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Daily News

PITTSFIELD — The Autism Collaborative of Berkshire County (ACBC) announced that state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and representatives from Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC) will speak at its November meeting on Friday, Nov. 17, slated for 10:15a.m. to noon at 2 South St., Suite 370, Pittsfield.

Farley-Bouvier will talk about her experiences in the world of disabilities and what’s on the horizon at the State House, while MFOFC will address ways individuals and families can empower themselves to advocate for change.

ACBC runs monthly community meetings to discuss autism and services available in the Berkshires. Each month features industry leaders who are able to speak to the state of services in the region. Service providers and caregivers for those on the autism spectrum are encouraged to attend, and all community members are welcome. The collaborative is sponsored by Autism Connections, AdLib, Hillcrest Educational Centers, the College Internship Program, and Berkshire County Arc.

Daily News

HADLEY — Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union, announced a plan to close the Hadley Branch at 140 Russell St. The credit union submitted a request for permission to Commissioner Terence McGinnis, Division of Banks, Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Boston.

“We have made this request due to the Hadley branch not meeting its original projections,” Ostrowski said. “After two years, the branch has over 80% of its deposits in certificates of deposits. We have made efforts to grow this branch; however, due to the competitive market, we continue to have minimal member transaction accounts.”

He added that closing a branch is a decision the organization does not take lightly.

“We feel that we are part of the Hadley community and will continue to serve our members using convenient technology, online banking features, and welcoming them to our Springfield branch at 145 Industry Ave. or our West Springfield branch at 63 Park Ave.”

The closing will not happen until late January, he went on, and personal letters will be sent to all members who have accounts at the Hadley branch to notify them of the decision.

“We are grateful to the Hadley branch staff for all their hard work and to the members who joined,” Ostrowski said. “We care about our members, and we appreciate their loyalty. The staff at our Hadley branch will be offered comparable positions at our other two branch locations in Springfield and West Springfield.”

Sections Technology

Innovation at Hand

10-nintendo-3ds-xlAn on-the-go society demands on-the-go technology, and the array of smartphones, tablets, wristband health sensors, and portable game systems only continues to expand as the major players compete for their share of a growing pie. In its annual look at some of the hottest tech items available, BusinessWest focuses on those mobile devices, which are connecting more Americans than ever, 24/7, to bottomless online resources and, sometimes, to each other.

If it seems like everyone’s on their smartphone these days, well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

But not by much.

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last November, 77% of Americans (77%) now own a smartphone, with lower-income Americans and those ages 50 and older exhibiting a sharp uptick in ownership over the previous year. Among younger adults, ages 18 to 29, the figure soars to 92%.

The 2017 results won’t be available until later this year, though the percentage is expected to rise even higher, because, well, it’s been on an upward trend since 2011, when Pew first started conducting these surveys. That year, just 35% of Americans reported they owned a smartphone of some kind.

These numbers don’t include plain old cellphones (remember when they seemed like the pinnacle of communications technology?). If those devices are included, 95% of Americans can reach in their pocket to make a call.

But BusinessWest’s annual rundown of the hottest technology — which, this year, focuses on mobile devices — isn’t interested in what was hot a decade ago. Following are some the most buzzworthy new smartphones, tablets, wearable fitness devices, and handheld game consoles, according to tech media.

Smarter — and Bigger

We’ll start, as many lists do this season, with the Samsung Galaxy S8 ($749), which Gareth Beavis at Techradar calls “the best phone in the world for a few reasons, but none more so than the display: it makes every other handset on the market look positively antiquated.

The camera and screen quality are both excellent, he continues, and while the phone is pricey, it’s worth the cost. “With the screen, Samsung has managed to find some impressive innovation at a time when there’s very little to be found in smartphones.”

Eric Walters at Paste added that, while the Galaxy S8 isn’t perfect, it’s the best Samsung has ever made, and an easy frontrunner for phone of the year. “It not only pushes the company’s portfolio forward, but the entire industry with its elegant and futuristic design that prioritizes the display without bloating the size. It’s an impressive achievement of design and engineering, but the quality isn’t surface deep. The entire experience of using the S8 is a rich one.”

One of the hottest trends of the past few years has been a shift to ‘phablets,’ smartphones that boast a much larger screen size than their predecessors. The Google Pixel 2 XL ($849) “improves on the first in lots of ways, but mostly it just looks a whole heap better,” writes Max Parker at Trusted Reviews, praising the device’s modern display and large size in a package that fits the hand well.

“But it’s the software that really wins here,” he adds. “Google’s approach to Android is fantastic, and the Assistant is an AI that’s already better than Apple’s Siri. The camera is stunning, too. It’s a 12-megapixel sensor that takes stunning photos in all conditions, and it’s packed with portrait mode tricks, too.”

Apple continues to be a key player in this realm, too, of course, and while the iPhone 8 Plus ($799) isn’t a big change over last year’s model, it boasts some substantial advantages, notes Mark Spoonauer at Tom’s Guide, and may turn out to be the equal of the iPhone X, to be released in early November.

“The new iPhone supports wireless charging, and its dual rear cameras are dramatically improved,” he adds. “Coupled with Apple’s new crazy-powerful A11 Bionic chipset, those lenses deliver portrait lighting — a new mode that lets you manipulate the light in a scene before and after the fact. The iPhone 8 Plus also delivers excellent battery life, lasting more than 11 hours in our testing.”

For those who prefer full-size tablets, competition continues to be fierce in that realm, with Apple again drawing headlines with the iPad Pro ($599).

“With Apple’s fastest-ever mobile processor, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is easily the best tablet out there right now,” says Lindsay Leedham in Lifewire, who praised its camera, speakers, 256 GB storage, and True Tone display. “The iPad Pro uses sensors to detect the light in whatever room it’s in to adjust the color temperature of the display to the ambient light. The effect makes the screen look more like paper, and is most noticeable when it’s turned off and the screen switches to a bright bluish light.”

Meanwhile, for those on a budget, the Amazon Fire HD 8 ($79) is the best sub-$100 tablet available, according to Sascha Regan at PC Magazine.

“While you shouldn’t expect to compete against the iPad at this price point, the Fire HD 8 fits the bill for media consumption and light gaming,” she writes, calling its battery life adequare but praising its dual-band wi-fi. “In several tests at different distances from our Netgear router, we often got almost double the speed on the HD 8 than on the Fire 7. That made a real difference when doing things like downloading comics.”

Health and Leisure

Wearable technology, which focuses on tracking health and wellness habits, continues to be popular, although Fitbit, far and away the dominant player in this market, may be reaching saturation in the U.S., while smaller competitors eat away at its global market share, according to International Data Corp.

Still, its new products continue to wow reviewers. “Guess what: Fitbit’s newest tracker is its best one yet,” raves CNET’s Dan Graziano about the Fitbit Alta HR ($149). “For me, it’s all about design. I’ve been wearing the Alta HR for almost a month and plan to continue wearing it even after this review. It’s comfortable to wear and doesn’t sacrifice any features, but what sold me was the seven-day battery life.”

