Daily News

PITTSFIELD — The Dulye Leadership Experience (DLE), which offers professional-development programs for emerging leaders, is carving out a new niche: generating a dialogue between its members and politicians.

The organization has begun hosting open, in-person exchanges, called Listening Sessions, to bring political leaders together with DLE’s Gen-Z and Millennial members. The next session is set for Monday, Feb. 5. The goal is to facilitate an exchange that can help political leaders better understand the issues that are important to this key constituency.

The Listening Sessions program was hatched from a conversation last summer between DLE founder and President Linda Dulye and Pittsfield Mayor Pete Marchetti, who at the time was a candidate for mayor. Marchetti wanted to broaden his outreach and hear from a critical group of citizens whose voices needed to be amplified: the under-40 residents, professionals, and business owners of the city.

For this, he looked to DLE, which has been building an extensive, diverse community of next-gen leaders through its free professional-development and networking programs since 2008.

The debut DLE Listening Session, held July 24, 2023, resulted in an open, interactive learning experience for Marchetti, who praised the 15 participants for being “forward-thinking rather than focusing on the past.” He added, “If we are going to move forward, we must engage in more of these types of conversations.”

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier is the next political leader to headline a Listening Session. Farley-Bouvier, like Marchetti, contacted Dulye with a request to meet with DLE members to broaden her perspective on issues that matter to next-gen leaders in the Berkshires. The 85-minute exchange will be held Feb. 5 at 5:15 p.m. at the DLE headquarters in downtown Pittsfield. DLE members who live or work in Pittsfield and have an interest in joining the conversation should contact Dulye at [email protected]. Attendance will be limited to 15 participants to ensure the group’s full engagement with Farley-Bouvier.

“The first job of a legislator is to listen,” Farley-Bouvier said. “I welcome the opportunity to hear from young professionals in Pittsfield about their experiences and how they think the Commonwealth can be a better partner in making our community one in which everyone can thrive.”

As chief designer of the format and flow of the moderated Listening Session, Dulye set one overarching ground rule: “the sessions are strictly for education, not endorsement.”

They are conducted without cost to the political leaders and participants, with Dulye underwriting all advance preparation and operational expenses. “As a crusader for conversations and building connections in our community, I am committed to making these educational experiences available to civic, business, and government leaders who want to learn from the members of a talent pool that we must grow and fortify in the Berkshires. Next-gen leaders are a powerful engine for economic revitalization.”

Dulye’s commitment to civic engagement is evidenced by her leadership role on the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. board and her active engagement in Downtown Pittsfield Inc. volunteer cleanup projects. Her management consulting and professional-development firm, Dulye & Co., operates out of a North Street office.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — With a focus on energy equity, environmental-justice communities, and transparency, Eversource submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) its final Electric Sector Modernization Plan (ESMP) to modernize the electric distribution system and help meet the Commonwealth’s decarbonization goals after incorporating feedback from the Grid Mod Advisory Council (GMAC) and dozens of stakeholders.

The energy company’s ESMP is a comprehensive roadmap to transform the region’s power grid, enhance its resiliency, and strengthen reliability for customers by increasing renewable-energy production and electrifying the heating and transportation sectors. Focused on achieving both equity and clean-energy objectives, the ESMP also establishes a Community Engagement Stakeholder Advisory Group (CESAG) and expands efforts for proposed clean-energy infrastructure projects to engage all potentially impacted stakeholders.

“In order to meet decarbonization goals and help customers fully realize the benefits of the unprecedented clean-energy transition we’ve embarked upon together in Massachusetts, we must modernize our electric distribution system to increase capacity in support of the push to electrification, enhance reliability, and make the grid more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” said Digaunto Chatterjee, Eversource’s vice president for System Planning.

“Focused on equity and transparency, our Electric Sector Modernization Plan offers the most comprehensively detailed and ambitious roadmap yet to make that vision a reality and importantly incorporates feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders while bolstering community-engagement efforts for all proposed clean-energy infrastructure projects moving forward,” Chatterjee added. “We cannot leave any customer behind in this transition, particularly those in environmental-justice communities, and we look forward to engaging with all stakeholders early and often to meet these goals as we undertake the important work of siting and building critical clean-energy infrastructure, which will require collective buy-in and effort from all of us.”

Eversource’s 10-year plan helps meet the Commonwealth’s decarbonization milestones through 2040 by achieving a 180% increase in electrification hosting capacity, which will provide additional capacity to enable 2.5 million electric vehicles statewide, 1 million residential heat pumps within the company’s territory, and an incremental 2.2 GW of additional solar hosting capacity, bringing the total distributed energy resource hosting capacity systemwide to 5.8 GW.

The energy company’s system engineers predict an approximately 20% increase in electric demand in the next decade driven primarily by imminent economic growth and a 150% electric demand increase by 2050, driven by electrification of heating systems (50%) and transportation (25%), as well as normal load growth (25%).

To safely and reliably meet the needs of its customers and the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals, Eversource has proposed building new clean-energy substations and conducting significant upgrades on existing substations, which are all critical components of the electric delivery system. These investments will be complemented by improvements to the grid to better withstand the impacts of major storms, flooding, and other threats increasing due to climate change. Integrated gas-electric planning is also a critical component of the ESMP.

As part of its commitment to an equitable clean-energy future, Eversource actively engaged with the GMAC over the last eight months to inform the public and solicit feedback to the draft ESMP filed with the DPU last September, conducting technical conferences and hosting two stakeholder meetings that were recorded and made available publicly, as well as providing language interpretation services.

With the establishment of the CESAG, community-based organizations will help inform and enhance Eversource’s stakeholder and community engagement through the development of a governing framework that will ensure the company’s diverse communities are engaged early and often in the decision-making process, offering greater opportunity for conversation and collaboration.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that the bank’s third annual Neighbors Helping Neighbors fundraising drive raised $35,000 for local food pantries. This brings the program’s three-year total to nearly $110,000.

The appeal is part of bankESB’s charitable giving program, the Giving Tree, which reflects the bank’s commitment to making a difference in the neighborhoods it serves. Throughout November, the bank invited customers, employees, and members of the community to donate at bankESB branches. All donations received were matched, dollar for dollar, by bankESB and the total divided among food pantries in Western Mass. communities the bank serves.

