Daily News

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Business Assoc. (GBA) has hired Hannah Rechtschaffen as its newest association coordinator. With an extensive background in business development and creative placemaking, Rechtschaffen brings fresh energy to this crucial role in Greenfield’s business community.

Rechtschaffen will focus her efforts on growing membership for the GBA — partnering with the city of Greenfield, the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, and others — to further define the role and value of the association in the greater ecosystem. As the county seat, the health of Greenfield’s business sector is a vital beacon for how the county as a whole continues to keep and attract residents, tourists, and business owners alike.

Growing up in Northampton, Rechtschaffen left in 2002 to attend college in Ohio and was away for almost 17 years. “When I returned to the Valley in 2018, I fell in love with a house in Greenfield, and I have never regretted locating here,” she said. “I have been waiting for the right time to make a professional move to this community, and I am thrilled to now be with the Greenfield Business Association, working directly for the growth and vitality of my city.”

Rechtschaffen did not wait for this position to open up to get involved in her community. She currently chairs the Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee, which supports the use and implementation of the city’s master plan. She is also a member of the Downtown Greenfield Alliance and the Local Cultural Council.

For the last four years, Rechtschaffen worked as director of Placemaking for W.D. Cowls, growing the Mill District project in North Amherst through events, social-media marketing, commercial tenant engagment, community development, and the opening of a local artist gallery. As a Greenfield resident, she is thrilled to bring her skills home to her city, getting to know the business owners and organizations more extensively and working for the sustainable advancement of the local economy.

“Big things are happening in Greenfield, and I am honored to be part of the momentum,” she said. “Keep an eye on us up here.”

Rechtschaffen is a former member of the Amherst Chamber Board, a member of the BusinessWest 40 Under Forty class of 2022, and a graduate of the Leadership Pioneer Valley class of 2021.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Holyoke Community College (HCC) Foundation shattered its annual Together HCC one-day giving campaign record in 2023, raising $251,859 in 24 hours for HCC scholarships and student-support programs.

Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the college led a historic day of giving on April 25 during the third annual campaign.

Organizers had set a goal of 400 donors for the one-day fund drive. The final tally was 506. Last year, the Together HCC campaign raised $192,000 from 418 donors, itself a record.

“For the third straight year, the Together HCC campaign has exceeded expectations as our network of alumni, faculty, staff, and friends continue to show how much they care about HCC students,” said Julie Phillips, HCC’s interim director of Development. “With so many people giving what they can, it shows our students that we are invested in their success.”

HCC alumni made up the majority of donors at 43%, followed by HCC faculty and staff at 27%, with 18% from friends of the college, 5% from parents, and 4% from students. Donors gave from as far away as California and Hawaii. Together, they unlocked more than $140,000 in challenge pledges.

One of those came from campaign partner Gary Rome, owner of Gary Rome Hyundai in Holyoke and Gary Rome Kia in Enfield, Conn., who donated $5,000.

“I am thrilled to celebrate yet another successful year of partnering with HCC for its Together HCC: Drive to Change Lives campaign,” Rome said. “It is truly remarkable to witness the generosity of our community as we come together to ensure that a college education remains accessible to all. I hope my example encourages others to help build a stronger community.”

HCC alum Arien Monti, who graduated in 2022 with her associate degree in marketing and business administration, said a scholarship from the HCC Foundation and a stipend from the President’s Student Emergency Fund were critical to her success at HCC.

“The student emergency fund helped with one month’s rent after my son and I had been homeless when I was a new student and rebuilding my life,” Monti said. “I am graduating this fall with my bachelor’s degree and am building my career in marketing and real estate thanks to HCC and the many alumni and friends who support students like me.”

Anyone who missed this year’s day of giving and still wants to contribute can do so at hcc.edu/drive.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Bulkley Richardson welcomed three law students to its 2023 Summer Associate Program. The robust program will introduce law students to the inner workings of a law firm, where they will receive mentorship from lawyers ranging from firm leaders and retired judges all the way through the ranks to junior associates, and gain exposure to real-life legal matters.

This year’s summer associates are:

• Alexandria Abacherli, who is currently attending the University of Connecticut School of Law. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College, where she double majored in government & law and international affairs;

• Andrew Loin, who is currently attending Western New England University School of Law, where he is on the WNE Law Review. She earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and business: entrepreneurship from the University of Rochester; and

• Nicole Palmieri, who is currently attending the University of Connecticut School of Law, where she is on the Connecticut Law Review and is a University of Connecticut Scholar. She received a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in American studies from Christopher Newport University.

Each summer associate anticipates a spring 2024 law-school graduation.

“We are honored to have another group of talented law students who have chosen to spend the next few months with us,” said Mike Roundy, who oversees Bulkley Richardson’s Summer Associate Program. “We continue to expand and adapt our program to provide in-depth legal training and exposure to a wide range of legal matters.”

Bulkley Richardson continues to accept résumés for its 2024 Summer Associate Program, as well as recent law-school graduates and attorneys considering a lateral move. Visit bulkley.com/current-openings for more information.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Max Tavern at the Basketball Hall of Fame is excited to announce the continued success of its networking event, Max on Monday. The next event will take place on Monday, June 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. and will offer attendees the opportunity to connect with other professionals while enjoying complimentary hors d’oeuvres. A cash bar will be available for beverages.

Max on Monday is an ideal opportunity for those who have been working remotely to reconnect with their colleagues and find inspiration in the company of others. Each event features a selection of local businesses. This month’s featured businesses will include Liberty Bank; Burgess, Robb & Grassetti; Dowd Insurance Agencies; and Bacon Wilson, P.C. Representatives from these businesses will be able to network with one another and share information about their organizations.

In addition, the monthly event features a local charity. The featured charity for June 5 will be Ronald McDonald House. Max on Monday also showcases a local artist, calling that portion of the event “Discover an Artist.” Attendees can enjoy watching an expert in motion.

For more information about Max on Monday or to register to attend, RSVP to AnnMarie Harding (413) 244-4055 or [email protected].

Cover Story Creative Economy

Playing in Harmony


Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert

Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert

Paul Lambert left a long career with the Basketball Hall of Fame in early 2022 to become interim director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

He said his family has often asked him why. Incredulously. Like … really, Paul, why?

To answer that question, he first notes that he loves music, but that’s only part of why he took over an institution that was still emerging from the pandemic and a long stretch without concerts at Symphony Hall — and embroiled in labor strife with Local 171 of the American Federation of Musicians, which, absent a new contract, had filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

But Lambert, who shed the interim tag and was named president and CEO of the SSO earlier this year, saw the value in righting the ship, working toward labor peace, and re-establishing — or at least re-emphasizing — the organization’s importance to not only downtown Springfield, but Western Mass. in general.