For those looking to spend more, the Fitbit Surge ($249) is a satisfyingly sophisticated piece of machinery,” writes Jill Duffy at PC Magazine. “It not only tracks your steps and sleep, but also alerts you to incoming phone calls and text messages, keeps tabs on your heart rate with a built-in optical heart rate monitor, uses GPS to track outdoor activity, and has much more functionality, especially for runners.”

Looking over the rest of the field, Marko Maslakovic at Gadgets & Wearables finds plenty to like about the Garmin Vivosport ($199), which is waterproof, comes with built-in GPS and all-day stress tracking, and counts reps and sets in the gym.

Though it’s slim and fits snugly on the wrist, “Vivosport has some pretty decent specs under the hood,” he adds. “You’ll get everything you could possibly hope for 24/7 activity tracking, including detailed info on steps, calories, distance, heart rate, activity, floors, and sleep. The GPS makes for more precise distance, time, and pace tracking, along with route mapping for your runs. It will track your swims in the pool, too. This is probably Garmin’s best fitness band yet.”

For technology enthusiasts whose tastes favor gaming on the run over, well, running, the portable-console market continues to thrive, with the longtime market leader making some new waves this year with the Nintendo Switch ($299).

“You can use it as a stationary console with your TV or transform it into a portable gaming device in literally seconds. You will keep all the data and can continue your game on the go,” Slant notes. “Nintendo Switch is light and feels comfortable in hand. It doesn’t cause any wrist strain. It also has a kickstand that folds out from the back of the console, so you can put it on the table.”

The publication also praises its graphics and controllers, but notes that it can be hard to find, lacks long battery life, plays poorly in direct sunlight due to screen glare, and doesn’t boast a wide variety of popular games — yet.

Game variety is no issue for the Nintendo 3DS XL ($199), which boasts two large screens, glasses-free 3D, and some of the best video games available on a mobile console, according to Top Ten Reviews. On the downside, battery life is not ideal.

Still, “thanks to its backwards compatibility with DS games and its huge selection of classic and new games in the Nintendo eShop, the 3DS XL is the best handheld game console available,” the site continues. “The 3DS family has the best games on a mobile category, and the Nintendo 3DS XL is the best handheld console available.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

LUDLOW — Rep. Thomas Petrolati and state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash visited Ludlow Mills on Tuesday, Oct. 24 to announce a $3.5 million grant for ongoing redevelopment at the 170-acre site, the Republican reported.

Westmass Area Development Corp. bought the former mill complex in 2011, setting out on a 15- to 20-year path of redevelopment. Since then, the site has added 75 apartment units and attracted 39 businesses.

On Thursday, Oct. 26, WinnDevelopment will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Petrolati, Gov. Charlie Baker, and other dignitaries to celebrate the firm’s $20 million transformation of Mill 10 into the Residences at Mill 10, which features 75 mixed-income, age-restricted apartments.

Features

Change Agent

Donna Haghighat

Donna Haghighat

Donna Haghighat has seen a number of titles on her business cards over the years — everything from ‘tax attorney’ to ‘grants manager’ to ‘founder and CEO’ — yes, she’s launched a few businesses of her own. A common denominator with most all those career stops has been a desire to work with women and girls to identify goals and opportunities and remove the barriers to realizing them. Call it a passion — one that has brought her to her latest business card, which reads ‘CEO, Women’s Fund of Western Mass.’

“She changed the world for women.”
That was the simple six-word response Donna Haghighat summoned, after a few moments of thought, when asked why she sought to become the next director of the Women’s Fund of Western Mass.

By way of explanation, she said this is a mantra of sorts that she lives by, but also something she would perhaps like people to say about her when her career is over — which won’t be for quite some time now.

She told BusinessWest that she took this position with the hope, and expectation, that she could better live up to that mantra — and, well, also make it more likely that people will be saying that about her.

In many ways, they already are.

Indeed, Haghighat (pronounced Ha-gi-gat) has spent most of her career in positions devoted largely or entirely to that mission of changing the world for women, in some way. Her résumé includes a stint as the chief Engagement & Advocacy officer for the Hartford Region YWCA, and another as founder and CEO of a “social entrepreneurial website,” as she called it, called shoptimize.org, which featured products from emerging women entrepreneurs. Her background also includes work as the grants and programs manager for the Women’s Advancement Initiative at the University of Hartford and as executive director of the Aurora Women & Girls Foundation in Hartford.

She started out as a tax attorney and served for two years earlier this decade as the chief development officer for the Hartford Public Library, but assisting women and girls has been her real passion.

“Even when I wasn’t working professionally in women’s funding, I’ve always done that on an individual level even when I couldn’t do it on an organizational level,” she explained. “So for me, when this opportunity presented itself — one that would allow me to work at an organizational level to really bring about bigger change and mobilize the collective resources of women and their allies — it was really a no-brainer.”

She said she came to the Women’s Fund primarily because two of its main focal points — awarding grants to agencies and programs focused on assisting women and girls and developing programming on women’s issues and leadership — also happen to be her two main focal points.

womens-fund-logo

With the former, she’ll strive to “strengthen the strategy concerning our grant making,” as she put it, meaning a more concerted effort to identify specific issues the grants are intended to address.

And with the latter, she is intrigued by both the prospect of building upon existing initiatives, such as the hugely successful Leadership Institute of Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) program, and new undertakings, such as the Young Women’s Springfield Initiative (YWSI), which features young women leaders working together with adult mentors to create a roadmap for their collective futures.

“I like that we’re able to do both grant making and on-the-ground programming as well,” she explained. “We’re helping women and girls in Massachusetts right now, and also building for the future in terms of shaping future leaders.”

When asked what was on her to-do list for the Women’s Fund, she started by talking about the organization’s mailing address. At the moment — and for the foreseeable future, it is 276 Bridge St. in Springfield, a strategic location chosen by the previous administration to address another item on Haghighat’s list — creating more visibility for the organization.

But that’s the address of the new Innovation Center in Springfield, an ambitious project led by DevelopSpringfield, MassDevelopment, and other partners that is currently in a holding pattern (construction work ground to a halt in May) amid funding problems and a now a lawsuit filed by the general contractor over non-payment for services and materials.

Haghighat, who started on Sept. 1, said the Women’s Fund is a tenant in the Innovation Center and has no control over the fate of the project. So while she watches as those issues play themselves out, she’ll focus on what she can control, specifically the programming and grant awarding she mentioned, efforts that should be boosted by another new addition at the agency.

That’s Christine Monska, who has joined the Women’s Fund as program officer for Leadership Programs, and in that position will play a lead role in administering the Young Women’s Initiative as well as other programs.

Overall, Haghighat said the broad goal for all members of her team is to make the Women’s Fund a greater resource and a stronger vehicle for positive change for girls and women across the region.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with her about what brought her to the Women’s Fund and also about where she wants to take this organization that lives by the same mantra she does.

Seizing an Opportunity

Haghighat said she became aware of the position at the Women’s Fund in a roundabout fashion, but one that speaks to how her skill set matches what the agency was looking for its next leader.

She had recently launched a consulting firm called Collabyrinth Collective, LLC, one that provided guidance to small businesses and nonprofits in realms ranging from marketing and fund-raising to diversity and inclusion.

Fast-forwarding a little, she said she reached out to friend and former Trinity College classmate Patricia Canavan, president of United Personnel, about her new venture, and in turn, Canavan asked her if she would ever consider taking on interim CEO opportunities.

