (including cannabis and green energy), and something they’ve always seen: opportunities.

As in opportunities for entrepreneurs, for individuals looking for work or a career, for professionals looking for an affordable place to live, and for people aspiring to work for themselves instead of for someone else.

“There’s a lot of entrepreneurial spirit really coming alive in the city,” said Lynn Gray, general manager of the Holyoke Mall, which opened 44 years ago, changing the landscape in the community in many ways. “And that’s exciting because it benefits the city; it benefits everyone in and around the mall, having that entrepreneurial spirit. Moving forward, it’s a great path to be on.”

Meg Sanders, one of those entrepreneurs — she opened Canna Provisions on Dwight Street, part of a wave of cannabis-related businesses in Holyoke — agreed. She said she sees a great deal of vibrancy and entrepreneurial energy in the city, not just in cannabis, but also in the arts, hospitality, retail, and more.

“There’s a lot happening here — Holyoke is a great city that has so much to offer,” she said, adding that downtown is becoming more vibrant and, with many new types of arts and hospitality businesses opening, becoming much more of a destination.

Matt Bannister, senior vice president of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility at PeoplesBank, another Holyoke institution nearly as old as the city (it was founded by silk-mill owner William Skinner in 1885), concurred.

Steve Grande (left) and his son, Ben

Steve Grande (left) and his son, Ben, have engineered a transformation at Meridian Industrial Group.

He cited Gateway City Arts on Race Street, a live-entertainment venue, as an example of a relatively recent arts-fueled resurgence in the city, one that displays the trickle-down effect of such businesses and their ability to spur more development.

“Gateway is an example of the kind of anchor that you can build around,” he explained. “You get some nightlife, and the next thing you know, you have entrepreneurs and food trucks and all that. What’s happened down at Gateway, and what’s happening on Main Street, is that there’s some nice enthusiasm and energy.

“Overall, there is a good core of solid businesses, and there is a government in place that understands the importance of business development — we have smart people with a good vision,” Bannister went on, adding that the current wave of entrepreneurial energy coupled with large amounts of state and federal stimulus money make this a unique and potentially powerful moment in the city’s history.

For this special 150th-anniversary celebration edition, BusinessWest talked with a number of business owners about what they see today in Holyoke — and what they expect to see down the road.


Making Progress

There’s a manhole cover embedded in the floor just inside the main entrance to the property at 529 South East St., near the lower canal in Holyoke.

It bears the name J.W. Jolly, the company that made manhole covers for cities across the country and around the globe at that site more than 140 years ago.

There’s a mat now covering the one in the lobby here because more than a few people tripped over it, said Steve Grande, a former Springfield police officer who bought the business that was operating there, Central Massachusetts Machine, in 2009 and eventually changed the name to Meridian Industrial Group to reflect a broader customer base and product portfolio.

Indeed, this cutting-edge machine shop that he manages with his son, Ben, now specializes in very large parts (up to 30,000 pounds), including components for missiles, submarines, and even NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) program that famously knocked a meteorite off its orbit a few months back.

Meridian is an example, and there are many of them in this city, where the past, present, and future come together at the same mailing address. And this is one of the many things being celebrated as the city turns 150.

It’s like that at the Canna Provisions facility on Dwight Street, where a dispensary designed to look like an art gallery has been created in an old mill where Yankee Candle once leased space and began its meteoric rise.

It’s like that at the Gary Rome Hyundai dealership on Whiting Farms Road, where a combination car wash and dog wash is taking shape on property that also boasts a solar array and, in his office, pictures of Rome’s father, who started selling cars in Holyoke more than 60 years ago.

It’s like that the O’Connell Companies’ gleaming new headquarters building on Kelly Way, which includes photos of the company’s founder, Daniel J. O’Connell, and his descendants, as well as construction projects undertaken decades ago — specifically the Memorial Bridge reconstruction project and the Rowes Wharf initiative in Boston, that won Build America awards from Associated General Contractors of America.

And it’s like that PeoplesBank’s banking center at 1866 Northampton St., site of the former Yankee Pedlar, a popular restaurant and gathering spot for generations of city residents.

Yes, the past, present, and future come together seamlessly in this city, where change is as constant as tradition.

Lynn Gray, general manager of the Holyoke Mall

Lynn Gray, general manager of the Holyoke Mall, says there a great deal of “entrepreneurial spirit” coming alive in the city.

This change can been seen everywhere — on High Street, where many new businesses have opened in recent years (see related story on page XX); at the mall, where many of the traditional retail stores have been replaced with entertainment-related businesses, such as a trampoline center and a bowling alley; in the countless mills, many of them now occupied by cannabis-related ventures; on Race Street, where Gateway City Arts and other arts- and hospitality-related businesses are now operating; at the historic Cubit Building, now home to apartments and the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, and elsewhere.

What hasn’t changed is the great pride that people take in their city, and the spirit of entrepreneurship that built the community and is fueling its resurgence today. In fact, what business leaders see when they look at the city today is continued progress and revitalization.