Each of these participating food pantries received $2,500: the Best Life Food Ministry, Agawam; BUCC Helping Hands Cupboard Food Pantry, Belchertown; the Chicopee Cupboard; Easthampton Community Center Food Pantry; Easthampton Congregational Church Food Cupboard & Oasis Kitchen; the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Chicopee; the Hadley Food Pantry; Hilltown Food Pantry, Goshen; Margaret’s Pantry, Holyoke; Neighbors Helping Neighbors Inc., South Hadley; Northampton Survival Center; Not Bread Alone, Amherst; Southampton Community Cupboard; and Westfield Food Pantry.

“On behalf of bankESB, I’d like to thank all those who generously donated to our Neighbors Helping Neighbors fundraiser to help fight food insecurity in our communities,” Sosik said. “We’re pleased to host this annual appeal and that so much was raised to help families in need this past holiday season and into this new year.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Through Feb. 29, Freedom Credit Union is inviting its members, employees, and community to “Paws for a Cause” and make cash donations to benefit the Foundation for TJO Animals in Springfield and Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter in Greenfield.

“These amazing institutions provide food, water, shelter, and a variety of critical services for thousands of animals in our region every year,” Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch said. “They rely on donations to help fund everything from veterinary care to toys and bedding for the animals’ comfort and enrichment as they wait to find their forever homes.”

The Thomas J. O’Connor Adoption Center provides animal shelter and adoption services for the cities of Springfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke. The Foundation for TJO Animals was formed to allow the group to better serve the shelter animals in its care through medical treatments and rehabilitation. This veterinary care allows pets to be brought to the adoption floor to hopefully find their forever homes.

The Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter is a volunteer-led group serving the communities of Franklin County. Its mission is to protect and improve the lives of stray, lost, and unwanted dogs by offering a welcoming facility, providing care, and finding good homes for each animal.

“We encourage you to donate directly to these organizations or at any of our branches through Thursday, February 29,” Welch said. “Let’s make those tails wag.”

Cover Story Creative Economy

Music Will Live Again

By Emily Thurlow

Chris Freeman

Chris Freeman, executive director of the Parlor Room Collective
Photo by Emily Thurlow

There’s a lot to love about the Iron Horse Music Hall.

Though it’s not as apparent from the outside, with its large storefront windows covered in layers of tape holding up posters advertising myriad performers and upcoming shows, the downtown space holds countless special memories for lovers of live music in Western Mass., as reflected in its venerable slogan, “music alone shall live.”

Over the course of its more than four decades in existence, thousands of musical acts have graced the stage at the historic Northampton venue — one of a handful of hotspots, in fact, that helped define the city as an entertainment destination.

Whether leaning on the balcony railing or sitting at a table, or swaying from side to side at the edge of the stage, audiences of multiple generations have been entertained time and time again by artists like jazz musicians Freddie Hubbard and Bobby McFerrin, singer-songwriters from Brandi Carlile to Robyn Hitchcock, rockers like Graham Parker and the Smashing Pumpkins, and contemporary folk icons like Dar Williams and Dan Bern.

And while concertgoers and performers alike cherished the intimate atmosphere within the historic walls, it’s no secret that the Iron Horse also carries a less-pleasant legacy with regard to uncomfortable room temperatures, underwhelming bathrooms, and a poorly maintained green room — not to mention labor complaints and an extended closure that marred the last few years of the venue’s previous ownership by Eric Suher.

The the new owner, however — a nonprofit called the Parlor Room Collective that operates other small, local performance spaces — has plans to make those less-appealing accounts a thing of the past and reopen the Iron Horse this May.

“This is a living place. You can have people seated around the outside on the balcony or standing, and you could have college kids moshing and dancing in the pit while you have all of their parents eating a nice meal around the outside. Everyone feels safe.”

Nearly halfway to the $750,000 goal of a capital campaign launched in November, the Valley-based nonprofit continues to call on the public to invest in the Iron Horse Music Hall. The Parlor Room Collective will use that investment to expand and renovate the facility’s footprint to enhance the overall experience for patrons and improve the space for artists, which will, in turn, bring people together through music as it did not so long ago, said Chris Freeman, executive director of the Parlor Room Collective.

“Our mission at the Parlor Room Collective is to enhance the health and vitality of our community through the power of music. We have witnessed the magic of our local music scene and its ability to fuel the engine of our economy, enhance the overall well-being of our community, and contribute to our cultural vitality,” Freeman said. “And now we stand at a pivotal moment in our journey as a nonprofit arts organization. We have a unique opportunity to revive a local treasure that has resonated with music lovers for generations: the Iron Horse.”


The Good, the Bad, and the Disgusting

Many who have entered the music industry at a grassroots level have performed at one point or another at the Iron Horse, Freeman said.

Take singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman, for example. Prior to taking home numerous Grammy awards for her eponymous 1988 debut, Chapman played at the Northampton venue, long before it was the multi-level experience it is today, Freeman noted.

“From John Mayer and Wynton Marsalis to Allen Ginsberg and Beck … the amount of performers that have played here goes on forever, and in every genre,” he said.

Before earning that reputation, the 20 Center St. mainstay was known as the Iron Horse Coffeehouse. At the time of its opening in 1979, the club’s capacity was limited to 60 people. Co-founded by Jordi Herold and John Riley, the venue was named for a work of sculpture that Herold’s mother had created.

About a decade — and a few expansions — later, the club could accommodate 170 seats and had became known as the Iron Horse Music Hall. Suher, a notable Northampton developer, purchased the venue in 1995 and owned it until its sale to the Parlor Room Collective in 2023.

Though he’s spent considerable time in the space, Freeman still marvels at how the unique venue lends itself to an eclectic, multi-generational experience. “This is a living place. You can have people seated around the outside on the balcony or standing, and you could have college kids moshing and dancing in the pit while you have all of their parents eating a nice meal around the outside. Everyone feels safe.”

At the same time, the venue has presented some unpleasantness for its guests. In recent years, some artists have publicly addressed such issues. Freeman recalled attending a show for Vanessa Carlton, who talked about how cold she was during her 2017 performance at the venue.

Carlton, best known for her 2002 hit single, “A Thousand Miles,” publicly thanked an audience member who loaned her fingerless gloves via a post on Twitter, stating, “it was freezing on stage” and Suher’s Iron Horse Entertainment Group “wouldn’t turn the heat up.”

In response, Suher denied Carlton’s assertions and told the Daily Hampshire Gazette at the time that “the performer was cold on the stage. The venue temp was 70 degrees.”