They would eventually go on to discuss one such opportunity at length, one that didn’t pan out due mostly to issues of timing (Haghighat had a lengthy trip to China already on the calendar). But not long thereafter, the discussion would take a much different, rather serendipitous tone, because Canavan would be assigned the task of chairing the search committee charged with choosing a successor to outgoing Women’s Fund CEO Elizabeth Barajas-Román.

“She [Canavan] was reminded that I had considerable women’s funding experience,” Haghighat went on, adding that while she wasn’t exactly looking for a new opportunity and was enjoying her consulting work, the Women’s Fund of Western Mass. intrigued her on a number of levels.

Specifically, the WFWM position offered an opportunity to take experiences from several previous career stops involving women, fund-raising, and both, and apply them at an organization that is clearly in growth mode and developing new ways to carry out its multi-faceted mission.

Such as the YWSI, an initiative that has enormous promise on a number of levels, said Haghighat.

Elaborating, she said the Women’s Fund of Western Mass. is part of a coalition of eight women’s foundations across the country (the others are in Birmingham, Dallas, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York City, Washington, D.C., and the state of Minnesota) taking part in the Young Women’s Initiative.

In Springfield, the program will kick off Oct. 18 at UMass Center at Springfield, an event designed to highlight some of the key issues facing girls and women in the Commonwealth’s third-largest city and what the Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC) plans to do about them.

The program was inspired by an effort in New York City launched by an organization called Girls for Gender Equity, funded by the New York Women’s Foundation, Haghighat explained, adding that the Women’s Funding Network, of which the WFWM is a member, saw great potential in the initiative, which led to the pilot programs launched in those eight areas.

Here’s how it works. Girls and women from Springfield — meaning they are from the City of Homes if not necessarily living there now (they may be away at college, for example) — are eligible to participate in the program, which enlists them to both identify concerns and learn how positive change can come about.

“Through these young women, the program helps identify the concerns and the barriers that these women are seeing in their own lives,” she explained. “And then it will teach them about what public policy is all about and how they can affect public policy by looking at the issues affecting them and pushing for change.”

YWSI will partner the Women’s Fund with the city of Springfield, she went on, adding that funding for the initiative has been secured from MassMutual. It will focus primarily, but not exclusively, on girls and women of color, and will invite a number of stakeholders to be part of the process of initiating change and progress.

“Here’s an opportunity for young people to be at the center of efforts to try to change some of the things that are impeding their own progress and keeping them from reaching their full potential,” she went on, before motioning to the words written on large sheets of paper affixed to the walls outside her office.

Those words were some of the collective thoughts gathered at a host of so-called ‘listening tours’ staged in the run-up to the start of the program.

The girls and women gathered for those tours listed a broad array of interests (a list that including everything from fashion to arts to ‘daydreaming’) as well as concerns, barriers, supporters, and more, she said, adding that the collected thoughts serve as a form of preliminary database as the project gets underway.

“We’re learning a lot about what young women in Springfield see as both their opportunities and challenges,” she said. “And that’s going to help us inform our curriculum.”

The participating girls and women (Haghighat is expecting between 20 and 30 of them) will meet at least monthly between now and the spring.

While launching YWSI, Haghighat and her team will address a host of other issues on her growing to-do list.

Included on that list are bringing on two new staff members (Monska and an intern tasked with working on the YWSI program) and “having the team coalesce under my leadership,” as Haghighat put it, as well as work to finesse a recently drafted strategic plan.

Also on the list are increasing visibility for the Women’s Fund as well as staging more events like the LIPPI alumni gathering recently held in Shelburne Falls.

And for Haghighat personally, after spending the bulk of her career working in and around Hartford, she plans to work hard at becoming more familiar with this region, its institutions, its resources, and potential partners moving forward.

Impact Statement

Asked to look ahead to next spring and, more specifically, toward what she hopes and expects participants in the YWSI program to come away from that effort with, Haghighat offered thoughts that reflected not only on that initiative, but also what has become her life’s work.

“I want to have these young people walk away having a clearer sense of what their own challenges and opportunities are,” she said, “as well as an understanding of how policies work and how they can speak up and either join other groups or create their own groups to effect change that will remove barriers and hopefully amplify the opportunities they have so that not only them but also other young women can benefit.”

The wording varies, but that’s essentially the mission of every agency or business she’s ever worked for, including her own consulting company.

It’s about changing the world for women — for the better. That’s a mantra, but it’s also a career, one that has brought Haghighat to Springfield and the Women’s Fund.

Where she will take the organization remains to be seen, but the goal is clear: to broaden its impact and make it even more of a change agent.

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

Company Notebook Departments

Davis Foundation, Businesses Contribute $100,000 to VVM

SPRINGFIELD — The Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts (EDC) announced that several of its members came together to donate a total of $50,000 to Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) to fulfill a match put forth by the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation. VVM will now receive $100,000 that will go towards programs providing mentorship, education, and community for entrepreneurs, ultimately fueling economic development in the region. “Once again, EDC members have come together leading the region in driving innovation and commerce,” said EDC President Rick Sullivan. “Valley Venture Mentors outcomes are astounding. Their entrepreneurs are creating jobs, revenue, and investment that are transforming Springfield and Western Mass. The Davis Match is a great example of how leaders of the business community are working to ensure economic prosperity for.” Organizations that donated to the Davis match include Balise Motor Sales, Bulkley Richardson, Columbia Gas, Mercy Medical Center, Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation, the Republican, and UMass Amherst.

Driving for the Cure Tourney Raises Record Amount

HADLEY — The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament set a new fund-raising record by raising $131,300 to support Dr. Patrick Wen and his research colleagues in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The tournament was held on Aug. 21 at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow and Elmcrest Country Club in East Longmeadow, followed by a dinner at Twin Hills Country Club attended by more than 300 guests. The dinner featured a performance by Noah Lis from The Voice along with John Dennis, celebrity emcee of the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon and featured a raffle and live and silent auctions. The event’s platinum sponsor was Edmunds. The tournament was started by Carla and Tommy Cosenzi, co-presidents of TommyCar Auto Group, to honor the legacy of their father, Tom Cosenzi, who passed away from a glioblastoma in 2009 and dreamed of a cure for brain cancer. What started as a small, four-team tournament in 2009 has grown to become one of the largest charity tournaments in Western Mass., with more than 52 teams and 300+ participants. Proceeds from tournament sponsorships help Dana-Farber researchers design novel clinical trials to test and develop targeted therapies that have not previously been studied in brain tumors, initiate several clinical trials in immunotherapy, and conduct groundbreaking basic research to guide new therapeutic approaches. Since its inception in 2009, the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament has donated $830,712. “Every year, I think it’s the best one yet,” said Carla Cosenzi. “However, I’m proud to say that our players and sponsors continue to come through, making each year more successful than  the last.” Visit tomcosenzidrivingforthecure.com for information about the 2018 tournament, which will mark the event’s 10th year.