With the announcement on May 4 of a new, two-year labor deal between the SSO and the union — which calls for a minimum of eight concerts per year at Symphony Hall, annual raises for the musicians, and possibly other community and educational concerts around the region as well — Lambert, the SSO board, and the musicians are all breathing easier as they plan the 2023-24 season.

“Everyone had been reading the negative stories in the press about the labor issues. People were aware of the global pandemic issues. People were aware of all the challenges facing the SSO. And we had to rebuild people’s confidence.”

“I was very aware of the talent on stage and a great appreciator, if that’s the correct word, of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra,” Lambert said of his career change last year. “But I also was aware of the fact that it was a very challenging time.”

In fact, even long-time supporters in the community, including corporate sponsors, were growing anxious, Lambert admitted.

“Everyone had been reading the negative stories in the press about the labor issues. People were aware of the global pandemic issues. People were aware of all the challenges facing the SSO. And we had to rebuild people’s confidence that not only would we perform, but perform on a first-class basis, and then come back with a full season, with real concerts and real energy with our musicians working with us.”

Beth Welty, the union’s president, called the past few years a “demoralizing” time in many ways, but said everyone is feeling grateful now.

Union President Beth Welty

Union President Beth Welty said the musicians are relieved to have a new contract but hope to increase the number of performances in coming seasons.

“There are a ton of people throughout the organization that want to work together,” she told BusinessWest. “The musicians want to work with Paul and the staff and the board, and we are working together. We’ve got to come together and put the past behind us and work for a much better future.”

Lambert agreed. “This has been a very challenging time for the SSO on a variety of fronts. Certainly, the labor issues that have been in place for some years, on top of the global pandemic, which shut everything down and badly affected all performing-arts organizations for some time, were very real. And to get ourselves into a new beginning, a fresh start for all concerned around this labor deal, was critically important.”


Developments of Note

That said, as in many negotiations, no one got exactly what they wanted. For one thing, Welty said the musicians have been clamoring for more performances.

“When I joined the orchestra 40 years ago, we probably did three times the number of concerts we do now. For years, they’ve been constantly cutting and cutting; it felt like no number was small enough for them. They wanted to keep cutting, and we felt like we had to take a stand on that.”

She said the musicians were looking for more than 10 shows, the SSO wanted to go as low as five at one point, and they settled on eight — six classical and two pops.

“We’re not happy about that, but we’re looking to build back up from eight, and now there are some new board members interested in growth,” Welty noted. “You can cut yourself out of existence; the less we play, the less people know we exist.”

“The idea now is to put ourselves in a safer place to see what we can do together, to see what revenue streams we can create, where we can create new opportunities to play.”

Welty did have appreciative thoughts for Lambert, saying it’s clear he understands where the musicians are coming from. And Lambert told BusinessWest that eight concerts is not a hard ceiling, but only the minimum.

“That was a critical point in the negotiations: let’s see what we can do,” he said. “Let’s see what the market will bear. Let’s see what funding is available and what opportunities present themselves. We have to be very creative and open-minded as we work together to see what’s available.”

Symphony Hall

Symphony Hall will host eight SSO performances in 2023-24: six classical and two pops concerts.

Revenue is the big sticking point, he added, noting that, if the SSO sold every ticket for every performance, it would still be running a deficit without increasing external support.

“The challenges that face the Springfield Symphony Orchestra are hardly unique to Springfield. The industry as a whole — traditional, classical symphonic orchestras — is challenged right now,” he explained. “Those audiences, demographically, are aging and fading, and the folks who go to those concerts on a regular basis, and donors and corporations who support those concerts, have been a shrinking pool around the country. There are a lot of orchestras that are really struggling right now to make ends meet.”

He noted that many cities with wealthier populations and deeper corporate pockets than Springfield don’t even have symphonies.

“The idea now is to put ourselves in a safer place to see what we can do together, to see what revenue streams we can create, where we can create new opportunities to play. The whole idea, of course, is to play, to create opportunities for people to hear the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in a variety of formats.”

To that end, the Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO), the organization formed by SSO musicians during the labor unrest to perform smaller concerts across the region, will transition into a newly named entity, the Springfield Chamber Players, and will continue to present chamber-music concerts, including the long-standing Longmeadow Chamber Series.

Performances like these, Lambert said, will help build a larger audience pool. “They allow new people to come in, who, perhaps, have not listened to the music on a regular basis, and will be exposed to the symphony orchestra and say, ‘wow, this is beautiful. I didn’t know they played this.’”

He and Welty noted that the new season of full-orchestra performance at Symphony Hall, and seasons to follow, will feature a healthy mix of what might be called ‘the classics’ and newer works by more recent composers.

Springfield Symphony Orchestra

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, boasting 67 musicians, is the largest symphony in Massachusetts outside of Boston.
Photo by Chris Marion Photography

“People love the classics, but you have to bring in living composers and composers of color and women composers, and represent everyone at concerts,” Welty said. “We really started to do that this season. It was more diverse and inclusive. In terms of the repertoire we’re doing next year, it’ll be the same type of year; we’re really excited about that programming, which is going to be more diverse and interesting. We’re still going to do a good dose of the classics — we’re not abandoning them — but we are combining them with stuff that was written in our lifetime.”

Lambert was also excited about this broadening of choices. “We want to certainly maintain and nurture our core audience, the folks who have grown up with us for many years, the subscribers and the bedrock of our audience who love the classic repertoire of classical music. But at the same time, there’s all kinds of music.”

He feels like that’s an important element in bringing in younger, more diverse SSO fans, who will continue to support the organization in the coming decades.

“We happen to live in a very diverse community and region,” he said. “So I think it’s really important that we find ways to reach all those audiences, let them know that the Springfield Symphony Orchestra is for everybody, that it’s music for everyone. We really are excited about those opportunities for people to come in and hear this beautiful music and these wonderful musicians.”


Sharp Ideas

The other key element in expanding the audience, of course, is connecting with young people. To that end, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that the city of Springfield will provide $280,000 over two years in financial support for SSO to create educational programming for youth.

“As the Springfield Symphony and its talented musicians turn a fresh page of music in our beloved Symphony Hall, I cannot stress enough how important Springfield’s talented youth are to the success of this new beginning,” the mayor said in announcing the grant. “Creating a younger, more diverse, and more inclusive classical-music ecosystem should be a top priority of the symphony organizationally. The success of these efforts will ultimately be reflected in the diversity of the music that is played, those represented on stage, and those in the audience.”