Bannister, like others we spoke with, credited Joshua Garcia, the city’s first Hispanic mayor, and Aaron Vega, former state representative and now director of Planning and Economic Development in Holyoke, for creating a business-friendly environment in the city and generating real momentum on several fronts.

“They’re tilling a lot of soil in order to make things happen,” Bannister said. “When you throw a lot of seeds out, you’re never sure which ones are going to take and which ones aren’t, but you’re creating opportunities for things to happen.”


No Place Like Home

Those we spoke with said they consider it important not to just do business in Holyoke, but to be actively involved in the community and especially with efforts involving the next generations of Holyoke leaders.

Rome said his family has been doing business in Holyoke for almost a century. His grandfather started with a drugstore, he believes, and then opened a haberdashery. As Rome tells the story, money was so tight that his grandfather’s store and the neighboring shoe store would share a telephone.

Matt Bannister

Matt Bannister credits Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia and his administration for creating a business-friendly environment and fueling a surge in entrepreneurship.

“They had a hole in the wall, and they would pass the telephone back and forth through the wall,” he said, adding that things have certainly changed, for both his family and the city. What hasn’t changed is the family’s commitment to the city.

Indeed, Rome, was recently named one of BusinessWest’s Difference Makers for 2023, not only for his success in business — he was recently named TIME magazine’s Dealer of the Year — but for his work within the community, and especially Holyoke. He is a member of the foundation board at Holyoke Community College, and has donated his time, energy, and talent to countless nonprofits, while getting his company involved with them as well.

“When I look at Holyoke today, I see a lot of hope, a lot of passion,” he said. “And I see a strong initiative to let people know about all the good things that are happening in the city, and you can see that first-hand with our mayor and our economic-development team.”

Sullivan, who has been involved with the Boys & Girls Club for more than a decade now, said O’Connell supports a number of organizations and initiatives, from Girls Inc., which found a new home in the O’Connell Companies’ former headquarters on Hampden Street, to Providence Ministries for the Needy.

Gary Rome

Gary Rome, one of BusinessWest’s Difference Makers for 2023, is one of many Holyoke business leaders actively involved in the community.

PeoplesBank, meanwhile, has always been heavily involved in the community — supporting its nonprofits, being the main sponsor to the city’s famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and backing the many efforts at EforAll, the chamber, and other agencies to promote entrepreneurship and help others launch their own ventures, a key to the city’s continued progress.

“There’s an awful lot bubbling up,” Bannister said. “You have to wait and see which ones take root and which ones don’t, but we work with the Holyoke EforAll group to drive entrepreneurship because that’s how the next generation of businesses will come up; it won’t be a giant company that you lure here with tax incentives — it will be a whole lot of small businesses that will take off. It’s entrepreneurs at the street level that will drive growth.”

Even some of the relative newcomers to the scene in Holyoke said they realized early on the importance of getting involved, collaborating with others to generate more positive energy in the city, or just choosing the city as a landing spot.

Indeed, Sanders said there were many reasons why Canna Provisions put down roots in Holyoke, literally. Business-friendly bylaws and attractive space were among them, but there was also a desire to positively impact a city that was negatively impacted by the war against drugs and has, as she put it, “such good bones.”

“For us, Holyoke was a perfect canvas to do good,” she explained, adding that, in addition to bringing jobs and a new storefront to the city, the venture is also sparking other new business. Meanwhile, Sanders herself is getting involved with several initiatives, from the 150th-anniversary celebrations to the parade committee.

“Holyoke is an amazing city with so much potential, and bringing awareness to downtown and making sure everyone knows about all the cool things that are happening is very important,” she said. “Downtowns don’t turn around overnight, but it’s helpful if a community gets behind it — we see things turn around faster when everyone gets behind those efforts.”

Grande agreed, noting that he’s seeing progress in the community and is getting involved himself, with everything from workforce-development issues in manufacturing (he’s involved at Dean Tech and, specifically, an ongoing project to market its manufacturing programs) to his work as vice president of the Holyoke Taxpayers Assoc.

“I don’t want to sit on the sidelines and let other people do the heavy lifting,” he said. “We see improvements and excitement; this administration is bringing city officials together, and the real push from the business community is to make the city more attractive to potential new businesses by streamlining the permitting process, addressing crime, and much more. There’s an upward trajectory, but Holyoke has not been an easy sell.”


Passion Play

Flashing back more than a half-century to his youth, Sullivan said he and his friends thought Holyoke was “the center of the universe.”

It was only when they got older that their perspective changed — but only somewhat.

For many, it’s still the center of their lives, if not the universe, and the home of their businesses. It’s a unique and special place where the past, even the events of 150 years ago, are never far away and the future seems increasingly bright.

Features Picture This

Photos Past and Present

Holyoke’s rich industrial past, one that earned it the nickname ‘Paper City.’

Holyoke’s rich industrial past, one that earned it the nickname ‘Paper City.’

Old Holyoke Dam

Mountain Park

A view of Mountain Park, the popular amusement park that closed its doors in 1987.