Thunderbirds Ink Marketing Partnership with Lottery

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds, AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers, announced a new marketing partnership with the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission. The Lottery will receive branding at Thunderbirds home games and arena signage at the MassMutual Center. The organizations have launched a “Salute to Soldiers” initiative. As part of this military-appreciation platform, an armed forces member or veteran, along with their family, will be recognized at Friday home games. This program is designed to honor men and women for going beyond the call of duty. The partnership will also feature “Winning Weekdays,” which reward all fans in attendance with a ticket to a future game when the T-Birds win. “Sports and the lottery are both synonymous with winning,” said Chris Thompson, senior vice president, Sales & Strategy for the Thunderbirds. “The Thunderbirds are excited to partner with the most successful lottery in the country and share our mission of giving back to the community.” Added Edward Farley, assistant executive director and chief administrative officer, Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, “we are excited about this opportunity to recognize deserving individuals among us who have dedicated themselves to serving others.” The Thunderbirds opened their 2017-18 home ice schedule on Oct. 14 with a matchup with the rival Hartford Wolf Pack. Ticket memberships, including season tickets, are on sale now, starting at $12 per game. Thunderbirds full-season ticket members receive the most benefits, including a refillable collector’s mug and a commemorative jersey. For more information or to order, call (413) 739-4625 or visit www.springfieldthunderbirds.com.

Big Y Looks to Combat Opioid-related Deaths

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y Pharmacy and Wellness Centers can now prescribe and fill naloxone for customers in all 39 of its pharmacy locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut. This effort is intended to help prevent opioid-related deaths throughout the region. Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. All Big Y pharmacists are trained to assist patients and their family members on how to recognize signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer this medication. According to state government data, in 2016 opioid-related deaths claimed nearly 2,000 lives in Massachusetts and 1,000 in Connecticut. Naloxone can be administered to any person who has overdosed on a variety of opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, and even heroin. “Many of our pharmacists have contributed their professional expertise during panels at local opioid-epidemic forums in our communities. The ability to now prescribe and fill naloxone for our patients and their families is just another way we can help them prevent an accidental overdose, save lives, and allow our patients the opportunity to seek long-term treatment,” said Nicole D’Amour Schneider, director of Pharmacy.

CATIC Relocates Office to Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — CATIC has relocated its Western Mass. office to One Monarch Place, Suite 1210, in Springfield. The building, located in the heart of Springfield’s Financial District, with easy access to I-91 and the Mass Pike, offers state-of-the-art accommodations and convenience for its customers, said Jim Bilodeau, CATIC’s Massachusetts state manager. “One Monarch Place is a beautiful building in a central location,” he added. “This new space enhances our ability to serve clients in Western Massachusetts.”
The Springfield office’s telephone number is (413) 552-3400. CATIC, currently licensed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, is an underwriting member of the American Land Title Assoc. and North American Bar-Related Title Insurers.

Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan & Blakesley Gives $6,000 to Hurricane Relief

SPRINGFIELD — The law firm of Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan and Blakesley this week donated $6,000 to the Red Cross as part of a sponsorship for the organization’s hurricane-relief golf tournament held Oct. 2 at the Haven Country Club in Boylston. “In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Maria, we wanted to make a contribution that we knew would make a difference,” said firm partner Patrick McHugh. “There is no organization as committed to providing life saving assistance as the Red Cross.” McHugh and the law firm have many clients with direct ties to Puerto Rico and are involved in the Puerto Rican community in Western Mass. and throughout the state. “When you see such devastation in Puerto Rico and, of course, in Texas and Florida, you feel a need to do what you can. It’s frustrating to be so far away, but it is critical that all of us as Americans work to affect a positive outcome for the people who are so tragically impacted by these natural disasters,” said McHugh, who is also a Red Cross board member. “I know first-hand the incredible work that the Red Cross does, and our firm for decades has stood with this organization to lend whatever support we can to their efforts. We are so very proud of our affiliation with them.”

Florence Bank Ad Campaign Features Local Residents

FLORENCE — Florence Bank knows people are at the heart of the communities it serves. Pioneer Valley residents are proud of their roots, and Florence Bank embraced the opportunity to put that on display with the launch of its new television commercials. The new ads showcase the Pioneer Valley by featuring local residents celebrating the diversity and inclusiveness of the region’s people. As in years past, the ads place the musical spotlight on the bank’s tagline “Always.” This year, new lyrics were written for the bank’s signature song to display the essence of each resident featured in the commercials. Among those featured in the new Florence Bank commercials are Bud Stockwell, owner of Cornucopia Foods; Melissa Torres, a volunteer with Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen; sports broadcaster Scott Coen; Mohamed Ibrahim, a teacher at the International Language Institute; Madeline Nagy of Dakin Humane Society; Mark Giza, owner of Mark Henry Florist; and Alicia Zitka, a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club of West Springfield. When asked what makes the Pioneer Valley such a special place to live, Ibrahim said, “it’s an integrated community with a lot of warmth and love.” Zitka added, “I live here, I work here, I volunteer my time and energy here, and this is my heart; this is my home.” Stockwell also understands the importance of the word “local” and has seen firsthand the progression of his community throughout the decades. However, the loyalty of his customers has stayed consistently fierce, he said, adding that “we were local back in 1980 when there was no such thing as local.” The ads were created by Sean Tracey Associates, the advertising agency that has produced Florence Bank’s award-winning ad campaigns for several years. “Our intent with these commercials is to stay true to the message that the Pioneer Valley is a remarkable place to live and work,” said Monica Curhan, senior vice president and marketing director at Florence Bank. “We think that has once again been achieved with this year’s ad campaign, and we look forward to hearing what our customers, both present and future, have to say.”

AIC’s Freshman Class Second-largest in a Decade

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced its second-largest freshman class since 2007 with a total enrollment of 504 new students. “The demographics in New England are declining and are projected to drop for the foreseeable future. This geographic area is dense with colleges in a highly competitive landscape. With those considerations in mind, we are very pleased to have reached and surpassed our enrollment goal,” said Jonathan Scully, dean of Undergraduate Admissions. “This is also one of the most academically competitive classes we have accepted in the last five years. Incoming students are from richly diverse backgrounds, and many are first-generation, which has long been central to the AIC mission.”

Chicopee Savings Foundation Supports Dress for Success Boutique

SPRINGFIELD — The Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation recently presented Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts with a donation of $1,000 to support its boutique operations. “Dress for Success provides a tremendous service to women in our community who are working toward achieving financial independence,” said William Wagner, president of Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation. Located at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, the Dress for Success boutique outfits women as they prepare for job interviews and career enhancement opportunities. “If our community is to achieve true economic success, we need a workforce that is prepared in every way,” said Dawn Creighton, president of Dress for Success. “We couldn’t be more grateful for the support of organizations like the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation who understand and appreciate the need for our programs and services.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) will host its inaugural Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) Kickoff on Wednesday, Oct. 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the UMass Center at Springfield. Christine Monska, new program officer for Leadership Programs with WFWM, will host the city-wide youth event to highlight some of the key issues girls and young women face in the city of Springfield, and what the organization’s Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC) plans to do about it.

Parents, teachers, community supporters, and champions are encouraged to bring a young person in their life to this event. The kickoff celebration is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be available. Opening remarks will be delivered by Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst. This program features young women leaders working together with adult mentors to create a road map for their collective futures. The kickoff will center the voices of Springfield young women in their own leadership development. To RSVP, e-mail Ellen Moorhouse at [email protected] by Monday, Oct. 16.

The Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) Springfield Partnership is a groundbreaking initiative aimed at driving economic prosperity for young women. YWI is led by a coalition of eight women’s foundations across the U.S. The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts is piloting the Springfield Partnership, a unique program that will produce systems change on behalf of young women in the region’s largest city.

“I am thrilled to join the Women’s Fund as our transformative leadership programs expand to include young women,” said Monska. “When young women and girls utilize their voices to become leaders in their community, our nation becomes one step further to achieving gender equity. I am honored to lead a program dedicated to fostering greater opportunity for Springfield’s young women and girls.”

Monska comes to the WFWM with extensive experience in program and curriculum development, capacity building, and advocacy for gender-inclusive policymaking at the international, national, and local levels. As a Western Mass. native who served as a district director for state Sen. Ben Downing and commissioner for the Berkshire County Commission on the Status of Women, she brings deep understanding of the structural barriers young women and girls continue to face in the community. She remains the Continuing Education advisor for Bard Microcollege in Holyoke, the nation’s first college for low-income women whose educations have been disrupted by pregnancy or other barriers to four-year degree programs and career opportunities.

Monska earned her master’s degree in global affairs, international law and human rights at New York University, Harvard Business School’s HBX CORe focusing on business analytics and financial accounting, and a bachelor’s degree in government from Smith College.

Construction Sections

Happy Returns

President Joe Marois (left) and Vice President Carl Mercieri

President Joe Marois (left) and Vice President Carl Mercieri

A construction company doesn’t grow and thrive for almost a half-century — through some dramatic economic ups and downs — without the kind of client loyalty that makes it a go-to option for any number of job types. For Marois Construction, those include educational facilities, public buildings, medical offices, bank branches, and more. The firm has certainly left its mark on the Valley — with no signs of slowing down.

There are advantages to being in business for 45 years. One is that it’s plenty of time to build a reputation.

“People are looking for quality work — people they know they can trust,” said Joe Marois, president of Marois Construction in South Hadley, a business he built from the ground up — literally and figuratively — starting in 1972. “We’ve established that trust. We’ve made a lot of friends on our projects.”

A lot of friends means plenty of repeat business, and that has been a key component of the success of one of the region’s iconic names in construction, an entity that quickly grew beyond its roots building cabinets and restoring furniture from a small shed. Five years after that humble beginning, Marois boasted seven employees and five trucks. Today, headquartered in a large building on Old Lyman Road, the company currently employs about 45 people.

The repeat business has long been buoyed by the firm’s close relationships with area colleges and universities and expertise in niches as diverse as bank branches and medical offices. Current projects have the company busy at UMass Amherst, Elms College, a new Polish National Credit Union branch in Chicopee, the new state office building in Springfield, Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam, and Central High School in Springfield, to put up a new press box and scoreboard.

The company also has a standing contract with the city of Springfield to perform needed maintenance and renovation jobs on public schools. “We’re all over the place there,” Marois said. “We never know what the needs will be.”

Carl Mercieri, Marois’ long-time vice president, said those assignments can be for just about anything. “They’re more maintenance-type things, on-call services, everything from changing a window to replacing ceilings in the classrooms over the summer, or repair old plaster. It’s pretty interesting. It’s more service work, but it’s good for the guys; they go to a job for two or three days, then move on to another for some change of scenery.”

Marois Construction workers prepare to install equipment on the roof of John Adams Hall at UMass Amherst.

Marois Construction workers prepare to install equipment on the roof of John Adams Hall at UMass Amherst.

In short, times are better for Marois — and for the industry as a whole, of course — than they were a few years ago, in the shadow of the Great Recession, when all firms were scrambling just to keep their crews reasonably busy.

“We were really coming off a bad time during the recession, where it was all about survival,” Marois said. “A few of our contemporaries did not make it. It was a culling of the industry, I guess you’d say. And it was further complicated by an influx of outside contractors into our area from New York and Boston; they were hungry too. Right now, we’re turning the corner and staying busy.”

Getting Around

A quick rundown of some of the firm’s recent project reflects its diversity. To wit:

• An upgrade of the electrical and fire-pump systems at John Adams Hall at UMass, a residential tower, included installation of twin emergency generators on the roof of the 22-story building, placed on a new structural steel frame.

• Also at UMass, a renovation of the Amherst Student Affairs Suite in the Whitmore Administration Building included the demolition of a 4,000-square-foot space, rebuilding of interior partitions, and finishes including porcelain tile flooring, recessed light fixtures, and a bamboo slat ceiling.

• A project at Veritas Preparatory Charter School included more than 22,000 square feet of demolition and renovated spaces, including new classrooms, a science lab, a music room, a reception area, and office space.

• The Keating Quadrangle at Elms College features the inlaid college logo and a large firepit that’s popular with students and staff. The project consisted of new drainage systems, underground electrical work, and multiple landscaping features including concrete, pavers, stone, and plantings.

• On the medical side, the Raymond Center at Baystate Health – South Hadley Adult Medicine consisted of developing 14,000 square feet of primary-care space within an existing building.

• At the Lee Hutt Gallery at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, the existing building was converted into a working sculpture studio, as Marois worked closely with the owner on all aspects of the design-build project.

• The company also built a single-story addition to Plainfield Congregational Church to provide new bathrooms and meeting space. Site improvements included a new well, septic tank, and grading. Repairs and improvements to the existing structure included replacement of piers supporting the existing timber-framed floor, thermal improvements to walls, and more.

• Marois also designed and constructed a facility to house supplies and equipment required to maintain the runways and grounds at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee.

These cupolas are being designed for a project in Amherst.

These cupolas are being designed for a project in Amherst.

The jobs are still coming, but a new obstacle looms, he said. “Now we’re being faced with a labor shortage, which is always a challenge. That’s the nature of construction — it’s never perfect. I don’t know to what extent the casino is affecting that, but basically, the labor pool for tradespeople is very small.”

National data bear that challenge out. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, construction employment increased by 28,000 jobs in August, yet contractors still face a lack of experienced workers. Association officials say construction job growth would have been even higher had a majority of firms not reported having a hard time finding qualified staff.

“Construction firms have stayed busy, adding employees in the past year at nearly twice the rate of employers throughout the economy, but more than two-thirds of contractors report difficulty finding craft workers as the number of unemployed, experienced construction workers hit a 17-year low in August,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Although construction spending has fluctuated recently, many contractors are still looking for qualified craft workers and project managers.”

More than half of the survey’s respondents said they were having trouble finding carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, concrete workers, or plumbers, while some salaried positions, such as project managers and supervisors, are also hard to fill, Simonson added, noting that federal, state, and local leaders should act on measures aimed at recruiting and preparing more young adults for high-paying construction careers. “Exposing students to construction as a career path will encourage more of them to pursue these high-paying careers,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO.

Marois would welcome that development. “I just don’t see a lot of evidence of new tradespeople or young people who are enthusiastic about learning a trade.”

Brave New World

Marois and Mercieri have an old-school ethos when it comes to quality work, but recognize that the way jobs are processed today is different than it used to be.

“It has gotten to be technically advanced as far as the computer systems we are using at the insistence, many times, of our clients,” Marois said. “For a dinosaur like me, that’s a challenge.”