Lambert said outreach to youth had been a big success, but stopped happening over the past few years. “As I talked to folks out in the business community, so many people said to me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra, I was in fourth grade … I remember going to that concert, and it changed how I looked at the symphony.’ So I said to the board on more than a few occasions, ‘that’s just not discretionary, that’s mandatory; we have to start redoing that.’ It opens the door for so many people, for the first time in their life, to hear a symphony orchestra live on stage.”

“As I talked to folks out in the business community, so many people said to me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra, I was in fourth grade … I remember going to that concert, and it changed how I looked at the symphony.”

Welty wants to go beyond those experiences, hoping to not only bring kids to Symphony Hall, but for small groups of musicians to visit area schools.

“We used to go play for kids in the classrooms. We probably stopped doing that in the early 2000s, but we did hundreds of those concerts,” she recalled. “I loved it. We interacted directly with the kids; there were Q&A sessions. I want to get back to that as an educational resource.”

She also fondly recalls the days when the symphony toured New England. “I understand that a lot of financial repair has to happen, and we can’t afford to take the whole orchestra, but we can take a quartet out. We can take a quintet out.”

Such traveling shows, like the two series of performances MOSSO staged at the Westfield Atheneum over the past two years, are another way to grow the SSO’s fanbase, she added. “It’s not just great for the audience, but a great marketing tool for the SSO. We hope to keep expanding that.”

As for corporate sponsorship, Lambert said it was a tough year, scheduling live performances on the fly under the old contract’s terms while building up the staff, negotiating with the union, and keeping supporters on board.

“There was a lot of work being done trying to convince people to trust us and come on board. Some folks started to do that when MassMutual came back and was willing to support us; that was critically important. There are other folks we need to embrace that. We’ve had some really wonderful response from a core group of sponsors — I hope there’s a lot more.”

As for growing new audiences, Lambert is confident that those who attend a concert — whether a full symphony performance in Springfield or a chamber concert in Longmeadow, Westfield, or elsewhere — will be “blown away,” and not only want to attend more shows, but perhaps support the SSO as a sponsor or donor. “We need everybody to work together.”


In Tune with the Community

After a couple years of performing concerts under the old contract’s terms, Welty is relieved the musicians can focus on the positive impact of what they do.

“For this community to thrive, it really needs a vibrant art scene. It’s a real economic driver,” she said, noting the impact of downtown events on restaurants and other attractions — not to mention on the ability to grow a business.

“If you’re a CEO or business person looking to be based in the Springfield area, and you want to attract the best talent to come work for you, Springfield has to be an appealing place to live — and the arts are so important to that,” Welty added. “Local sports teams are important, but the arts are just as important. If you think you’re living in a cultural desert, you won’t get the best people to come work for you.”

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, boasting 67 musicians, is the largest symphony in Massachusetts outside of Boston — which is impressive in itself, Lambert said.

“The fact that Springfield, Massachusetts has a symphony orchestra in 2023 is kind of a miracle at this point. There are much bigger places that don’t have this great gift,” he told BusinessWest. “I think it’s really important that we all get together and recognize how this adds to the quality of life here in Springfield, how it adds to the reasons that people might want to live and work here and come downtown.”

Which is why Welty is encouraged by what the new labor agreement promises, and what it may lead to in the future.

“On paper, there’s less guaranteed work, but there’s more energy on the board to create new concerts, new programming,” she said. “I think, in the end, we will start building back and offer more to the community.”


Features Special Coverage

News That’s Fit to Print

Jim and Kelly Sullivan

Jim and Kelly Sullivan
Photo by Paul Schnaittacher

At first, Jim and Kelly Sullivan thought the email was junk or a hoax.

“It was an invitation to us from the president to go to the White House to sit in the Rose Garden with him and the vice president for a remarks ceremony,” Kelly recalled, adding that the missive was followed shortly afterward by an email from the Small Business Administration (SBA), essentially letting them know that the email from the White House was real, and they should reply — soon.

They did, and when they gathered in the Rose Garden with the other 49 Small Business Persons of the Year for each state, as recognized by the SBA, they managed to get within a few feet of the president, but didn’t fight the crowd to get any closer.

This gathering, which came during National Small Business Week, has been part of a nearly month-long whirlwind for the Sullivans, owners of Millennium Press in Agawam, the Small Business Persons of the Year from Massachusetts.

There was an awards ceremony in Washington that came just after the White House visit, and, earlier this month, another small-business awards ceremony in Massachusetts, at which they were recognized for their accomplishments in business — and for their perseverance through a series of challenges over the past 34 years.

There was an appearance on a Bloomberg podcast — “I was terrifed; I’m a printer, and they’re firing questions at you left and right,” Jim said — and, just a week ago, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who directed the Sullivans to SBA funding, and other officials toured Millennium’s facilities to get a look at its cutting-edge technology and talk with its team of 18 employees.

“Never in a million years did I ever think we would ever win anything like this — I’m still in awe that we did get it.”

As they spoke with BusinessWest at their shop in Agawam, the Sullivans talked a little about their awards, meaning the physical awards (they each got one) they received from the SBA. They are glass, large, quite heavy … and, for now and probably for a long while, “safe at home, under lock and key,” as Jim put it.

“You don’t want to ever break something like this,” he said. “Never in a million years did I ever think we would ever win anything like this — I’m still in awe that we did get it.”

But mostly they talked about what’s behind the award and the wording on it, and how they were chosen over the 700,000 other small businesses in Massachusetts to receive it. Specifically, it would be more than 30 years of hard work, sacrifice, making those large investments in technology, coping with and overcoming adversity — from several downturns in the economy to the Great Recession to the pandemic — and, in short, doing what they had to do to keep the doors open and the dream alive.

“I feel that we did a lot of good things with these SBA programs,” said Jim, adding that, personally, the couple did everything they were asked to do to qualify for such programs, including reducing their income and even buying a smaller home.

the team at Millennium Press

Jim and Kelly Sullivan, center, with the team at
Millennium Press.
Photo by Paul Schnaittacher

SBA District Director Robert Nelson said essentially the same thing as he remarked on the Sullivans and their achievements.

“The Millennium Press story demonstrates how small businesses can persevere when faced with extraordinary challenges,” he said. “The Sullivans didn’t give up on their dreams and kept working toward sustainability with support from public/private resources, including the SBA and its lender network that help stand by your side through the toughest challenges.”