Holyoke’s canals gave the city water power — and an identity.

Holyoke’s canals gave the city water power — and an identity.


City Hall has become a symbol of Holyoke.

City Hall has become a symbol of Holyoke.


One of the horses from the carousel

One of the horses from the carousel at Mountain Park, later moved to Heritage State Park, where it has become a popular attraction.


An aerial shot of Holyoke, one of its canals

An aerial shot of Holyoke, one of its canals, and one of its many distinctive mills.


The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center

The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center is part of a new era for Holyoke’s business community.


This mural created by the artist known as BORDALO II

This mural at 44 Clemente St., created by the artist known as BORDALO II, is part of the Beyond Walls initiative that has changed the landscape in downtown Holyoke and beyond.



Getting Down to Business

Brothers Juan (left) and Gilberto Uribe

Brothers Juan (left) and Gilberto Uribe are co-owners of El Paraiso Colombiano restaurant, a true family affair that has found a home on High Street.

Juan Uribe calls it a “family dream.”

He was referring to El Paraiso Colombiano restaurant, an entrepreneurial gambit that is truly a family affair.

Indeed, Juan and his brother, Gilberto, are co-owners and also cook and tend bar. Their father is head chef, and their sister is a waitress. Together, they created and now operate what they believe to be the only Colombian restaurant between here and Hartford, one that opened in the middle of the pandemic, but quickly found its stride nonetheless.

“On grand-opening day, there was a line outside to the corner,” said Juan, adding that, while there have been plenty of challenges with this venture, it has been a huge success to date, drawing patrons from around the block but also across the region and even beyond. “We thought people would come out and support something new, and they have.”

Juan, Gilberto, and other members of the Uribe family are now part of a changing scene on High Street, one of several ‘main’ streets in this city, and also part of an ongoing surge in entrepreneurship that is changing the face of the local business community.

Indeed, where once this city was dominated by large mills that covered several blocks of real estate, it is now marked increasingly by smaller ventures that occupy a storefront or even a desk or cubicle in the incubator space at the EforAll offices, also on High Street.

Jeff Cattell and Joseph Charles are also part of this changing scene. Business and life partners, they launched Paper City Fabrics, a supplier of a wide variety of fine fabrics, in September 2021, and have taken it from an online operation to a storefront on High Street that was most recently home to a law firm. They are completing renovations now and expect to open in the spring.

“Our goal has always been to open a brick-and-mortar storefront,” said Cattell, adding that he and Charles moved to the city four years ago and, after considering several business options, settled on a thrift-store model in what he called the “fiber-arts realm.”

Elaborating, he said the store will accept donations of fabric, everything from cotton to silk, as well as sewing machines and other goods and equipment, and sell them at steep discounts, thus bringing another unique concept to downtown Holyoke and one that speaks to its storied past in many respects.

Paper City Fabrics, El Paraiso Colombiano, and many other new businesses on High Street and beyond, from City Sports Bar to the Artery, a pop-up shop, to Star Dancers Unity (see story on page 50), are, indeed, part of a wave of entrepreneurship in the city, said Jordan Hart, executive director of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s a lot of old players in Holyoke — there are many established businesses in many sectors, including manufacturing, which has traditionally been our foundation,” she explained. “But we’re seeing a lot of young, new faces as well, people who are investing in our downtown.”

Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, executive director of EforAll Holyoke and its Spanish equivalent, EparaTodos — an agency that is fueling this wave through accelerator programs, pitch contests, virtual workshops, co-working space, and more — agreed.

She said that the chamber, EforAll, and programs like the Transformative District Initiative, which are funneling dollars into storefront-improvement efforts and other programs, are helping people launch new businesses and then weather the many challenges they will face.

Tessa Murphy-Romboletti (left) and Jordan Hart

Tessa Murphy-Romboletti (left) and Jordan Hart say a surge in entrepreneurship has helped Holyoke’s business community become as diverse as the city itself.

These efforts are also making Holyoke’s business community much more diverse, said both Jordan and Murphy-Romboletti, noting that it looks much like the city itself, with many Hispanics and other minority groups taking on risks and putting their names (figuratively and, in some cases, literally) over the door of buildings on High Street and many other roads.

“Holyoke is such a diverse community, and I think we’re both trying to make sure that our business community reflects our community at large,” said Murphy-Romboletti, who is also an at-large city councilor in Holyoke. “That’s one of the great things about the Holyoke chamber now — you go to one of its monthly networking events, and it looks like the community of Holyoke; it’s very diverse, and Jordan has created a very welcoming environment.”


Food for Thought

Juan Uribe was driving a truck when he and other members of his family decided to pool their talents and resources and open El Paraiso Colombiano.

And he still drives a truck in the morning and sometimes during the day depending on how business it is at the restaurant, because … well, because he needs two jobs at this stage in his life, especially as the restaurant continues to emerge and build its brand.

But, like other members of his family, Uribe desired to be in business for himself, and with some encouragement and learning while doing from EforAll, the dream became a reality.

Like many such ventures, it started with a passion that would become a business.