Added Mercieri, “sometimes we run into a situation where a project requires specific software, either scheduling or reporting, and some are good, some are bad. It takes away from the normal, day-to-day business, and it’s something we do more to satisfy others than ourselves.”

Green building, however, is a building trend that has grown well past trendiness in recent years; instead, it’s standard operating procedure for many clients. Marois has worked on multiple LEED-certified structures, but even those that don’t reach for those goals are subject to a new world of sustainability.

“There are always new heating and cooling standards, new insulation values on buildings — seismic standards are another thing that’s a great concern for people — to the detriment of renovating older facilities that are non-correctable, for lack of a better word,” Marois said. “With these 100-year-old mill buildings they want to converting to loft apartments, none comply with the basic structural requirements in place today, and they either get variances on them, or it’s not affordable, with the money it takes to bring it to the standard they expect.”

The business has changed in other ways, too, such as Marois’ increased reliance on outsourcing some of the framing and demolition work than in the past, but he’s still keeping his crews active, after 45 years of loyal clients, technological advances, and economic ups and downs.

“I couldn’t even count how many repeat customers we have,” Mercieri said. “The past 18 months have been busier than we’ve been in a long time.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — On Sept. 30, Pioneer Valley Ballet (PVB) will welcome friends and supporters to its 2017-2018 season opening gala at 6 p.m. at Eastworks. The event won’t be in PVB’s studio, however, but down the hall at Easthampton Media’s new home.

Even before Easthampton Media moves into its new facility, PVB will offer its guests an early look at this new community space.

The gala will feature a cocktail reception, performances of new works, and desserts, with food and drink by Myers Catering. PVB’s leadership will introduce its 2017-2018 season, which features the organization’s 40th production of The Nutcracker. The production involves more than 250 dancers from towns throughout Western Mass., with performing parts ranging from enchanting snowflakes to the tiniest reindeer. These dancers perform alongside pre-professional students and guest artists from Boston, New York, and the Carolina Ballet.

This community event performs at Northampton’s Academy of Music Theatre from Dec. 8-10, and this year features the addition of a new family- and sensory-friendly performance.

The season’s springtime production will be the classic The Little Mermaid, performed at the Academy of Music on April 7, 2018. This full-length ballet showcases trained dancers from PVB as well as professional guest artists from around the region. Set to Camille Saint Saens’ musical score, this extravagant production is based on the well-known fairy tale by the Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen.

PVB is a non-profit, mission-based organization that began in Northampton in 1972 and quickly became known as the area’s finest ballet school. In addition to its mainstage productions, PVB offers a range of classes for children through adults, with a commitment to make ballet available to people of all ages and body types. Since 2006, artistic directors Maryanne Kodzis and Thomas Vacanti have brought the organization’s pre-professional ballet training program and performances into a new era.

For more information, visit www.pioneervalleyballet.org.

 

 

 

 

Opinion

Editorial

Richard Sullivan, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., was no doubt channeling his inner Mavis — as in Mavis Wanczyk, winner last month of the largest single Powerball payout in history — when he told the local press, “you have to be in the game to win.”

He was referring, of course, to a game with a different kind of huge payout — and one that also features astronomically long odds. That would be the contest to become home to Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

The prize there is considerable — maybe 50,000 jobs over the next few decades, tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, thousands of construction jobs (this is estimated to be a $5 billion project, five times the size of MGM Springfield’s initiative), and everything else that comes to being home — or one of the homes — to Amazon.

The odds of winning this contest are obviously better than those of winning Powerball (an estimated 1 in 292 million), but in many respects, not much better. Indeed, every state, every county, and most municipalities would like to get into this competition, and most of them will. And many have much more to offer that this region does.

Western Massachusetts is in the early stages of piecing together some kind of response to Amazon’s request for proposals, Sullivan told the local press, adding that there are many forms such a bid might take. The region might construct its own proposal, or it may partner with the state, or with Hartford, for example.

As with Powerball — the analogy works in many ways, so we’ll stay with it — the odds are certainly long, and it’s tempting to just not bother. But if you don’t play, you simply can’t win.

And, as Sullivan noted, the region can benefit just by submitting a proposal.

How? These exercises are good practice for a region, and in many respects, the Pioneer Valley is somewhat out of practice when it comes to such competitions.

They’re beneficial because they help a region identify its strengths and weaknesses, put them down on paper, and perhaps see where it comes up short in the competition in question and what it needs to work on.

The Amazon RFP identifies a few things the company is looking for:

• A stable and business-friendly environment (check, sort of. Massachusetts is still not exactly business-friendly, although it was friendly enough to land GE last year);

• Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent (we can’t check that one, because we haven’t shown that ability yet. The state certainly has, though); and

• Communities that, in its words, “think big and creatively when considering locations and real-estate options” (check, sort of. There has been some creative thinking, but nothing hugely imaginative and along the lines of what Amazon is probably looking for).

We don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s very likely that Amazon will choose a city or county that has, or can easily assemble, an extremely large, shovel-ready parcel; has abundant tech-savvy talent, or can easily lure it; and that has a top-shelf public transportation system and a bicycle-friendly infrastructure.

And that pretty much leaves the 413 out of this competition. But as Mavis (wherever she is) can certainly tell you, you never know, and you do have to play the game to win.

In the meantime, the region will be getting some very valuable practice and an opportunity to tell a story that is getting better with each passing year.

In other words, this is a very worthwhile exercise. v

Cover Story Manufacturing Sections

A New Spin

Vince Simonds

Vince Simonds stands by the Truvis V machine with one of the products of the same name.

Over the past century or so, golf balls — and golf-ball history — have been made in Chicopee. Indeed, the sprawling plant on Meadow Street that once bore the name ‘Spalding’ and now ‘Callaway’ has been home to a number of innovations and new products. In recent years, though, that tradition — not to mention the number of workers at the plant — has been in decline. However, a new and exciting golf-ball design is changing the landscape, in all kinds of ways.

They’re calling it the Truvis V.

That’s the name given to a large, sophisticated piece of machinery recently installed at the sprawling Callaway plant in Chicopee. It was built to carefully place the 12 pentagons that have become the distinctive design pattern for the Truvis golf ball, as well as the Callaway name and the player number, all in accordance with USGA rules and regulations.

This machine is cutting-edge when it comes to such work, said Vince Simonds, senior director of Global Golf Ball Operations for Callaway, adding that it packs as much symbolism as it does science and technology.

Indeed, the Truvis V is perhaps the most visible evidence — except for perhaps the soccer-ball-like product the company has developed — of a compelling turnaround in the history of golf-ball manufacturing in Chicopee.

It’s a long history, to be sure, one that dates back to the late 1800s, but recent chapters have certainly not been as glorious. Decades ago, the talk about this plant was mostly reserved to the tens of millions of golf balls produced there annually. Lately, though, it’s been about the dwindling numbers of men and women working inside; decades ago, more than 1,000 people were employed at the plant, and only a few years ago that number dipped below the century mark.

It’s now at or near 200 and steadily climbing, and there were essentially two catalysts for that growth. The first was the arrival of Chip Brewer as the company’s president and CEO in 2012, a move that energized Callaway in many ways, Simonds noted. The second was the development of the Chrome Soft golf ball, or the “ball that changed the ball,” as the company says in its marketing materials.