For this issue, BusinessWest talked with the Sullivans about the SBA award, what it means to them, and why it embodies their approach to doing business and managing a workforce.


Don’t Stop the Presses

To say the Sullivans started small with their venture would be a huge understatement.

Indeed, they launched their business in a garage — and it wasn’t even their own garage.

“Our house didn’t have one, so we used Kelly’s brother’s garage,” said Jim, a printer by trade who was working at a shop in Holyoke at the time, but started printing short runs of specialty forms for different customers at night and on weekends, a part-time job that quickly became full-time.

Indeed, the Sullivans, who quickly became partners in the venture, said they recognized a growing need for printed forms that could be produced inexpensively and quickly. With an Apple computer, a two-color press, and a collator that would put the forms together — Kelly would handle the desktop publishing, and Jim ran the printing press — they started adding customers and achieving a foothold in the competitive printing business.

Over the course of the next 30 years, they would continue to grow the company, establishing a full-service, one-stop printing and mailing business operating out of a 20,000-square-foot building in the Agawam Industrial Park that they would eventually purchase and expand.

From the beginning, Jim recalled, they understood the importance of investing in new equipment and staying on the cutting edge of improving technology, knowing that doing so would open new doors for them.

Small Business Persons of the Year for Massachusetts in 2023

Jim and Kelly Sullivan pose with an award they recently received at the recent SCORE Boston awards breakfast, where they were recognized as Small Business Persons of the Year for Massachusetts in 2023.

This was especially true with the installation, in 2007, of an automated, six-color Heidelberg press, the XL 75, a more than $2 million investment that included not only the press, but also Heidelberg software to automate all the company’s processes, from estimating to shipping.

This was the first such installation in the U.S., he told BusinessWest, and it came on top of a $1 million expansion of the building and a number of existing equipment loans.

The acquisition of the XL 75, and those other investments, were a well-thought-out business strategy, and the equipment was expected to enable Millennium to take a major step forward, he went on. However, the timing was unfortunate, to say the least.

Indeed, just a year later, the words ‘Great Recession’ were working their way into the local lexicon. The Dow was cratering, the economy was in freefall, and businesses large and small were hunkering down and simply trying to survive the onslaught. And, by and large, no one was printing anything.

“In 2008, we saw sales drop. People weren’t purchasing as much printing — annual reports, mailings … they just weren’t doing the volume of printing they were in the past. Yet, our expenses were at their highest point.

“In 2008, that was the first year we didn’t turn a profit,” he went on. “And the banks … they want to know who you are at that point.”

Elaborating, he said the couple had a great 19-year relationship with a bank (he chose not to name it) that was sold to a larger bank, an entity that saw Millennium’s declining debt-to-income ratio and essentially said, “you’re not for us.”

The Big Picture

The Sullivans said they knew they needed to create a plan to slash debt, both business and personal. They altered their lifestyle and borrowed a significant portion of their retirement money to retain employees and pay down debt to keep the business open. They also sought help from the SBA, working with the agency’s lending team to refinance their building and business debt and essentially save the business.

And for the next decade, until 2020, the company continued to be profitable, pay down debt, and even build a reserve fund, said Kelly, adding that, by the end of 2019, they approached a traditional bank about a loan to pay off all their existing SBA debt.

“Our numbers were good enough, our equity was good enough, our debt was right where it needed to be, and they approved us in March of 2020,” said Jim, adding emphasis when noting the month and year, and for obvious reasons. That was the start of the pandemic.

“The bank came back and said, ‘we’re going to have to put your financing plan on hold,’” he went on, adding that the company saw more than half of its customers shut down, a staggering loss that forced Millennium to lay off 75% of its workforce, although the Sullivans continued to pay for their health insurance after they were laid off.

Even with a skeleton crew — the Sullivans and a few others — the company was chewing up its reserve fund at a rate that was not sustainable, Kelly said, adding that PPP loans and EIDLs (Economic Injury Disaster Loans) from the SBA not only helped Millennium, but also enabled other businesses to regain their financial footing and buy services — like printing.

“Those two products from the SBA helped jump-start the economy,” she said, adding that, by the fall of that year, Millennium was able to bring back all of its employees. The winter of 2022 brought another slowdown and more “scary” times, she added, but a second round of PPP enabled the company to retain its workforce and make it through the whitewater.

The company was also able to take advantage of an SBA debt-relief program for its outstanding loans from the agency, Jim said, noting that the SBA made payments on those loans during the pandemic — payments that did not have to be repaid.

“In 2008, we saw sales drop. People weren’t purchasing as much printing — annual reports, mailings … they just weren’t doing the volume of printing they were in the past.”

All this support had the company back to “almost normal” by the end of 2021, he went on, adding that he and Kelly again approached the bank that had approved their financing plan but put it on hold because of the pandemic — and this time it was approved, just before interest rates started climbing at a precipitous rate.

Milennium’s involvement in many SBA programs had the effect of “putting us on the agency’s map,” said Kelly, referring to recognition programs such as Small Business Person of the Year.

But what won the Sullivans this honor, in her opinion — and Jim’s — has been its willingness to invest in cutting-edge technology, its commitment to supporting its employees through the many difficult times, and to do everything they had to do keep the company on the track they set in on back in 1989, even through extreme hardship.

“To do the amount of work we do, we would probably need more than 30 employees — if we didn’t invest in the technologies we have,” Jim said. “And we have technologies that no one in this area has, especially at the small scale that we are; we’re Heidelberg’s most advanced print shop with fewer than 20 employees in the United States.”


Bottom Line

Jim and Kelly’s email now comes with a signature, courtesy of the SBA, identifying the sender as a 2023 Small Business Person of the Year State Winner.

Behind those words, printed on a gold banner above storefronts depicting small businesses, is a compelling story, one that involves sacrifice, perseverance, determination, and, as Nelson noted, a firm commitment not to let go of a dream.

All that has earned the Sullivans those large, glass awards they are keeping safe at home. But it has earned them much more than that — the ability to keep writing new chapters to a remarkable and inspirational success story.


Restaurants Special Coverage

A Lot on His Plate

Andrew Brow outside Jackalope

Andrew Brow outside Jackalope in downtown Springfield.

On his long and winding road to being a serial restaurateur, Andrew Brow says he’s had many inspirations, role models, teachers, and even an “idol.”