“We were born and raised here in Holyoke, and friends would come around; we’d have little events — my grandmother would make empanadas, and my father would cook, my mother would cook, everyone would just love to be in our house,” he recalled. “So we decided to make it a business; we all love to cook, and this is a family business.”

A restaurant operating at 351 High St. had to shut down because of COVID, he went on, adding that, while the timing may not have been perfect for launching a new eatery, the family took the plunge.

Joseph Charles, left, and Jeff Cattell

Joseph Charles, left, and Jeff Cattell, owners of Paper City Fabrics, are part of a changing scene on High Street.
Staff Photos

“We knew we had a good idea going, so we decided to take everything we had and move ahead,” he said. “We knew that, even though there was a pandemic, people still had to eat, and we thought they would come out and support something new.”

That’s the quick version of the story, he said, adding that many pieces to the puzzle had to come together, obviously, as well as a business plan for bringing that ‘something new’ — authentic Colombian cuisine — to Holyoke and the region.

And the learning while doing continues, he said, adding that working for himself is “a lot of work, but it’s something that I love, something that my brother loves. It’s challenging, and it’s hard, but it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Cattell and Charles offered similar sentiments and similar excitement when it comes to being part of the scene on High Street, which is the logical next step for their venture.

“Shopping for fabric is a tactile experience,” Charles said. “Touching and seeing the colors in person and the textures of the fabric is an important part of the buying process.”

The two had been looking for a storefront for more than a year and eventually settled on 330 High St., across the road from El Paraiso Colombiano, a location that affords them the space they need for their retail operation as well as to process donations and create a classroom for sewing lessons. The space has some history — it was once a popular lunch counter — and some intriguing features, such as tin ceilings and a mosaic tile floor that was hidden by carpeting.

“It’s really cool to be able to restore some of that historical perspective,” said Cattell, adding that it’s also cool to be part of a changing dynamic in downtown Holyoke, which is seeing new businesses across many sectors.

Meanwhile, the chamber, EforAll, and other agencies, such as Nuestras Raices, a grassroots urban-agriculture organization, are working collectively to not only create a pipeline of new businesses like these, but help those businesses survive, thrive, and get to the proverbial next level.

For example, EforAll has, in addition to accelerator programs, a number of virtual programs it calls Deep Dives.

In recent months, such dives have been taken into subjects ranging from “Making It in the Food Business” to “Are You Getting All You Can Out of QuickBooks?” to “How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Small Business.”

Meanwhile, the chamber, through its many networking programs, is enabling these new small businesses to make the connections they need to grow their portfolios, while also learning from others facing the same challenges.

Indeed, Jordan told BusinessWest that the chamber has an attractive rate for solopreneurs and small businesses, enabling these ventures to be part of a full slate of events that provide invaluable opportunities to not only hand out business cards but also be an active part of a growing, more diverse business community.

Murphy-Romboletti agreed.

“The chamber has created a very welcoming environment, especially for my entrepreneurs who are not familiar with networking and are often so focused on being in the business and not necessarily working on the business,” she explained. “I think the chamber creates this environment where people can step away from the cash register or step away from the kitchen and connect with the community and build those relationships so they can be successful and really be part of the community; that’s been really valuable.”

In addition to helping individuals start a business and move it to the next level, agencies like the chamber and EforAll are working to get them involved in the community and take ownership of efforts to revitalize High Street and, overall, improve the landscape for business in the city.

“Whether it’s a new business or a business that’s been around for decades, we want them to feel like they have the ability to make change and advocate for what they want,” Murphy-Romboletti said. “We’re really being intentional about creating these spaces for them.”

Uribe said that getting involved in the community has been not just part of the business plan, but something important for the family.

Indeed, they are part of the many festivals that place in the city, and Uribe is the founder of the Paper City Food Festival, which staged its second edition last fall on the section of High Street between Appleton and Dwight streets, attracting more than 20 of the city’s restaurants.

“It’s a way for people to come out and see all that this city has to offer,” he told BusinessWest, adding that he engaged the chamber and started the festival to uplift local businesses and celebrate the community’s heritage and diversity.


Bottom Line

There was much to celebrate at last October’s food festival, and, similarly, there is much to celebrate with this city’s business community as it turns 150.

There is diversity. There is change. There is vibrancy. And, overall, there is a wider pipeline of new businesses, entrepreneurs like the Uribe family and Jeff Cattell and Joseph Charles.

Together, they are not just filling storefronts on High Street. They are energizing a city and writing an intriguing new chapter in its long and distinguished business history.



A Portrait of Resilience

Mayor Joshua Garcia

Mayor Joshua Garcia says Holyokers need to take the long view when it comes to their city and its future.

As he talked about his city and its outlook moving forward, Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia first turned the clock back nearly 150 years and did what amounts to a ‘what if?’ exercise.

He was referring to Holyoke’s ubiquitous canals, which were, when they were conceived, no small bit of engineering — and financial — daring.