This became the ball that essentially changed the fortunes of the Chicopee plant as well, Simonds went on, adding that the product has helped Callaway become the number-two ballmaker in the world (well behind the leader, Titleist), and it has also spurred those growing employment numbers in Chicopee.

The ‘Made in Chicopee’ banner at the Callaway plant

The ‘Made in Chicopee’ banner at the Callaway plant has new meaning these days.

And the Truvis model of the Chrome Soft is a very big part of this improved and still-changing picture.

It is still relatively new — it’s been on the market for a few years now — and no one on the PGA Tour is using it yet (more on that later), although Tom Watson is using it on the Champions Tour for players over age 50. But it is certainly catching on among amateurs.

As the name implies, the ball’s claim to fame is that is it is easier to see and enables players to focus better. The product has won some supporters among older players, said Dan Gomez, director of Golf Ball Supply Chain at the Chicopee operation, and among the younger clientele as well, who see is as a break from golf’s staid (some would say stuffy) image.

“It’s something new and different, and some would argue that’s just what’s needed in golf right now,” said Simonds.

The response has been so good that Callaway is having a hard time keeping up with demand. In fact, it isn’t keeping up.

“We’re capacity-constrained right now,”Gomez said with a laugh. “We’ve been sold out on this product for two years; everything we make goes right out — we can’t make enough of them.”

This development explains the Truvis V, but also the fact that space has cleared on the production floor for several more of these machines, and the company plans to add 30 to 40 more workers to operate them.

Indeed, Callaway is quite convinced that the strong interest in the Truvis ball does not represent a fad, like colored golf balls were when first introduced 40 years ago, but rather a business it can build on for years to come. And it is investing heavily in new equipment and plant reconfiguration.

It is also taking very necessary steps to ensure that it will have workers to staff those machines in the years to come. Like all manufacturers, Callaway is having a difficult time finding qualified help, and it is forging (that’s an industry term) relationships with area technical schools to help create a better pipeline.

Part of this relationship building involves tours — officials at Springfield Technical Community College recently visited, for example — designed to impress upon schools and the young people they educate that golf-ball making is alive and well in Chicopee.

And that’s something that really couldn’t have been said just a few years ago.

Round Numbers

Speaking of history, there is quite a bit of it on display, literally, in a row of cases in the hallway leading from the executive offices to the main production floor at the Callaway plant.

There’s more than two centuries of golf-ball technology and product developments behind the glass, including a reproduction of a ‘feathery,’ an 18th-century product that, as the name might suggest, was essentially leather-covered feathers. There’s also some gutta percha balls, or ‘gutties,’ as they were called — products used in the 1800s that were made from dried gum resin from guttiferous trees — as well as dozens of balls from the 20th and 21st centuries with the Spalding name on them, as well as those of several subsidiaries acquired over the years.

There’s even a ball that commemorates the historic moon shot, or moon golf shot, taken by Alan Shepard during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. (Simonds said there is some ambiguity as to just which brand of ball Shepard used for his famous lunar 6-iron, but he signed a promotional deal with Spalding soon after his return from that mission.)

Dan Gomez, left, and Vince Simonds show off some of the Chrome Soft products that have changed the dynamic at the Chicopee plant.

Dan Gomez, left, and Vince Simonds show off some of the Chrome Soft products that have changed the dynamic at the Chicopee plant.

Further down the hall, there is another display case. Its top rows are currently populated with a number of variations on the Truvis theme — meaning a host of color schemes and a few speciality balls, such as one produced for Australian pro Mark Leishman that has the shape of Australia printed inside the pentagons.

There are rows of empty racks waiting to be filled, as well as the confidence that they will be — something that probably didn’t exist just a few years ago.

Indeed, as he talked about Callaway’s acquisition of Spalding’s assets, including the Chicopee plant, in 2003, Simonds said the ensuing years were certainly not what the leaders at that company hoped they would be.

The company’s consistently sluggish performance in the golf-ball business was coupled with the fact that it was overcapitalized — actually, way overcapitalized — especially with regard to the sprawling Chicopee plant, which was much too big for the company’s needs.

Out of necessity, Callaway downsized and rightsized, said Simonds, adding that it sold the Chicopee plant and is currently leasing back roughly 275,000 square feet, maybe one-quarter the footprint of the original facility.

The rightsizing coincided with Brewer’s arrival as president and CEO of the company and the introduction of new products, especially the Chrome Soft, which is essentially technology that enables lower-compression golf balls to perform as well as higher-compression balls years ago.

These developments led to a dramatic increase in market share — from just over 7% in 2013 to more than 14% at present — which has in turn fueled investments in new product development, and especially the Truvis.

Today, the company is making 200,000 to 250,000 balls a day, and the workforce has steadily grown over the past few years to roughly the 200 mark, about a 50% increase, with more hiring planned, primarily in response to the strong early performance of the Truvis.

“It’s been a phenomenal success,” said Simonds, adding quickly that the company has taken steps, patent-wise (from both a manufacturing and design standpoint), in efforts to protect itself from competitors developing something similar, something he believes they’ll try to do.

At present, there are black pentagons on yellow (popular with fans of the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Steelers) and red-on-white options in this country, and a blue-on-white model sold in Japan, he went on, adding that there have been a number of custom orders as well, including green on white for Dick’s Sporting Goods, white on pink for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Mother’s Day, and red maple leaves to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Canada.

The response has been so strong — those balls shipped to Canada sold out quickly — that Callaway has mapped out an ambitious, three-year capital expansion plan to produce the balls.

The Truvis V, as noted, is merely the first of many that will be installed at the Chicopee plant.

And this is very specialized, and expensive, equipment.

“This is an involved process,” Simonds explained. “When you think about stamping such a large design on a spherical object … you have to distort the artwork so that it doesn’t look distorted on the ball. And we’ve developed some techniques to purposefully and mathematically distort the artwork so that, when it’s placed on the ball, it looks normal.”

Another challenge will be finding qualified individuals to operate these machines, he said, adding that this is why the company is reaching out to STCC and the technical high schools in the area, with the goal of establishing relationships and putting Callaway back on the radar screen for young people looking for career opportunities.

In the meantime, Callaway officials look forward to the day — and they predict it will come — when a PGA tour regular starts playing the Truvis, a development that would give the ball a huge boost in terms of both exposure and credibility.

“Most of the tour pros have them, and they use them for chipping and practicing,” Simonds explained. “But most PGA tour pros are too traditionalist to put those in play. But I think it will happen someday.”

Growth Patterns

There’s another item of interest on the shop floor to the administrative offices at the Callaway plant.

It’s a large banner hanging from a utility duct that features images of the Chrome Soft ball, with the Truvis product well-represented. Above those images, in large white letters, are the words ‘Made in Chicopee, MA.’

Such banners and such words have been seen at the plant for decades, obviously, but today, there is more meaning behind them, more optimism, and more promise, if you will.

A plant that has made a good deal of golf balls — and a great deal of golf-ball history — is entering a new era in which it will produce more of both.

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

Business of Aging Sections

Passing Interest

It’s hardly news that America’s Internet and smartphone culture has transformed the way people live.