Carlton further spoke of the disarray in the green room, which was also located in the basement. On Twitter, she posted a photo of furniture with ripped and torn fabric and cushions collapsing and urged owners to toss it, so that she would return to the venue again in the future.

Though the space allowed fans to get close to artists, the space wasn’t especially welcoming, Freeman noted, adding the green room was known in the area for its poor condition, and the basement was the only place on site equipped with bathrooms. “These two disgusting bathrooms are supposed to serve 250 people — including the artists. They’re so, so gross.”

“Understanding its history, I kept thinking about how it’s just such an important place for our whole community, and I thought that somebody has to reopen this place.”

As for the HVAC unit, Freeman said the Iron Horse is in need of a serious upgrade. He explained the challenges of trying to keep a packed house well-regulated, whether the meant warm enough or cool enough. “There are tons of famous artist complaints of playing in here with it being 90 degrees — and 20 degrees outside.”


Music and Memories

Freeman’s knowledge of the Iron Horse goes well beyond his time as a board member for the Parlor Room. Growing up in Farmington, Conn., he would often attend shows at the Iron Horse with his father. The Valley’s music scene was especially attractive to him and made him want to move to the area, he said.

“Northampton was kind of like a grungy, artsy, cool place where people knew about artists. People had an understanding of bands that ran a little bit deeper than whoever’s on the big country radio station or the big pop stuff,” he said. “I remember the first time I came here. I knew I wanted to be a musician, and I thought that if I could just open a show at the Iron Horse, I’ll have made it.”

By his 10th or 11th visit to the Iron Horse, Freeman did just that and performed with the Americana/folk-rock group he helped found, Parsonsfield.

His band, which was signed to the Signature Sounds record label, was among the first artists to perform at the Parlor Room, located at 32 Masonic St. — just a block away from the Iron Horse. The Parlor Room was founded by Signature Sounds Recordings in the fall of 2012 as an “artist-and-audience-friendly” listening room, performance space, and school of music, he explained.

Chris Freeman

Chris Freeman sits on the Iron Horse’s prominent stairs to the second level, where the new restrooms will be located.

Freeman spent roughly a decade touring with Parsonsfield at venues throughout the U.S. In February 2022, he transitioned into the role of executive director of the Parlor Room and played a critical role in helping the organization transition into a nonprofit music venue and school last January.

On a near-daily basis, Freeman, who is now a resident of Northampton, would find himself walking by the Iron Horse, seeing the legendary venue remain dark.

“Understanding its history, I kept thinking about how it’s just such an important place for our whole community, and I thought that somebody has to reopen this place,” he told BusinessWest. “This was a place that is the heart of the whole Western Mass. music scene. The culture and the city around it made me want to move here.”

Freeman’s understanding of the value of the property led him to reach out to Suher. This past September, the Parlor Room announced it had reached an agreement with Suher to purchase the business, which includes the venue’s liquor license.

The Parlor Room signed a 15-year lease to not only operate the business at its current space at 18 and 20 Center St., but also to expand into 22 Center St. Connecting the adjacent storefronts will allow the Iron Horse to have a dedicated bar and community space and will increase the venue’s overall square footage by 40%, he explained.

Once renovations are completed and the Iron Horse has reopened, the Parlor Room will be, as its name suggests, a collective that encompasses three projects: the Iron Horse, the Parlor Room, and the Parlor Room School of Music. The original Parlor Room venue on Masonic Street will live on as the headquarters for the School of Music and an intimate performance venue.

“My main goal is, I wanted this place to come back, and I wanted to live in a city that has music — that’s why I moved here in the first place. My secondary goal is to make the Parlor Room become just as big of a part of this community,” Freeman said. “The ability to merge these together and to make sure that this place comes back — in the right way and with the right mission and in line with the community’s goals — felt like a really important thing to do.”


What’s the Plan?

With the aim of reopening this spring, the Parlor Room has set an ambitious renovation timeline that’s already underway, while the capital campaign continues. To date, the campaign has surpassed $317,500.

Among the biggest costs will be an upgraded sprinkler system and HVAC unit, Freeman said. The first phase of renovations also encompass updates to flooring, a new sound and lighting system, and stage and bar enhancement funded in part by a $73,000 American Rescue Plan Act grant from the city of Northampton.

The nonprofit has also partnered with Dave Schrier, co-owner of Easthampton’s Daily Operation, to redesign the dining and bar experience at the Iron Horse.

Phase two of the renovations will focus on accessibility and other upgrades. Instead of the two basement bathrooms, the new space will include 10 bathrooms that will be relocated for increased accessibility. This also includes two bathrooms accessible for those who use wheelchairs, in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. A wheelchair lift will also be installed to make the stage accessible for all.

The Parlor Room Collective will also establish a brand-new green room that includes private bathrooms with a shower. A new floor layout will allow for 300 people for standing-room-only events and variations of more than 200 people seated in new furniture.

“There is no better investment in our community — and what, historically, has seen Northampton as a community thrive, business-wise — than bringing back the Iron Horse and having this place open 250 nights a year with a bar, with the way that it impacts other restaurants and tourism in the area,” Freeman said.

To donate to the “Revive the Iron Horse” capital campaign, visit ironhorse.org.

Features Special Coverage

A New Era Dawns

Mick Corduff

Mick Corduff


Mick Corduff calls it his “research and development time.”

It comes early in the year, when things are slower in the hospitality sector. It’s a time to reflect, drill down on what happened the year before, and ramp up the planning for the year ahead.

“I look back and measure all that was good and all that wasn’t good,” he said. “Menus that worked and didn’t work, staffing and structures that worked, management positions that worked and didn’t work; we always try hard to raise the bar.”

This year, research and development time is more than a little bit different … because last year, there were a few distractions, as he put it.

Indeed, 2023 saw a long partnership — more than two decades — between Corduff and Peter Rosskothen come to an end when Rosskothen sold his shares in the company that owns the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House, the Delaney House restaurant and D. Hotel Suites & Spa to Corduff and his new business partner, Frank DeMarinis.

The end to the business relationship, which had been talked about for several years and then finalized over the course of 2023, came in late September, ushering a new era for a group of businesses that comprise one of the pillars of the region’s hospitality sector, and for which Rosskothen had long been the face.

“The past four months have definitely been very hectic, but I like to think that I’ve handled pressure well over the years. It’s something that a chef has to do.”

Corduff now becomes the new face, moving from what was mostly, but not entirely, back-of-the-house operations to back and front of the house, although he’s taking steps to delegate some of his many responsibilities to other managers.