The latter would be Claudio Guerra, the now-legendary restauranteur — think Spoleto, Mama Iguana’s, the Del Raye, Paradise City Tavern, and many others — who gave Brow, like so many others, much more than a job.

“What I got from Claudio is what I wanted — I wanted to be a restaurant owner,” he explained. “It just seemed like this glamourous, fun, wonderful thing — not always, but Claudio made it something to aspire to.”

But there were others who had an impact as well, including Bill Collins, who also worked for Guerra and later hired Brow to be his executive chef at the restaurant he opened in East Longmeadow, Center Square Grill. Then there was Therri Moitui, the owner and chef of a French restaurant on Cape Fear River in North Carolina, where Brow worked for a time after leaving his native Western Mass. to find, well … something else.

“I thought I was God’s gift to the kitchen at this point, when I was 24 years old,” Brow recalled. “And, sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently, he let me know that I was not God’s gift to the kitchen and that I still had a lot to learn. And he proceeded to teach me.”

Today, Brow — owner of HighBrow, a wood-fired pizza restaurant in Northampton, and Jackalope, which just celebrated one year of bringing ‘creative American’ food to downtown Springfield — is still absorbing lessons from others, but he’s also the one passing on knowledge, experience, and keen insight to those who work for him.

His most important bit of advice, if that’s what it is: “if you stop learning, you’re no good.”

This is an operating style that has dominated his career and his time as a restaurant owner, which has been marked by overcoming adversity — as in extreme adversity in the form of the pandemic — and seizing opportunity.

As for the pandemic, it nearly cost him his dream just a few months after he opened HighBrow, but he persevered, knowing that one doesn’t get many opportunities like this one, and it might be his only opportunity.

focus is on ‘creative American’

At Jackalope, Andrew Brow says the focus is on ‘creative American’ and presenting food that is different and unique.
Staff Photo

“It was an interesting time,” he said with a large dose of understatement in his voice. “The first thing is, you feed into that fear — this is my first restaurant, this is basically my one shot; if I fail here, there probably wouldn’t be a second chance. I didn’t come from money, and without money, you can’t really do much. This was my one shot at making it out of being someone else’s chef and being my own guy.”

As it turns out, and largely because of that perseverance, HighBrow wasn’t his only shot. He seized another opportunity with the opening of Jackalope just over a year ago at the site of the former Adolfo’s on Worthington Street. At first, he didn’t want any part of downtown Springfield, thinking the city and its restaurant section had seen its day.

But a visit to the soft opening of Dewey’s nightclub, next door to Adolfo’s and owned by a friend, Kenny Lumpkin, changed his mind.

“I went back the next day because I had enjoyed myself that night, and I was standing on the patio and thinking, ‘maybe I could do something over there,’” he said, adding that this ‘something’ is Jackalope, which he described as a place where could “create and plate whimsical, fun, different things.”

That list includes everything from grilled pizza to mac & cheese to prosciutto-wrapped rabbit saddle. And on the appetizer side, there are his now-famous ‘sticky ribs,’ braised baby-back pork ribs cooked in a host of secret ingredients and juices and then made crispy.

‘Sticky ribs’ are becoming part of the local culinary lexicon — his restaurants go through more than 1,000 pounds of ribs per week — and Brow, one of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty honorees for 2023, is one of the rising stars in the region’s galaxy of restaurateurs.

His is an intriguing story of someone who forged a dream when he was just in high school and then, thanks to hard work and lessons from those mentors and idols, made it happen.


A Different Breed

The jackalope, by most accounts, anyway, is a mythical creature, a jackrabbit with antelope horns — hence the name — said to be ferocious and quite deadly. Stories about them have appeared in many cultures worldwide.

By now, Brow has become an expert on the subject.

“A Jackalope drinks bourbon and beer and eats bologna — and they get enraged,” he explained. “And they would go and attack hunters, who would wear stovepipes on their legs so they wouldn’t get ripped up.”

But he admits that, in this case, the chosen name for his restaurant (after he put aside plans to resurrect the name Caffeine’s) was more a nickname for an old friend who “would drink beer and act crazy in the woods,” than anything else.

“I was having coffee with my wife one day, and she said, ‘when’s the Jackalope moving back up?’” he recalled, adding that the name resonated, and he eventually chose it. Today, there are stuffed jackalopes on his walls, and the logo is on everything from the door to the menu to T-shirts.

Andrew Brow recalls thinking downtown Springfield had seen its day

Andrew Brow recalls thinking downtown Springfield had seen its day, but a few visits to the area convinced him he wanted to be part of the scene there.

The road to opening Jackalope, his second restaurant, has been a long and winding one, with, as noted earlier, countless lessons and influences on his life and career along the way.

Our story begins in Northampton, where Brow grew up in the “projects,” as he put it. Anxious to climb out, he sought work as soon as he could. That was age 15, when, with the proper paperwork, he could work at a Dunkin’ Donuts.

This was a location that was still making its own donuts, rather than having them shipped in from a commissary, so Brow was able to get real experience making things in the kitchen. His work at Dunkin’ came during his freshman year at Smith Vocational in Northampton, and it inspired him to enter the culinary-arts program there, which fueled more interest in cooking as a career.

His first job in a restaurant, at age 16, was as a dishwasher at La Cazuela, owned by Barry and Rosemary Schmidt, who became his first real mentors and role models.

“They were two of the coolest restaurant owners I ever met,” he recalled. “They were kind of like ’60s hippie people, and for them, everything was from scratch and quality. They would fly down to New Mexico and Mexico, and they would meet chili farmers and buy wholesale dried chilis from these farmers; that showed me the passion behind actually loving what you do. It was very inspirational.”

From the dishes, Brow moved up to the pots and pans, which means he also got to prep some of the rice and beans, shred the cheese, and fry the tortilla chips. “It was grunt work, but I thought that was the coolest thing ever, and a few months later, I was a line cook.”

From there, he did a stint at the landmark Joe’s Pizza as a pizza cook, and then a job at the recently opened Spoleto Express, one of several restaurants owned by Guerra, as a sauté cook. There, he met Collins, and the two quickly bonded.

“We became like brothers,” Brow said, noting that he worked for the Spoleto Restaurant Group for close to a decade, helping to open several new restaurants along the way. “I was like the young, rising chef in the organization; I lived the restaurant business.”

He took that passion with him to North Carolina as he sought to get away and do something different somewhere else. “I grew up, I’d spent all my time here, I didn’t go to college … I got out of a long-term relationship, and I was like, ‘why am I still where I was born?’ I wanted to go see something different and new.”