“It was a risk,” said Garcia, the city’s first Hispanic mayor, who took office in late 2021. “When folks built the canal system … I think about what that conversation might have been like, the divide that might have been going on in this community. You had some who probably said, ‘yes, we need to be proactive and build this system,’ and others who likely said, ‘this is too much money; our taxes are going to go up if we do that, and besides, I’ll be gone in 30 years.’”

Fortunately, those in that first category prevailed, he went on, adding that the canals helped fuel decades of prosperity, jobs, and an enviable quality of life, and they put the city on the map. And as he looks ahead, Garcia believes Holyokers must have that same willingness to take reasonable risks — to be daring, if that’s the right word — and make the necessary investments to continue, and bring to a higher level, an ongoing renaissance in a city that was among the nation’s wealthiest and a model of innovation and manufacturing excellence.

“I’m trying to get people to not think short-term — the investments we make today are not just for next month or next year, but 20 to 30 years out,” he said. “We want to build a middle school, for example, something that would benefit this city for generations to come.”

Long-term thinking is one of necessary ingredients for continued progress in this city, said Garcia and many others we spoke with for this special section commemorating Holyoke’s 150th anniversary. Overall, they said many of the other needed ingredients are already in place, everything from a focus on entrepreneurship to inexpensive and reliable green energy; from a solid, diverse workforce to spaces in which new businesses can get started and eventually grow.

Jeff Hayden, currently vice president of Business and Community Services at Holyoke Community College, previously served in several economic-development posts in the city, including as director of Planning and Economic Development. Nearly a half-century ago, he worked part-time at a Dairy Mart on Dwight Street managed by his father.

He has seen a lot of change over that half-century, and, more recently, a good deal of progress as Holyoke has diversified a business community once dominated by manufacturing, especially paper and textile making.

In the ’90s, manufacturing was still a pillar of the local economy, along with healthcare — there are several facilities providing everything from acute care to behavioral-health services to care to veterans, he noted, adding that, in recent years, diversification has included more retail (the city already boasts the Holyoke Mall), cannabis businesses, and strong growth in the arts and entertainment sectors.

And this diversification has strengthened the economy and made it more resilient, he said, adding that current efforts have been focused on creating opportunities across the board — meaning both jobs and opening the door to entrepreneurship.

Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, this year celebrating its 70th edition, is a great tradition for the city and the many organizations, schools, and clubs that march.

“When I look at where Holyoke is today and where it’s going, it’s clear that its leaders are focused on providing economic opportunity for all, whether they be entrepreneurs who perhaps identify as Latinx or established businesses that have been here for a long time,” he said. “The hope is to help everyone grow, and grow together.”

Aaron Vega, the former state representative who is now serving as director of Planning and Economic Development, agreed.

“Like a lot of cities, we’re at a crossroads,” he said, noting that, while manufacturing has declined in recent years and decades, other sectors have emerged, such as cannabis, IT, and clean energy. One of the keys moving forward, said Vega and many others we spoke with, is that focus on entrepreneurship and helping new small businesses take root, in some cases literally.

“It’s very hard these days to start a small business, but we have a lot of supports for that, like EforAll and the chambers, and people now realize, especially here in Western Mass., that it’s the downtown businesses that create the character in a community,” he said. “So we’re really trying to focus on that; we’re really trying to empower people who live here already to open up their own business.”


Something to Celebrate

Like many others we spoke with for this special section, Garcia said the 150th anniversary is a time of reflection, an opportunity to look back at the city’s proud history and ahead to what the next chapters might be.

It’s also an opportunity to celebrate all that Holyoke is — a proud city with a rich history, rich traditions, a diverse population, a legacy of innovation, and other enviable qualities, he said, noting that perhaps the greatest of these is resilience.

Indeed, the city has always displayed the ability to withstand adversity and move on — whether it was the many challenges of becoming the nation’s first planned industrial city or reinventing itself and diversifying its economy when much of the manufacturing moved south or overseas, or, most recently, persevering through the COVID pandemic and its many side effects.

“It’s a celebration of resiliency,” he said, adding that the city will mark the occasion in a number of ways, including a gala, an ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Holyoke’ event, a time capsule that will be placed in City Hall and opened at the 200th anniversary, ‘150th’ merchandise (hats, key chains, etc.), commemorative beers made by local brewers, and much more. “It’s a celebration of everything Holyoke.”

Vega agreed, and noted that one of the driving forces behind the city’s ongoing resurgence is a focus on the arts and culture. He cited businesses such as Gateway City Arts, a live-performance venue, and organizations such as Beyond Walls, which partnered with Nueva Esperanza Inc., a community-development and social-services agency, to honor Holyoke’s designation as a Puerto Rican Cultural District, as well as the city’s rich history and diversity, with the installation of five large-scale outdoor murals.

“When you celebrate culture, people feel more connected to their community, more connected to their neighbors,” he explained. “And when you have the ability to celebrate art, it’s about bringing people into your community, with initiatives like Beyond Walls, the events at Wistariahurst, Gateway City Arts — it’s a celebration of music and arts that invites everyone to come join.”