For now, and for the foreseeable future, he has a lot on his plate — literally and figuratively. There are the day-to-day operations and coping with challenges ranging from the still-rising cost of food to an ongoing workforce crisis to meeting the many needs of today’s marrying couples. He’s also overseeing the return of Sunday brunch at the Delaney House, planning for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade events and a ‘sister-city’ trip to Ireland later this year, and advancing some ambitious plans for the future. While doing all that, he’ll spend some time in the kitchen cooking as well.

In a candid conversation with BusinessWest about all of the above, and especially the many responsibilities he now handles, Corduff said he brings to his new and expanded role what he calls a chef’s mentality.

Sunday brunch at the Delaney House

The return of Sunday brunch at the Delaney House has been just one item on the plate for the new ownership team.

“The past four months have definitely been very hectic, but I like to think that I’ve handled pressure well over the years,” he noted. “It’s something that a chef has to do. What I’ve learned in my years of experience in the back of the house — and in the front of the house as well, especially over the past four or five years — is the importance of keeping a level head and just knowing that, at the end of the day, we’re dealing with people, whether it’s waitstaff or a contact for the bride and groom; they’re people, and you want to treat them with respect.

“I learned a lot from Peter over the years — we always worked in tandem,” he went on. “We always talked about the best way to handle things and put our best foot forward and maintain the integrity of the business. We always had the same message — excellence is what we’re all about, and we try to promote that across the board.”

As for those plans for the future, they are, indeed, ambitious, and include a possible new hotel and restaurant to be built on a portion of the upper parking lot at the Log Cabin.

“We’re dreamers — that’s what entrepreneurs are,” Corduff said. “And we have some dreams that we want to make reality.”


Food for Thought

As he talked with BusinessWest at 10 a.m. on a recent Tuesday morning, Corduff had his chef’s coat on, one announcing him as ‘chef owner.’

He wasn’t doing any cooking at that moment, nor was he planning to do any soon, but the chef’s coat was still the attire of choice. To paraphrase Bill Belichick, it is who he is.

“I don’t think I’ll ever the leave the kitchen — I love what I do,” he said, adding that he has a few business suits … somewhere. He had more years ago, when he served as front-of-house manager at the Log Cabin and wore one every day. But he ruined some of them of them when wandering back to the kitchen, where he feels most at home, and getting food stains on them.

“We’re known in the community as a quality product, and we aim hard to maintain that standard.”

Ever since, the chef’s coat has been the uniform, if you will, and Corduff wears it everywhere and for everything, from planning for the Big E (the group has a huge presence there) to meeting with the media, an assignment that mostly fell to Rosskothen years ago, although Corduff did it, too; from reviewing accounts payable to doing long-range planning.

These are now mostly, if not entrely, Corduff’s purview, and it’s a change, that, as noted, has been years in the making.

That’s how long the two partners talked about Rosskothen moving on and focusing his time and energies on one of their latest entrepreneurial ventures — Delaney’s Market, which now has four locations across the region — with Corduff taking the lead at three Holyoke establishments: the Log Cabin as well as the Delaney House restaurant and the adjoining D. Hotel Suites & Spa.

The main ballroom at the Log Cabin

The main ballroom at the Log Cabin, one of several properties in the group now owned and managed by Mick Corduff and Frank DeMarinis.

He’s doing so with new partner DeMarinis, president of Sage Engineering and Contracting Inc. in Westfield and a local developer, builder, owner, and manager of more than 25 commercial real-estate properties in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He is also the founder and owner of Roots Sports complexes in Westfield and East Longmeadow, as well as Roots Learning Center in East Longmeadow.

For Corduff, this is the intriguing next chapter in a story that began when he came to this country from Ireland in 1989, working first as a banquet chef at the Marriott in Springfield and later as a member of its quality-management team.

Eventually, he started doing some catering on his own and began looking at getting into business for himelf. While pursuing those dreams, he also interviewed to be head chef at Twin Hills Country Club. The interview was with Larry Perrault, who was at that time finalizing plans to join Rosskothen in a venture to reimagine the old Log Cabin restaurant property, in the shadow of Mount Tom, into a banquet facility.

They went to lunch at Friendly’s, where the discussion wasn’t about Twin Hills, but about the Log Cabin.

“I met Larry, I met Peter, we walked around the old Log Cabin, whipped out the drawings, and started our dream,” he said. “The rest is history.”

More than a quarter-century of colorful history, in fact, involving change, evolution, expansion (the Delaney House, then the the hotel, then Delaney’s Market), innovation, and overcoming challenges that ranged from the Great Recession to the pandemic. Over the course of that time, Corduff moved from chef to partner when the relationship with Perrault dissolved — a partnership that lasted 20 years.

The buyout came in late September, one of the busiest times for this group of businesses, leaving Corduff “without much time to stop and think,” he said — something he’s able to do now. Early on, he’s spent considerable time and energy reassuring the large staff that the business is stable and ready to maintain its standing as a market leader.

“A lot of what I do now, mapping out the year and planning out the seasons that are coming, is making sure that we have the right people in the right places, making sure everyone’s ready to do whatever it takes and trained in the art of war and the art of optimization.”

Moving forward, in the role of chief operator and executive chef, he will work in partnership with DeMarinis, who will focus on the construction and infrastructure sides of the equation, while Corduff will be handling day-to-day operations.

While doing so, his primary mission is to maintain the group’s reputation for quality — at all levels of its operation, from weddings, which are perhaps its hallmark, to a Friday-night dinner at the Delaney House, to a weekend stay at the hotel, now managed by Corduff’s wife, Dana.

“We’re known in the community as a quality product, and we aim hard to maintain that standard,” he said. “We have to adapt because the business is constantly changing and evolving.”


More Growth on the Menu

Looking back on the past 25 years or so, Corduff said that, for much of that time, he was back-of-the-house and more behind the scenes than the colorful, always-quotable Rosskothen. But later on, he started becoming more visible, and people could put a face with a name.

Or a voice with a name.

Indeed, Corduff was prominent in radio spots for the Log Cabin and Delaney House, specifically their steaks, made famous by the word ‘marbling,’ which Corduff would pronounce slowly for added effect. Later, he became more known through the opening of the Mick, a tavern of sorts within the Delaney House providing casual dining and live music.

With the change in ownership consumated last fall, he now assumes more responsibilities, especially in the big-picture planning for the future.