Food for Thought

Brow stayed in North Carolina for two years, learning butchery, charcuterie, French techniques, French sauces, and much more, before returning to Western Mass. to tend to his ailing grandmother.

He first took a job at Springfield Smoked Fish Company, and soon took on some part-time work at the recently opened Center Square Grill. Eventually, he became executive chef there and stayed in that position for four years before he fulfilled that lifelong dream to own a restaurant, buying a wood-fired pizza restaurant from Guerra and renaming it HighBrow.

Pizza wasn’t exactly his passion, he admitted, but this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. And, as things turned out, it was a godsend because, as noted earlier, Brow became a restaurant owner just a few months before the pandemic reached Western Mass.

Pizza was a model that lent itself to delivery and pickup more easily than other types of restaurants, he explained, adding that he was able to pivot in many different ways, including by partnering with other businesses to bring meals to frontline workers, including those at hospitals and the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.

“I started off with just myself — I laid everyone off,” he recalled. “I told them to be on standby until we knew what the world was going to look like. Later, it was me and one of my cooks, Carlos. We would come in every day, and we’d go to Restaurant Depot every morning. We would have a limited menu; he would cook pizzas, and I would cook sauté and salads and appetizers. Eventually, I slowly introduced more staff as we were getting busier and I could justify putting more people back on payroll.”

Brow said he wasn’t exactly looking to open a second restaurant when Lumpkin implored him to take a hard look at the Adolfo’s site, but eventually he warmed to the idea of being part of the scene — and part of a comeback — in the central business district.

Over the course of his first year, there has been some change — and pivoting — there as well, he said, adding that he started off focusing primarily on fine dining, but has shifted and evolved, as he put it, and is now offering “more approachable things — but done with the detail we would use if we were plating a filet Oscar or something with delicate construction.”

For instance, with the mac & cheese, he offers a unique pasta with a cheese sauce made with many different types of cheeses, topped with crushed Goldfish crackers instead of the usual breadcrumbs.

“I try to be unique — I don’t like to do anything the same as anybody else around me is doing,” he explained. “I try to be different.”

And, like the name over the door, he is.

Unlike the jackalope — or Claudia Guerra, for that matter — Brow is not the stuff of legend. Yet. But he is getting there — one sticky rib at a time.


Nonprofit Management Special Coverage

Confidence Games

Girls on the Run


Alison Berman recalls a girl who finished her first 5K with Girls on the Run last year.

“This was a girl who had never even walked three miles, which is true for many of our kids. And it took her two hours. I mean, everything was being packed up, and when she finished, it was the most moving thing when she came across that finish line. Her aunt was crying. It was just … something that she never thought that she could possibly do.”

That, in a nutshell, is why Girls on the Run (GOTR) really isn’t about running — at least, not in the sense that competitive runners think about a 5K.

“You have the kid who can do it in 20 minutes and the kid who can do it in two hours,” said Berman, council director of Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts. “It’s not timed. They keep their own goals.”

So, if running isn’t the main focus, what is Girls on the Run about?

In a nutshell, it’s a physical activity-based, positive youth-development program that uses running games and dynamic discussions to teach life skills to girls in grades 3-8. During the 10-week program each semester, girls participate in lessons that foster confidence, build peer connections, and encourage community service while they prepare for a celebratory, end-of-season 5K event.

“The goal, really, is for them to increase their confidence and be able to achieve something they haven’t achieved before.”

Berman explained that each session features a social-emotional life-skills lesson drawn from a nationally distributed curriculum. “There are lessons on how to stand up for yourself, lessons on choosing friends, lessons on identifying and expressing emotions, on stopping to take a breather, empathy, gratitude.”

Meanwhile, each team — there are 75 of them in the Western Mass. council — tackles a community-impact project to give back to their community, Berman explained.

“They could write letters to children’s hospitals, or they can make things for animal shelters. We have one school in Chicopee that did a project in their girls’ bathroom because it was so gross; they made all these amazing signs for it.

“And then, all the while, they’re also training to run a 5K,” she went on. “But running is really secondary to the social-emotional part of it. They can run, they can walk, but the goal, really, is for them to increase their confidence and be able to achieve something they haven’t achieved before.”

The Western Mass. council of GOTR launched in 2015 with 90 girls on six teams. Now, the chapter boasts 75 different teams — 1,030 girls in all — and 285 volunteer coaches. Molly Hoyt, the nonprofit’s program director, started out as a coach herself and can speak to why these women — about half of them teachers by trade — volunteer.

“I think it touches the heart of a lot of people, thinking about themselves at that age and what they needed and probably could have benefited from and didn’t have. So I think they’re filling a gap, and they want to give back” she explained. “And I think teachers see a lack of social and emotional learning in schools. The days are so busy. So it’s a way to give this kind of education to some kids.

From left, Molly Hoyt, Alison Berman, and Coleen Ryan

From left, Molly Hoyt, Alison Berman, and Coleen Ryan say Girls on the Run changes not only the participants’ lives, but often the culture of their schools.

“They also learn stuff from this,” Hoyt went on. “I think the reason we have coaches come back season after season is because they are also benefiting from it. I love coaching. I feel like I learned a lot from it. And there are lessons that are really great at any age; they work for all the coaches too.”


Keeping on Track

The end of the fall and spring seasons end with a 5K celebration, with the spring event typically being the larger of the two. That will take place on Saturday, June 3 at Western New England University, where about 4,000 runners, families, coaches, and supporters are expected to gather.

Registration opens at 8:30 a.m., fun events get underway at 9:30, a group warmup begins at 10, and the walk/run steps off at 10:30. The registration cost is $30 for adults and $10 for youth and includes an event shirt. Volunteers are still welcome to sign up. For more information about the event, how to register, and volunteer opportunities, visit www.girlsontherunwesternma.org.

“We have families come with coolers and lawn chairs and signs, and they set up like they’re tailgating,” Hoyt said. “It’s really fun. It’s a very special day … it’s very unifying. They feel like they’re part of something bigger.”

“It’s a group of girls around the same age going through the same things together. And when you put caring adults with them, it kind of holds them in this vessel and allows them to take risks and lean in a little bit and have these discussions.”

She emphasized that the 5K, like other GOTR activities, is not about achieving a time, but about personal growth.

“I feel like this redefines what running means to them. I think that a lot of kids think, if they’re a runner, it means they have to run marathons or win races. Here, they start understanding that anyone can be a runner because it’s super individual, and what you get out of it is what you want.”

Hoyt said her daughter took part in the program and had never been a runner, and now she runs cross country at school.