Aaron Vega

Aaron Vega says Holyoke has many outstanding traits, especially its long history of resilience.
Staff Photo

Beyond the arts, Holyoke is seeing a surge in new businesses on High Street; a strong wave of cannabis businesses of all kinds, including large cultivation facilities; and an influx of data centers, including the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. And in many cases, the city’s ability to provide lower-cost, green energy is a big reason why many of those businesses found Holyoke.

“Anyone who is looking for cheap electricity and green energy will knock on our door — we’re the first call they’ll make,” said Jim Lavelle, general manager of Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E), which can trace its roots to 1902. “It’s an interesting time, to be sure, and we’re getting a lot of inquiries; people like the story of the low-carbon, cheap electricity.”

Interest is across the board, he said, adding that it comes from data centers and cannabis cultivators (both huge consumers of electricity), but also from business owners who want to minimize their carbon footprint, he said, adding that HG&E is working with city officials to help make the most of this asset and many others the city can boast.

Another asset is Holyoke Community College, said Hayden, adding that, historically, significant numbers of city residents have been unable to take full advantage of the employment opportunities in the city because they were qualified for those jobs.

The college has long worked to change that equation through programs that will ready individuals for jobs, be they as nurses, medical assistants, chefs, or, most recently, workers in the cannabis industry. HCC also has a strong track record of students transferring students to four-year institutions.

“I like to say that we help people get a job, get a better job, or help them do their job better,” he said.


Traditions Old and New

Getting back to those planned celebrations … the 150th will be just one of a growing number of events in Holyoke this year, said the mayor, noting everything from the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade later this month to the Fiestas Patronales, which debuted last August — a four-day celebration of the city and region’s Puerto Rican culture and heritage and billed as the largest Latino event in Western Mass.

Jeff Hayden

Jeff Hayden says Holyoke has diversified its business community, strengthening it in the process.

These celebrations, old and new, capture the city’s past, present, and future, he said, adding that they reflect the city, its history, and especially its people.

That’s especially true of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which this year will mark its 70th edition, said Karen Casey, president of this year’s event. The 69th parade was three years in the making because of COVID, she said, a tiring, very frustrating experience on many levels.

What the pandemic years did was make those in Holyoke and beyond — this is, after all, a regional event — appreciate the tradition even more, if that’s possible.

“After having gone through what we all went through a few years ago, you saw just how much this meant to everyone,” she explained, referring to everyone from parade committee members to those who watch each year along the parade route. “Everyone just has a greater appreciation for how important this is.

“This is the third-oldest parade in the country, and we work very hard to maintain high standards,” she went on. “Anyone from around Holyoke is very proud of it; they brag about it … it’s a great tradition.”

While the buildup to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade continues, so too does planning for the 150th anniversary, said the mayor, adding that one of the intriguing tasks — and big challenges — ahead is deciding what should go in the time capsule.

Organizers are already thinking about items like one of the Super Bowl programs created by Hazen Paper, a Holyoke High School yearbook, T-shirts, a history of the city, and much more. It may take the shape of a volleyball with a large box inside.

The task of deciding what goes in the limited space in the time capsule is made more complicated by the many aspects of the city’s history and the many objects — recent and more than a century old — needed to tell the story. In many ways, it’s a good problem to have.

But getting back to that matter of resiliency, Vega said that trait is at the heart of the 150th celebration. And it is one shared by the community and the people who have lived here over the past few centuries.

“People talk about Boston Strong in the wake of the marathon bombing, but there’s also Holyoke Strong; it’s about resiliency, and it’s about history,” he said. “People have always come to Holyoke who have been migrants and have had nothing — and they built a life here. That’s what we need to keep remembering. This has always been a place where people come, get that grit, and find a path.

“This is what we’re celebrating as the city turns 150,” he went on, adding, again, that there is so much to celebrate.


Holyoke’s 150th

By Penni Martorell

Happy anniversary, Holyoke! 2023 is the sesquicentennial, or more commonly called the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the city. It is our good fortune that we, the citizens of Holyoke, will, at long last, will hold an official dedication ceremony for Holyoke’s City Hall, a structure that is not only of notable architecture, but also a fundamental component of Holyoke’s past, present, and future and the foundation of our community.

In a July 1876 article, the Holyoke Transcript reported:

“There ought to be public spirit enough in this city to appropriately dedicate this noble building. There seems to be a small faction opposed to it, but they should not be allowed to present a fitting dedication by those whose money has been spent in the construction of the finest hall in New England.”

That’s right, Holyoke City Hall was never dedicated upon its completion. Apparently, that small faction held out, and other circumstances derailed the building’s official dedication. So, it is only appropriate that we take time now to dedicate this magnificent building as it has stood in service to Holyoke for a century and a half. The official dedication will take place on Thursday, April 6.

Most of the story about City Hall is documented in Holyoke Annual Reports and a lengthy, detailed, unsigned article in the Saturday morning edition of the July 1, 1876 Holyoke Transcript. And as history so often reveals itself in layers, there are likely many more stories about the building. So here is some background information and details about the construction.