“My managers know that I will run into the hottest fire,” he told BusinessWest. “So whoever needs me, I’m there. And a lot of what I do now, mapping out the year and planning out the seasons that are coming, is making sure that we have the right people in the right places, making sure everyone’s ready to do whatever it takes and trained in the art of war and the art of optimization.

“In the catering world, you can be doing a wedding in a tent under a tree out in the woods, no power, no water, so we have to plan it all out,” he went on, using that example as metaphor for business in general and the need to be ready for anything.

And, as noted earlier, the two partners are entrepreneurial, intent on expanding this business group and making more changes.

One ongoing project is to essentially separate the front (lower) parking lot at the Log Cabin from the rest of the property, with the intention of it becoming home to a Dunkin’ Donuts and the fifth Delaney’s Market, an operation that will be Rosskothen’s domain as part of the buyout agreement.

The larger and more ambitious plan, however, calls for redevelopent of the upper parking lot.

“The vision is to build a hotel in the upper lot,” Corduff said, adding that DeMarinis, the engineer, is developing plans to move dirt and create more space to park cars in that area while also identifying a footprint for a hotel and acompanying restaurant. The hotel would be a smaller, boutique facility, similar to the D. Hotel at the Delaney House, with maybe 60 to 80 rooms.

“We really want to bring to it some of the Log Cabin character, some of the New England character, with some of our own touches,” he said, adding that a rooftop restaurant, one with dramatic views down the mountain, is also within the plan, one that will likely take shape over the next three to four years.

As he talked with BusinessWest, Corduff recalled what he called a “sendoff” for Rosskothen the night before at the the Mick. It was an occasion to mark the end of an era, the end of a business relationship, and the start of the next chapter.

“It was a kind of a thank you and sendoff, and it was cool to see,” he said. “We had some staff that don’t work here anymore that came to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye.’ There was a lot of gratitude in the room last night; there’s been a lot of years of hard work together.”

And many more to come, Corduff added, noting that, with the passage of one era, another has begun. And as it does, he will certainly fall back on that chef’s mentality (not to mention the chef’s coat) he mentioned earlier.

And that means keeping a level head and always treating people with respect.


Healthcare News Special Coverage

One Workout at a Time

By Emily Thurlow

Steve Conca

Steve Conca, owner of Conca Sport and Fitness

Between platefuls of coma-inducing turkey, complete with all the fixings, and palatable pies and pastries, it’s safe to say that many people are happy to see the hearty overindulgences of the 2023 holiday season firmly in the rear-view mirror.

For many, the start of the new year provides an opportunity to start out on the right foot, by developing better habits and establishing goals. Through myriad resolutions, one theme that tends to stand out year after year is health.

Notably, an October 2023 survey from Forbes Health/OnePoll revealed that 48% of U.S. adults say improving fitness is a top priority for them in 2024. Google Trends also released data showing that some of the top health-related searches in January include meal preparation, healthy meal ideas, and gym memberships.

And while some say they resolve to lose weight or improve their health in January, it often takes another month before they will deliver, said Danny Deane, who owns two local F45 Training franchises with his wife, Jessye.

“February is the number-one month in the fitness industry, with September being second,” he said. “In January, everybody starts to think about it, and then, by the time February rolls around, they’re really making good on their promise.”

Whether it’s during the winter doldrums or as the leaves begin to turn in the fall, local fitness studios and gyms continue to see positive gains in this post-pandemic climate — in both their business and their clients.

“I think people are realizing that putting an investment into themselves pays big dividends.”

“I think people are realizing that putting an investment into themselves pays big dividends,” said Steve Conca, owner of Conca Sport and Fitness in West Springfield.

During the pandemic, gyms and fitness centers were severely challenged by shutdowns and limitations on the amount of people in a space at any given time. For some, the impact was minimal. For others, it’s been rather extreme.

F45 Training

One key to success at gyms like F45 Training is accountability with a workout partner.

In fact, 25% of fitness studios and gyms have closed permanently since the onset of COVID-19, according the National Health & Fitness Alliance, an industry group.

However, Jon Davis, owner and performance director of Powerhouse Training in East Longmeadow, said business is “as good as it ever has been.”

Powerhouse Training, which Davis founded in 2010, offers sports-specific lessons for baseball and softball athletes as well as general performance training in speed, agility, strength, and mobility. The majority of his clientele includes athletes between age 8 and pro-rank levels.

Because Powerhouse Training provides more of a specialized kind of exercise regimen, Davis said he didn’t see the decline in attendance that many commercial gyms did. He said he’s also found that parents are valuing their children’s access to being physically active.

“I think a lot of parents realize the importance of having their kids get outside and socialize and stay active, for not only their physical health, but also their mental health,” he told BusinessWest. “Since we provide more of a specialized training, the kids really can’t train on their own, and they need assistance as well as special equipment, and they need a lot more space. So I think we were a necessity for them, which has certainly helped out.”

The group training, which involves youth athletes coming in two to three times a week, costs between $145 and $195 per month. Prices range between $50 and $90 for baseball lessons and $50 and $75 for fitness training.


Investing in Health

For the most part, Conca’s entire membership stuck with his gym. He expressed gratitude for the tight-knit community, or “family,” that is Conca Sport and Fitness, which first opened in 2009.

For months, all the personal training and small-group training was done outside. Unlike more recent weather patterns, the forecast remained relatively sunny, with little precipitation. And once the clouds of the pandemic restrictions cleared, he actually saw a slight resurgence.

“People are always going to want the newest, latest, and greatest thing — and, certainly, some of those innovations are really helpful — but honestly, I think learning good form and focusing on staying balanced, working mobility, and strength training will never get old.”

“I think it’s opened people’s eyes to realize, ‘I really wasn’t taking great care of myself,’ so it’s led them to want to invest in themselves,” he said. “Here, we call investing in yourself a health savings account. The more you can put in now, the more you can reap the benefits.”

In addition to personal training and group training, Conca Sport and Fitness also offers health nutrition and wellness coaching. Memberships range between $209 to $349 a month, with individual sessions ranging between $20 to $37.

“When people come here, they aren’t just going to bang out a few workouts, high-five, fist-bump, and ‘see ya later,’” he said. “It’s a whole process that includes teaching people how to take better care of themselves as they age.”

As for the Deanes, the couple, who opened their first gym, F45 Training Hampshire Meadows in Hadley in 2018, decided to open a second location in West Springfield in 2020.