“We hear that from a lot of kids; they just did the program and really weren’t into the running piece while they were doing Girls on the Run, but discovered that actually they can do it if they want to. So I do think it redefines the whole concept of being physically active and what running is.”

Coleen Ryan, program manager at GOTR Western Massachusetts, added that, once girls develop a love for running, they find it’s an always-available pastime. “Running doesn’t cost money. Anybody can go out their door and run and be successful.”

She added that the groups at each session are kept to a healthy coach-to-child ratio, so when they’re having discussions or doing laps, they get a lot of individualized attention. “That makes a difference.”

While the girls’ personal growth is exciting, Berman said, perhaps even moreso is the impact of those changes on their families and schools.

“A lot of our coaches who are teachers tell us that they see the kids using the curriculum in the classroom, and they’re becoming leaders in school, like standing up for their friends. So we see the impact at a community level as well. We’ve had some of our teachers, coaches, and principals talk about how it’s also changed the culture of their school and how it’s even gotten guardians and parents more involved.”

end-of-semester 5K events

The end-of-semester 5K events are always celebratory, not competitive.

And it’s not only the girls who are internalizing lessons and deploying them outside of Girls on the Run, Hoyt said — so are the coaches.

“The nice thing about coaching as a parent or a teacher is that you are learning the same language that the girls are during practice, so you can really support them, at home with your own child or in the classroom with kids in the program. You have that common language and start the lessons from the same page. I think it allows adults to support kids better when they go through the experience with them.”


Mission Accomplished

As one girl stated in a video created by GOTR Western Massachusetts, “one thing I love about Girls on the Run is that it’s about body positivity and showing that I’m who I am.”

It’s a message, among many others, that has caught on over the years. The national Girls on the Run organization was formed in 1996 and has since reached more than 2 million girls, with at least one council in every state; three call Massachusetts home.

GOTR claims to make a stronger impact than organized sports and physical-education programs in teaching life skills such as managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others, and making intentional decisions. There are separate curricula for grades 3-5 and 6-8, so the lessons are age-appropriate. And the girls keep journals to track their personal goals and progress.

“That progress is what’s important,” Hoyt said. “It’s not really about how fast anyone is or how far anyone’s running, but that they’re making individual progress.”

That sense of personal growth — Girls on the Run describes itself as developing joyful, healthy, and confident girls — is an attractive quality when so many negative factors are weighing on kids’ mental health these days, Berman said.

“We’ve definitely tapped into a need. There’s a huge child mental-health crisis right now. And whatever’s going on with them, Girls on the Run is giving them this extra layer of skills to support them. And it’s not just the lessons, but having these caring adults that are outside of their school and their parents, who are hopefully building up their resilience.”

Hoyt agreed. “It’s a group of girls around the same age going through the same things together. And when you put caring adults with them, it kind of holds them in this vessel and allows them to take risks and lean in a little bit and have these discussions.”

Berman emphasized that the coaches aren’t trained in running; instead, they’re skilled in the truly important things. “They’re more trained in how to hold a group of kids and how to facilitate discussions and be aware of some mental-health stuff that might come up — because, obviously, there’s a lot of behavioral stuff that comes up in the groups as well. And they have to know how to handle that.”

Because of the importance of the program, Berman said 65% of participants are on full or partial scholarships, which defrays the $160 cost based on ability to pay. “We don’t turn anybody away for financial need. And we also provide shoes for anybody that doesn’t have shoes. We also provide a snack for everybody.”

GOTR relies on fundraising to support its work, including grants and business sponsorships, to help pay for not only the 10-week program twice a year, but also, starting this July, an annual week-long summer camp in Chicopee.

But before that is the not-so-small matter of hosting 4,000 people at Western New England University on June 3 for the region’s most celebratory 5K.

“Normally you might be cheering someone on to win,” Ryan said, “but this is just like, ‘you did it. Everybody, you did it!’”

Commercial Real Estate Special Coverage

The Last Big Piece of the Puzzle


Lee Pouliot

Since he’s only 37, Lee Pouliot has only known the buildings on the Uniroyal site as empty shells. With the request for proposals, that may finally change.


Lee Pouliot says he’s always had what he calls a bit of a fascination with what is known simply as the Uniroyal property in Chicopee — although there is nothing simple about it.

He grew up the city, but, because he’s only 37 (and a BusinessWest 40 Under Forty winner in 2020), all he’s known of the buildings — most of them, anyway — is as empty shells, the subjects of stories that almost every long-time resident of this community tells about working at the tire-manufacturing complex, or being related to someone who did.

While he was earning a master’s degree in landscape architecture at Cornell more than a dozen years ago, Pouliot took this fascination to a higher level, engaging himself and a few of his classmates in a final project — one that would create a development plan for the complex of buildings for the Uniroyal and adjacent Facemate properties, located in the center of the city.

Later, as an intern in the Chicopee’s Community Development office and then as a staffer in that office, he worked with city leaders to move a project to redevelop that complex, through a series of critical next steps.

“The reality is that there are a number of developers who have considerable experience with mill conversions. And so, in some ways, the city is trying to target developers who have this kind of experience, in the hope that we can see something creative done with those buildings that keeps them standing.”

And now, as city planner, a position he’s held since 2015, Pouliot is playing a lead role in writing what is essentially the final chapter in a long, complicated story that has, in some ways, been more than 40 years in the making.

This chapter involves a 9.58-acre parcel at the Uniroyal site, one of two yet to be developed, the other a 10-acre parcel being eyed by the city for recreational uses. A request for proposals was recently issued for the first of those parcels, which includes four buildings, including one that served as an administration building.

Those requests are due back on July 21, and Pouliot, like everyone else in the city, is anxious to see what the development community has in mind for this parcel, which is being marketed as RiverMills at Chicopee Falls, and especially the four remaining buildings on it, which the city opted not to demolish, in part because of their structural soundness.

the former Uniroyal buildings

This drone shot shows demolition of one of the former Uniroyal buildings. A request for proposals has been issued for the still-standing structures at the top of this image.

“The reality is that there are a number of developers who have considerable experience with mill conversions,” he explained. “And so, in some ways, the city is trying to target developers who have this kind of experience, in the hope that we can see something creative done with those buildings that keeps them standing.”

The bid package issued by the city touts this as “one of the largest contiguous areas of former industrial properties poised for redevelopment in Western Massachusetts.”

Further, the big package notes, “unlike other comparable sites, most of the costly and lengthy procedures required to prepare for redevelopment have been completed, reducing the risk and uncertainty typically associated with brownfield redevelopment.”