The total financial outlay to build this magnificent building, when all was said and done, was $372,000 in 1876. (Additional research done by the Historical Commission indicates that final cost was closer to $500,000 at the time.) In any case, in today’s money, that would be more than $10 million.

The town of Holyoke was established by an act of Massachusetts Congress Chapter 71 and signed into law On March 14, 1850 by Gov. George Nixon Briggs. The town’s first board meetings were held in rented meeting halls like Chapin Hall, Parsons Hall, and the Exchange Hall. A separate selectmen’s office was rented starting in 1861. The largest financial challenges for the town at that time were fees to West Springfield in relation to the contract of separation.

Constructing a building of this size and character was not an easy task, nor was it inexpensive. Delays and contractual issues increased the amount of time and money it took to complete this monumental undertaking. Unfortunately, division arose early on deciding where the building should be located. More delays arose during the building of City Hall and were memorialized in Holyoke’s Building Committee reports.

Fortunately, the city’s incorporation in 1873 brought about the reorganization of elected officials and, most importantly, new Building Committee members who acted quickly and effectively to get the construction work back on track … but it wasn’t a smooth process.

In October 1874, the new Building Committee contracted H.F. Kilburn of New York to serve as architect under the supervision of Watson Ely of Holyoke. In order to facilitate the completion of the building in a timely manner, Ely ordered that everyone that had moved into the unfinished building vacate the building and then closed City Hall during the winter of 1874.

Charles Attwood was the original architect who created the Gothic Revival and Romanesque Revival structural plan in 1871. However, many others contributed structural and decorative details, including local builder Casper Ranger, John Delaney, Ecclesiastical Stained Glass Works, Watson Ely, Henry Kilburn, Kronenberger and Sons, Filippo Santoro, Serpentino Stained Glass, and Samuel West.

Beyond the granite exterior walls, stone steps and pavers, and slate roof, other building materials include random ashlar, galvanized iron, glass, lead, marble, wood, brick, sheet metal, and copper.

One of the most important historical and stately features of Holyoke City Hall is the looming clock and bell tower. The imperial tower stands 225 feet high and houses a bell that weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. The clock’s face is composed of two-inch-thick Belgium milk glass. Sadly, the clock was inoperable and the bell was silent for decades. Thanks to Friends of City Hall, David Cotton, and a team of volunteers, the clock was restored after completing hundreds of hours of repairs, and on July 4, 2018, the clock was lit up and began keeping time again after almost 30 years.

But back to City Hall itself. As of July 1876, it had not been dedicated, and research has not found any indication it was ever dedicated. It’s time to remedy that.


Penni Martorell is Holyoke’s city historian and curator at Wistariahurst.


Going with the Flow

By Joseph Bednar

bednar@ BusinessWest.com

Old Holyoke Dam

The city of Holyoke’s website details a series of telegrams sent by one James Mills on Nov. 6, 1848 to a group of industrialists in Boston who had invested in the first dam at South Hadley Falls and were eager to hear of its performance.

“The gates were closed and the water filling behind the dam,” Mills reported at 10 a.m. It would be his only happy missive.

Noon: “Dam leaking badly.”

1 p.m.: “Leaks cannot be stopped.”

2 p.m.: “Bulkheads are giving way.”

3:20 p.m.: “Dam gone to hell by way of Willimansett.”

So, it wasn’t the most auspicious way to begin Holyoke’s new direction as a planned industrial city that harnessed the power of the Connecticut River.

But the builders learned from their mistakes — and built a replacement dam. Like the first, it was also made of wood and completed the following summer. This dam still stands, 150 feet underwater, behind the current, modern stone dam that was put into service in 1900.

This bit of history is just one example of Holyoke not only overcoming challenges, but evolving with them along a winding, intriguing, still-evolving story.

The story actually begins much earlier, with the Indigenous tribes who settled there on the rich, alluvial plain, including the Nonotucks, from whom early European settlers eventually purchased the land that would be incorporated into the future boundaries of Holyoke.

Captain Elizur Holyoke is believed to be the first European to explore the future city. In 1633, he led an expedition up the Connecticut River to explore the potential for settlement. Two years later, based upon his report, European agriculture settlement began in the region. Initially concentrated in Springfield, settlers soon began to migrate to the surrounding areas that would later become West Springfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke. Holyoke was then known as Ireland Parish, a name that would remain in common use until 1850.

When Boston investors saw in the parish industrial potential similar to Lawrence and Lowell — and the energy potential of the river — they set out to create an industrial city on a large scale.

In 1847, taking advantage of the broad plain and the 57-foot drop in the Connecticut River at South Hadley Falls, work began on the planned industrial city. Canals, mills, boarding houses, offices, and a dam were all built by pick and shovel. And on March 4, 1850, Holyoke — with its working dam — was finally separated from West Springfield and designated its own town.