“A lot of doors closed throughout the last couple years in the fitness world, but we are lucky enough to be on the other side of it and are actually above pre-COVID numbers at Hampshire Meadows,” Danny said. “We made it through.”

The 45 in F45 stands for 45 minutes of functional fitness, with sessions led by two personal trainers in a motivating team environment, said Jessye Deane, who is also executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and Regional Tourism Council.

F45 Training does not employ heavy equipment or machinery

F45 Training does not employ heavy equipment or machinery, but it does include the use of kettlebells, free weights, and body-weight-based movements.

“The goal is really functional fitness. It’s scalable and adaptable, so it fits every fitness level,” she said. “A lot of times, what we hear is that folks go to the gym and want to get healthier, want to be able to move better, and want to be able to feel better, but they don’t quite know how to work the machines or they don’t know what they’re doing, and they get hurt, or they get frustrated. And this is kind of the answer to that. All you have to do is walk through the door, and we will take it from there.”

Every day, the gym features a different workout. F45 Training does not incorporate heavy equipment or machinery, but it does include the use of kettlebells, free weights, and body-weight-based movements.

The workouts for the Australian-based franchise combine elements of high-intensity interval training, circuit training, and functional training. The West Springfield location also currently offers a free seven-day trial, and the Hadley location is offering a seven days for $7 offer.

Trends come and go, but according to the area gym owners BusinessWest spoke with, having a healthier lifestyle comes down to the basics.

“People are always going to want the newest, latest, and greatest thing — and, certainly, some of those innovations are really helpful — but honestly, I think learning good form and focusing on staying balanced, working mobility, and strength training will never get old,” Davis said. “I think those tend to produce the best results.”

Conca agreed, noting that, as people age, he explained, they lose strength, muscle mass and function.

“Father time just begins chipping away,” Conca said. “That’s why maintaining muscle mass and strength levels — the fundamentals — is super important. I’d argue that it’s more important than so-called cardio, because you can get a good cardiovascular response with some very good strength training.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, muscle mass decreases approximately 3% to 8% per decade after age 30. After age 60, the rate of decline is even higher.

While F45 workouts have the adaptability to pull in emerging trends, Jessye Deane emphasized that trends are not the mainstay of the gym.

“We want you to feel great now, and we want you to feel great in 20 years — that’s our motivator,” she said. “The focus of our programming is to make sure that we’re providing people the safest, most effective functional fitness workout they can have.”

One way F45 workouts tap into recent trends is through supersets, she added. A superset includes performing a set of two different exercises back to back with little to no rest in between. One example of this would be doing a set of 10 push-ups, followed immediately by pull-ups.


Sticking with It

Finding motivation to stick with any new habit can be difficult, of course. It can potentially be even harder when the only opportunity to dedicate time to fitness is before the sun rises or well after it sinks below the horizon. That time crunch, combined with inclement winter weather, can make someone want to shed their new goal before they even begin.

One way Conca and the Deanes have seen clients stick with their fitness routines is by not doing it alone.

“Accountability is key. Having a group of people that you’re excited to see every day helps,” Jessye Deane said, adding that her husband is her workout partner. “Danny is my accountability partner. He wakes me up every morning whether I want to or not.”

At Powerhouse, Davis coaches each athlete differently based on their personality. Some kids may require more positive affirmation to help build their confidence, while others require him to be blunt and upfront and tell them directly what they’re doing incorrectly.

“It’s getting to know these athletes — getting to know what they like, what they don’t like, what motivates them, and then trying to find out what makes them tick and make sure that, when it’s time to push, we know what button to push,” he explained.

Throughout his tenure, Davis has produced more than 100 All-Western Mass. high-school all-stars, 13 All-Americans at the high-school and collegiate levels, and three Western Mass. Players of the Year in football, baseball, and girls lacrosse. He’s also helped produce 10 Major League Baseball draft picks out of the high-school ranks, including Isan Díaz and Seamus Curran.

At Conca’s gym, motivational phrases festoon the walls, including quotes from famous folks ranging from Wayne Gretzky to Amelia Earhart. The gym also features a so-called ‘strong wall’ that includes one-word motivational phrases that clients create to help drive their personal success. At the time of this interview, Conca was still tinkering with the specifics of the acronym LIFT, with the goal of lifting others up.

For those looking to dip their toe into the fitness and exercise pool, Jessye Deane said anytime is a good time to start.

“There is nothing more important than your health,” she told BusinessWest. “Whether you’re working out at an F45 or you’re doing yoga or you’re visiting any of the wonderful studios in the Valley, we really want people just to feel better and be healthier.”


Insurance Special Coverage

Driving Up the Cost



Wondering why auto insurance is much more expensive now than it was a couple of years ago? You’re not alone.

There are a number of reasons why, but Joe Phillips starts with an unprecedented series of changes in driver behavior brought on by COVID-19.

“Companies started adopting safe-driver points and rebate offers, and when 2020 hit, everyone stopped driving, they stayed home, nobody was going to school, the roads were empty, and people got a lot of money back because accidents were way down,” said Phillips, president of Phillips Insurance Agency in Chicopee.

“That situation, with less activity, went on for more than two years: a reduction in driving, reduction in accidents, lower repair costs,” he went on. “But in late ’22, 2023, more people were back to work, everyone was back to school, distracted driving is on the rise, and claims have gone through the roof.”

John Dowd, president and CEO of the Dowd Agencies in Holyoke, said an increase in accidents after the pandemic caught insurance companies “flat-footed.”

“Insurance companies set their rates in advance for the year; they have to file with the state. So by the time claims started coming in and hitting their books, they could see that they were underwater in terms of seeing a profit.”

“Insurance companies set their rates in advance for the year; they have to file with the state,” he explained. “So by the time claims started coming in and hitting their books, they could see that they were underwater in terms of seeing a profit. So they’ve reacted to that, and this past year, the rates went up significantly.”

“So they’ve reacted to that, and this past year, the rates went up significantly — and in this current year, it’s still going on,” he continued. “It’s a challenge for brokers like ourselves; we’re getting quotes from different companies to try to mitigate some of these increases, but we’re finding they’re all pretty much raising the rates. It’s not isolated.”

Dowd explained a concept well-known in the insurance world, but perhaps not to many customers: the loss ratio. The break-even figure is 100%, meaning that, for every dollar a carrier collects in premiums, it’s paying that much back in claims and administrative costs.