It is hoped that these amenities, if they can be called that, will trigger the imaginations of developers and yield some intriguing proposals, said Pouliot, adding that there are many possible uses for the buildings and the property. Housing is still a priority for the city and region, and the buildings, with some work, will lend themselves to that purpose. But there are other potential uses as well, he said, including retail, hospitality, and service businesses.

For this issue and its focus on commercial real estate, BusinessWest talked with Pouliot about the long journey that Chicopee has taken to reach this critical juncture with the Uniroyal property, and what might happen next.


Where the Rubber Meets the Road

When asked what it was like, personally and professionally, to see the project reach this important milestone, Pouliot exhaled, glanced toward the ceiling, and then shook his head a few times.

“Housing is still a priority. I think anyone looking at the state of housing in the Commonwealth, or this country, would be foolish not to consider housing a likely piece of redevelopment here.”

The body language spoke volumes about the length and complexity of this project, which has been ongoing — in some respects, anyway — longer than he’s been alive and has involved several different mayors, planners, and Community Development directors.

“In some ways, it feels odd that we’re nearing the end because so much of our time has been focused on getting to this point,” he said. “But it’s also significant — this has been no small feat for a community of Chicopee’s size; this is a huge milestone for the city.”

Recapping the Uniroyal story quickly, Pouliot said it starts back in the late 1800s, when that the land was first used for manufacturing. From 1896 to 1898, the property was owned by Spaulding and Pepper Co., which manufactured bicycle tires. Fisk Rubber Co., which later changed its name to United States Rubber Co. and then to Uniroyal, manufactured bicycle, automobile, and truck tires and adhesives at the site from 1898 to 1981.

a shift change at the Uniroyal plant

This photograph, taken some time in the 1930s, shows a shift change at the Uniroyal plant, which employed more than 3,000 people in its heyday.

Uniroyal closed its plant in 1980 and sold the property — which stretched over 65 acres and included 23 buildings — to Facemate Corp., located adjacent to Uniroyal, in 1981.

Fast-forwarding, he said the city spent years working to acquire both the Uniroyal and Facemate property (Facemate went bankrupt in 2003), and did so in 2009, soon embarking on a massive cleanup that would cost more than $40 million and involve federal, state, and local money, while also planning work for development.

Eventually, individual parcels on the site were developed; the initial redevelopment project involved construction of the RiverMills Senior Center. Later, a private developer built River Mills Assisted Living at Chicopee Falls on a three-acre parcel. A third, four-acre parcel has been optioned to Brisa Development LLC of New York, which plans to build a mixed-use development that includes a 107-unit apartment building, an indoor sports complex, and a brewery and restaurant.

The 9.58-acre parcel that is the subject of the request for proposals is essentially the last big piece of the puzzle, said Pouliot, adding that it’s dominated by the four remaining Uniroyal buildings.

One is the administration building, or Building 26. The city has an agreement with the Massachusetts Historical Commission to try to see that structure redeveloped, he explained, adding that it is eligible for listing on the National Historic Register.

There is also a smaller building, what Pouliot called a retail shop for Fisk Rubber Co., where it sold and even installed tires, as well as two large manufacturing buildings, numbered 27 and 42, that are considered to be in “structurally decent condition,” he said.

“Instead of incurring the cost of demolition, which would have been a few million dollars more than what we were paying for cleanup, we decided to preserve them and see if there was appetite within the development community to do something with them,” he explained, adding that, if there is no appetite for taking them on, the city will look at what developers are proposing and decide the best course from there.

“We’re not going to predicate a decision on just whether or not all the buildings can be reused,” he said. “Certainly it is the city’s intention to sell the land and see something happen; this is just one of the criteria we’re looking at to see what the development community can respond with.

“There are a number of developers who would prefer raw land, but the reality with this site is that it’s not raw land,” he went on. “You could consider this an industrial archaeological site; there are going to be limitations on development regardless of whether the buildings are standing or not.”

Elaborating, Pouliot said he’s learned much about the property — and tire manufacturing — over the years, including the fact that, at some point between the two world wars (exactly when he’s not sure), the U.S. government began to oversee rubber production to make sure there would be enough tires for the war effort.

This government involvement helps explain why many of the buildings at the Uniroyal site, including Buildings 27 and 42, were built to withstand aerial bombing, he went on, adding that the structures are still sound a century or more after they were built, in some cases, which may become a factor in whether those in the development community want to try to do something with them. “Their structural capacity is incredible.”

Returning to the matter of what the city would like to see by way of development, Pouliot said priorities were spelled out in the River Mills Vision Plan, the development plan created for both the Uniroyal and Facemate properties combined.

“We were looking for redevelopment that reconnected these properties to the Chicopee Falls neighborhood and supported the neighborhood with appropriate-scale development,” he said of the overarching objective, adding that there hasn’t been any connection, other than history, for many years.

aerial shot from 2008

This aerial shot from 2008 shows the Uniroyal complex before the start of demolition of many of the buildings at that site.

This effort would ideally be a mixed-use project that can connect people with the river, he went on, adding that housing was, and still is, a need within the city.

“Housing is still a priority,” he said. “I think anyone looking at the state of housing in the Commonwealth, or this country, would be foolish not to consider housing a likely piece of redevelopment here.”

When asked for a timeline for the project, Pouliot said the city will likely take six to eight months to review the submitted proposals before eventually choosing a preferred developer. That developer will then need time to secure the various forms of financing that will be needed, he said, adding that it will likely be two to four years before work actually commences.


View to the Future

Returning to that project that he and a few of his classmates took on at Cornell, Pouliot said that, while creating that development plan — one that in many ways mirrored the one crafted by the city — he and the others involved worked to get a “feel for the community’s relationship with this property, its context within the city, and what they wanted to see.

“And one of the big takeaways, even for me, having grown up in this city, was just how many families had someone who worked at this property throughout history,” he went on. “So many people could tie themselves back to a sports league or working there, or the shift changes — we heard so many stories about how loud and noisy Chicopee Falls was when that plant was operating, and the volume of people.”

For the better part of 40 years now, most all talk concerning Uniroyal has been in the past tense. But if the request for proposals yields the imaginative concepts that city officials are hoping for, that will soon change — and people will start talking about what’s happening there now, not what happened a half-century or more ago.

As Pouliot noted, it’s odd in some ways to be at this point in the process. But it’s also quite rewarding. There’s plenty of work left to do, but a milestone has been reached.