“There was some resistance from the farmers who initially didn’t want to sell their land,” said Penni Martorell, Holyoke’s city historian and curator of Wistariahurst. “But eventually [the investors] won out. They just bought the land and then laid out the plan for the city. The flats area was definitely the working man’s area. The middle area around the canals was where the factories were built, and then the highlands were set aside for retail businesses and homes of the wealthier families.”


Strength in Paper

Before the planned-city idea got rolling, Holyoke was mainly an agricultural community with a sprinkling of industry, including a lumber mill on the river.

“The investors had had success in Lawrence, in getting mills set up along the river up there. And then they were like, ‘well, where else can we go?’” Martorell told BusinessWest. “Lawrence and Lowell often lay claim to being the first planned industrial cities. We say they worked it out there, and then they perfected it here in Holyoke. They really took advantage of the 60-foot drop in the river, how to harness that energy and then send it through the canals.”

Holyoke’s development was rapid, with its population surging from about 3,200 in 1850 to 45,000 by the turn of the century and more than 60,000 at its peak in the early 1920s. Textiles were the first major product of the city, quickly followed by paper, which became the dominant force in the city. At one time, more than 25 paper mills were in operation.

By 1885, 12 years after its official designation as a city, Holyoke was the largest single producer of paper of any city in the U.S., producing around 190 tons per day, more than double the next-largest producer, Philadelphia, which produced 69 tons per day despite having a population nearly 40 times its size. By 1900, Holyoke would produce about 320 tons per day, predominantly writing paper, led by American Pad & Paper Co., American Writing Paper Co., and others.

Holyoke also built schools, churches, parks, and many public buildings, including the historic City Hall (see story on page 28). By the turn of the century, Holyoke exerted considerable influence on American life. The Holyoke Opera House was the test location for Broadway plays before moving on to New York. The Easter parade here drew as many spectators as on Fifth Avenue.

A number of industrial inventions arose out of the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first and most prominent hydraulic testing lab in the U.S., Holyoke Testing Flume, performed 3,176 tests to establish turbine efficiency from 1870 to 1932. Other pioneering developments included the first use of Hans Goldschmidt’s exothermic welding process in the Americas in 1904, by George Pellissier and the Holyoke Street Railway. In electronics, the world’s first commercial toll line, between the city’s Hotel Jess and a location in Springfield, entered service in 1878. Holyoke was also home to Thaddeus Cahill’s New England Electric Music Co., which, in 1906, demonstrated the telharmonium, the world’s first electromechanical instrument, a predecessor of the synthesizer.

Meanwhile, the availability of water power enabled Holyoke to support its own electric utility company and maintain it independently of America’s major regional utilities. The city was thus a rare unaffected area in the Northeast blackout of 1965.

But the city’s second century has been a complicated story, Martorell said.

“It was boom and bust. So every time there was a bust, the wealthier people were able to prepare for that. But the lower-income people were not able to prepare. They would move on to wherever there was work. So it was a bit of transience at certain points. The paper industry kind of morphed into other industrial spaces.”


Northern Migration

Beginning at the end of World War II, the city’s demographics began to change, as an influx of Puerto Ricans and other Latino groups began to migrate to the Northeast U.S., driven largely by the Farm Labor Program initiated by the U.S. Department of Labor, which recruited Puerto Rican laborers to work on agricultural land; in the case of Holyoke, many worked on tobacco farms and arrived in the city in search of better job opportunities at the mills, as previous generations had.

“In Springfield and Holyoke, housing was inexpensive, you had access to 91 and 95, and a lot of them had an agricultural background and were looking for farm work,” Martorell said of the Puerto Rican influx. “So between Hatfield and the tobacco fields along the Connecticut River, they were able to find work pretty quickly once they got here.”

By 1970, the number of Puerto Rican residents numbered around 5,000; however, by that time, many faced a city economy that was struggling. Holyoke’s mills had closed due to the changing economic landscape of early globalization and deindustrialization; from 1955 to 1970, half of all industrial jobs vanished. Despite economic and social difficulties, however, the population grew significantly, and today Latinos form the city’s largest minority group, with the largest Puerto Rican population per capita of any American city outside Puerto Rico proper, at 44.7%.

As for those old industrial buildings, their use is evolving.

“The Skinners, who made silk, sold their company to Indian Head Mills, which was a conglomerate going around buying up textile mills in the late 1950s or early 1960s. They bought the company and then shut it down a few years later,” Martorell said. “And many of the other paper companies had already gone out. Parsons Paper was the first paper company in Holyoke, and they closed their doors in 2005. So that was a pretty good run.”

A few specialty paper and printing companies remain, but today, many of the old mills along the canals are being repurposed, from cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and retail operations to the entertainment venue known as Gateway City Arts.

Martorell said change has been a constant in Holyoke, but so has a feeling of promise.

“People in Holyoke love Holyoke. People are committed to being here, and they want to see good things happen for the city,” she told BusinessWest. “And I think the last two mayors have really tried to make an effort to rebrand the city in a more positive way and say that the challenges that we’ve had in the past have made us stronger and more diverse. So we embrace that and celebrate that.”


Some information for this article was adapted from the city of Holyoke’s written history and from Wikipedia.