“So, obviously they want to be at least a few points under that to be able to make a profit,” he said. “On the automotive line alone, we’re seeing loss ratios of 110%, 115%. When that happens, they have no choice but to raise their rates because these losses eat into their profits and cause all kinds of problems for companies.”

Why they got caught flat-footed is a story with several different factors, which Dowd and Phillips shared with BusinessWest for this issue’s focus on insurance.


Parts of the Problem

Among the ways the pandemic has continued to affect the insurance world are two terms everyone is weary of by now: inflation and supply chain.

“When you’ve got a damaged car and you have supply-chain problems because of COVID, you can’t get parts, and then you had a stimulus from the federal government that just caused inflation. So now you can’t get a part, and they’re more expensive, so these claims have gone through the roof,” Phillips said, citing electric vehicles in particular. He noted that the average cost to repair the bumper of a Rivian electric truck after a collision is $4,200, and the Tesla is the most expensive car to insure in the U.S.

Joe Phillips

“When you’ve got a damaged car and you have supply-chain problems because of COVID, you can’t get parts, and then you had a stimulus from the federal government that just caused inflation.”

Dowd agreed. “All the technology is more expensive. What used to be a $1,500 bumper repair is now $2,500, and that’s because of the sensors. It looks like there’s not much damage, but when you have to replace all the sensors, all of a sudden, you’re asking, ‘how did this bill escalate to this level? It didn’t look like that much damage to me.’ But it was in a bad spot where you had to replace the sensors.”

Beyond the availability and complexity of parts is the sophistication of technicians themselves, who understand the electronics in today’s high-tech cars, Dowd added. “With a lot of technologies built in, the technicians that do these repairs have to be trained properly, and there’s a shortage of them. So it’s the cost of products and labor, it’s the availability, the supply chain, qualified technicians … they’re sort of coming together at once.”

And it’s no myth that accidents are up, Phillips added. “The distracted driving is huge. Not to sound like the old guy, but these kids can’t put their phones down. When you get to a stop sign, you see these young people getting on their phone for 15 seconds, and you have to beep at them. And then the reaction … oh boy.”

Severe weather events in recent years have also played a part in rising insurance rates for every type of coverage, from home and auto to commercial, he noted.

“It’s a real confluence of things coming together to create almost a perfect storm,” Dowd added. On one hand, everyone knows about inflation and what that’s done to prices, whether at the grocery store, the gas pump, anywhere. The cost of parts to repair cars, the cost of materials to repair homes, everything has gone up, and it’s gone up in rather a dramatic fashion over the last 12 to 18 months.”

He noted that inflation has begun to wane, “but there still supply-chain challenges, and that creates delays getting parts, which creates delays in getting the car back, which means you’ve got to rent a car … these are all ripple effects of what’s going on.”

And it’s caused concern in the insurance industry, Phillips said, as evidenced by recent waves of layoffs at national carriers like GEICO and Liberty Mutual. “They’re not making the money they once did because of increased claims.”

Meanwhile, Dowd said, the retail market — which is the realm in which he and other local agencies deal with clients — is being pressured by the reinsurance market, which, as the name suggests, is populated by companies that reinsure much of the risk from retail carriers, which pay a premium to the reinsurer to limit their exposure to catastrophic loss.

“The reinsurance market has been tested financially in the last couple of years, like they haven’t been in a long time,” he explained. “Judgments are higher, the juries are awarding higher payouts to injured people, and it’s starting to get into the reinsurance layer, so the reinsurers have raised their rates; they charge their retail carriers higher premiums, and the retail carriers pass along some of these increases to their customers. For us, that’s another factor.”

With weather events alone contributing to $95 billion in insurance claims last year, much paid out by reinsurers, Dowd said, “they’re scrambling to make their profit.”


Risk and Reward

In short, there’s a lot going on, and it’s not a Massachusetts problem, Dowd said. “It’s a nationwide issue, and as brokers, we’re the ones that have to deliver the bad news. We certainly understand the level of concern the customers have, and we don’t want to deliver that news any more than they want to hear it.

John Dowd

John Dowd

“The reinsurers have raised their rates; they charge their retail carriers higher premiums, and the retail carriers pass along some of these increases to their customers.”

“We’re doing the best to find alternatives for them to keep increases to a minimum; sometimes we can, but sometimes we can’t,” he went on. “Every change you make to a policy to try to reduce cost, whether a huge deductible or less coverage, it’s all a gamble. It’s like going to the casino. When you take on a higher deductible or reduced coverage, you’re betting on not having a claim. And that can work for you, but it can work against you.”

Phillips agreed. “Everyone wants the lowest cost until they have a claim. When people come in for a quote, they say, ‘I don’t need that, I don’t need this.’ And when they have a claim, they say, ‘oh, I definitely would have taken that.’ Well, it would have only cost $32 a year.

“We never sell the lowest limits,” he went on, but sometimes clients will insist on saving a couple hundred dollars to raise a $500 deductible into the four-figure range. “People think they can tolerate a $2,000 collision deductible until they have the accident.”

Those who want to keep their costs down should not only shop prices, Phillips added, but be aware of their credit score and their driving record — “even a failure to stop or a speeding ticket can add hundreds of dollars of premium” — but also be aware of the type and make of the vehicle they buy, which greatly impacts coverage, based on average theft rate and repair costs.

Dowd said certain people, who have a long track record of safe driving, may be fine taking a higher deductible.

“There’s obviously no guarantee. And if you take the savings and take a little more risk, you still need the catastrophic protection in case something serious happens,” he stressed. “You don’t want to cut into the muscle of the coverage where the catastrophic protection isn’t there, which can really hurt people financially.”

After all, insurance is all about protecting against the most severe losses — even if purchasing it makes a bigger dent than it used to.

Architecture Special Coverage

Professional Development — by Design

Clockwise from top: CFO Tina Gloster and Principals Kevin Riordon, Lee Morrissette, and Jason Newman

Clockwise from top: CFO Tina Gloster and Principals Kevin Riordon, Lee Morrissette, and Jason Newman (Photo by Paul Schnaittacher)

To explain what it means to be named an Emerging Professional Friendly Firm, Jason Newman offered some background on what it’s like to be an aspiring architect.

‘Aspiring,’ because simply earning a degree and going to work at an architecture firm doesn’t make one an architect; other requirements are experience — a certain number of hours worked in the field — and a series of examinations.

“Part of the experience piece is the hours worked in this office, and those hours are not just a lump-sum number of hours worked — it’s a number of hours worked in specific categories of the profession, like drawings, construction administration, and practice management,” said Newman, a principal at Dietz & Company Architects in Springfield.

“One of the things we pay attention to, very thoughtfully for every employee, is that, if you’ve got all your drawing hours satisfied, we’re not going to make you do drawing for another two years,” he went on. “That’s not going to move you forward to your license. So you won’t come to the end of the road here at Dietz and feel, ‘I’m just getting drawing. I have to go somewhere else where I can get construction-management experience.’

“If you’ve got all your drawing hours satisfied, we’re not going to make you do drawing for another two years. That’s not going to move you forward to your license.”

“This is not Boston, where 100 qualified architect candidates are at our door. We have to take care of the people here because we want them to stay,” he went on. “We want to make sure that they feel growth opportunities are here.”

That’s precisely the philosophy behind the Emerging Professional Friendly Firm program overseen by the New England components of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). A handful of firms in each New England state are so recognized each year — Dietz among them for several years running — for promoting the advancement of young team members through professional development and personal growth opportunities.

“A few years back, AIA New England came out with programs to encourage companies to adopt policies and procedures and training and internal education programs that would further develop the younger generation of architects fresh out of school, to take them in and help them grow professionally toward architecture licensure, which is what everyone refers to as the ‘stamp.’ That’s when you officially call yourself an architect,” Newman explained.

“This is a program to encourage firms to get away from the old methods of pigeonholing, where, in many cases, your first experience on an architecture job was drawing bathrooms for three years, being tucked into one thing because you’re brand new,” he went on. “The goal of this program was to incentivize firms to be more supportive, to promote emerging professional development.”

Lee Morrissette, another principal, spent more than a decade in Boston before coming to Dietz, and said he has always appreciated its emphasis on mentorship, continuing education, and lifelong investigation of the profession. “It’s a much more transparent firm, in the way the business goes on, than anywhere I’ve been.”

Jason Newman

Jason Newman

“A lot of the junior staff see when we get praise for our designs — or criticized for our designs. It gives them a fuller perspective on what’s happening beyond the drawings.”

It certainly made an impression on Newman, who came to Dietz as a student intern 13 years ago and “never found a reason to leave,” as he put it. “So I’m an example of someone to wants to stay with this firm because they feel this is a good, long-term place for them.”


Drawing Up a Strategy

According to AIA New England, the Emerging Professional Friendly Firm program “has an ability to attract and retain employees by sending a message to current employees, future employees, and other regional firms that the firm has evaluated their policies from an emerging professional lens, the firm recognizes emerging professionals at their firm, and the firm values emerging professionals’ development to sustain the future growth of their practice.”

That resonates with Newman, who noted that the aim is for young professionals to think, “that’s a great place for me to be. That’s a great place for me to grow. I know, when I go to other firms, my development will be of value not only to me, but to the company and the people I’m working with.”

To earn that designation year after year has involved a series of proactive steps, Morrissette said, including that emphasis on diverse experiences that move staff toward licensure more quickly.

“Many larger firms get a bad reputation for being the kind of firm where you get stuck in a position, doing that function for a long time, falling between the cracks,” he noted. “We call ourselves a mid-sized firm — at 25 people, we’re the largest in Western Mass., but still a mid-sized firm for the country — so we get a lot of face time with the staff. It’s hard for someone to fall through the cracks here.”

In addition, Newman said, “we make sure entry-level people are getting the whole experience. We include the whole team in project meetings. I’ve been in the industry 13 years, and back then, the architect and the project manager went to the meeting, and they came back and told you what happened.”

Lee Morrissette

Lee Morrissette

“Over the past two years, we’ve spent more time doing creative designs. That’s what makes us happy as professionals — being able to stretch our creative muscles and push ourselves.”

But the rise of remote meetings made it more common to include everyone, and now it’s simply firm policy at Dietz.

“A lot of the junior staff see when we get praise for our designs — or criticized for our designs. It gives them a fuller perspective on what’s happening beyond the drawings,” Newman explained. “Twenty to 30% of what we do as architects is management of expectations, helping people pull their own creativity into the designs, helping them express ideas that they don’t know quite how to express. Well, this gives the junior staff exposure to that earlier than what they have been given traditionally.”

All staff members are also given a stipend each year, called an educational allowance, which can be used for anything they feel will better their professional development.

“Architecture is a mixture of art and science, and we want to create buildings that are beautiful and people want to look at, but also stand up and are good, strong structures,” Newman noted. “So we allow a very broad interpretation of what is an activity or class or training someone might feel would better their professional growth. It might be as simple as a painting class, targeting the artistic side, or a business of architecture class, or project management class, or they might want to buy books because they’re studying for an exam. People use it in very creative and interesting ways.”

Morrissette and Newman also value the culture of mentorship they’ve seen — and helped cultivate — at Dietz & Company.

“We both love teaching. We both participated in university reviews of student works in a volunteer way,” Morrissette said, adding that he has taught at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston as adjunct faculty. “I loved being involved. But we’ve found, with this focus on teaching and mentoring in the office, we can do that teaching here. For me, it satisfies the reward I get from teaching and mentoring professional staff, and I get to do it as part of my job.”


Something to Build On

That job has expanded since Newman, Morrissette, Principal Kevin Riordon, and Chief Financial Officer Tina Gloster began easing into leadership roles last year as part of the firm’s transition from a single owner — President and Trustee Kerry Dietz — to one with an employee stock-ownership plan, or ESOP. Meanwhile, the firm has continued to expand its footprint, including more work outside the 413.

“It’s been a really great year. We’ve had a tremendous amount of work,” Newman said, adding that, while not every project is exciting from a creative perspective, he’s gratified to work on anything that benefits a community or a client. But some of this past year’s work has, indeed, been on the “cool” side. “We’ve shown we can get in with the Boston guys and compete. It’s really encouraging. It shows our model is working and we’re getting better and better every day.”

Morrissette agreed. “As an architecture firm, we’re always looking for more work. You want to do everything; the company wants to pay the bills. But over the past two years, we’ve spent more time doing creative designs. That’s what makes us happy as professionals — being able to stretch our creative muscles and push ourselves.

“You know, we feel creative success at the end of a project that no one knows about for a year or two until it’s built. Then they say, ‘that’s a great project.’ We have projects we’re proud of, and we can’t wait for the public to see them.”