But not everyone knows they’re also changing the way people die — or, more specifically, how they plan for death and the often-difficult process of transferring key information, end-of-life wishes, and even treasured memories to their loved ones.

cakeTake Cake, for instance. This free online platform helps people determine and share their end-of-life wishes. Similar to the popular dating app Tinder, Cake outlines and organizes these wishes by presenting users with a number of questions on which they can swipe yes or no. Based on the answers, the app creates a profile divided into four categories — legacy, health, legal/financial, and funeral — each of them accompanied by action steps one could take to carry out those wishes.

“Each and every one of us should have a say in how we live our lives, from beginning to end (and even beyond),” the Boston-based Cake creators note. “Gift your loved ones with the information of what you would want, and how you want to be remembered.”

For many people, they note, thinking about the end of life isn’t a morbid activity, but can be a motivating factor to live life to the fullest. “It can put things in perspective and give you and your loved ones more peace of mind. It is a very considerate act to let your loved ones know what you would want. You can go at your own pace, and plan as much as feels right to you.”

Even folks with a will can benefit from such a service, the company notes, because many aspects of end-of-life planning — right down to the food one would want served at one’s funeral — are typically not be covered in that document.

“Additionally, medical preferences can be difficult to think through,” they go on. “Cake helps uncover your values so you can be clearer on your preferences, and so that your loved ones can be clear on them too.”

Plenty of Options

But Cake is far from the only player on this unique scene, which mixes some time-honored concepts with a decidedly 21st-century twist. Here are some of the others.

everplansEverplans, in some ways similar to Cake, is a digital vault for a person’s end-of-life plans, described as “a complete archive of everything your loved ones will need should something happen to you.” The app allows users to securely store wills, passwords, funeral wishes, and more in a shareable vault. Documents may include anything from wills, trusts, and insurance policies to bill-payment schedules, advance directives and do-not-rescuscitate orders, as well as final wishes and funeral preferences.

Users begin by taking a short assessment survey to see how much planning they’ve already done, how much else they need to do. Based on that information, the service, which costs $75 per year, creates a to-do checklist and helps prioritize that list. The user then assigns specific ‘deputies’ for the plan, so loved ones can find everything neatly in one place.

mydirectivesMore of an emergency-care tool than an strictly an end-of-life plan, MyDirectives allows people to speak for themselves — digitally. Users populate their ‘medical ID’ with date such as their health information and end-of-life plans. This allows doctors to have access to this information right from a patient’s iPhone lock screen.

The four basic parts to this free service are ‘My Decisions,’ which outlines care preferences, values, and treatment goals; ‘My Thoughts,’ which uses messages, video posts, music, and photos to help caregivers know more about the patient; ‘My Healthcare Agents,’ which outlines who represents the patient during a health crisis when he or she can’t communicate; and ‘My Circle,’ which keeps key contact information in one place.

principled-heartThe creator of Principled Heart, a certified financial planner, said his goal was to help answer a common question: where do we keep all our planning documents and information — and how will my loved ones know what to do? His site encourages people to keep only what is necessary, including passwords (or instructions on where to find them) for financial accounts, social media, and other accounts. Other features include instructions for pet care, key contacts, and space to upload up to 60 documents.

Three specified people are required to validate the account owner’s death, and then the site, which costs $45 a year for up to one gigabyte of storage, will provide access to all the information stored inside.

afterstepsAfterSteps, created by a Harvard Business School student, also requires the names of three verifiers, who will be notified in the event of the user’s death and will get access to all information stored on the site, which includes wills and other legal forms, passwords and instructions for digital accounts, funeral-arrangement wishes, and other data. It costs $60 a year or $299 for life.

Most services of this sort are recent developments, but a few have a longer history. DocuBank was created in 1993 as a registry to give members 24-hour access to their advance directives. More than 200,000 members have used the service ($55 per year) since then, and DocuBank has added new features, including an online vault called SAFE that provides a place for members to store files. The site’s latest ‘Digital Executor’ feature allows members to designate one person who will be able to access all of their online files once they’ve presented proof of the member’s death or permanent incapacity.

Celebrating Life After Death

Many end-of-life planning apps are about more than financial and funeral arrangements; however, crossing over into the realm of preserving history and sharing memories.

safebeyondFor example, SafeBeyond ($48 to $96 per year) defines itself as a ‘legacy-management service.’ As such, this app allows users to keep record of their life story in the form of meaningful digital content. SafeBeyond’s distribution capabilities then allow for the future delivery of this content in the form of personalized messages accessible by specific loved ones – almost like emotional life insurance through which one can be remembered.

“Everyone’s life story is unique and constantly affected by change,” the creators write. “Our platform provides an innovative online and mobile-app solution for the easy and secure management of your life story and your meaningful digital content, with enhanced distribution capabilities for the future delivery of personalized messages and digital assets. You decide when, where, and with whom your messages and other digital assets will be shared.”

The app allows people to record text, audio, and video messages throughout their life and store them in a heavily encrypted ‘digital vault.’ Then, SafeBeyond will send messages on behalf of its clients for up to 25 years after they die. Many users choose to schedule those messages on birthdays or on the anniversary of their passing. After the user dies, their recipients are e-mailed a notification telling them to download the app so that they can, one day, receive a message from the grave.

eterniamMeanwhile, Eterniam provides a free, secure online locker for one’s personal digital assets, including photos, videos, and other documents, and then releases them after the user’s death to whomever he or she specifies. Rather than focus on death, the app encourages users to ‘celebrate life,’ and to capture moments and upload them to the cloud.

Bcelebrated ($20 yer year, $100 for a lifetime membership) enables members to create a multi-media website that will become their autobiographical memorial site when the time comes. They may share their story in words, images, and audio; write password-protected private messages for loved ones; and essentially leave a permanent site where friends and family can celebrate a life.

Members create password-protected private pages for loved ones, record their last wishes, and assign a charity to receive donations on their behalf. The service also sends automated notification e-mails at the time of a member’s death and provides a list of numbers for those who need to be called.

Finally, on a different, slightly more downbeat note, Life Countdown is a free app that asks users to pick the date they think they’ll live to, then sends notifications at random intervals about how much time they theoretically have left. The app, its creators say, has a philosophical bent: “to cultivate the contemplation of death.”

Some might feel that’s a worthy-enough goal. For those who want to do more than contemplate, but instead do some real planning about what they’ll leave behind, today’s online culture offers plenty of options.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — As the academic year gets underway, 88 new students from the UMass Amherst College of Nursing’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program will begin class at the UMass Center at Springfield (UMCS).

The College of Nursing made the decision to permanently teach the accelerated bachelor’s program in the Tower Square location earlier this year. The 26,000-square-foot space features 10 classrooms and clinical simulation space specifically designed for the needs of the nursing program. State-of-the-art telehealth facilities are being developed and will be ready later this year.

Dean Stephen Cavanagh said there are additional benefits to the location. “The College of Nursing is excited to have our first cohort of accelerated bachelor’s students learning in the UMass Center at Springfield. The downtown Springfield location is accessible for students from all over New England, thanks to its proximity to major highways and the new Union Station. Some of the area’s best hospitals and medical facilities are also just minutes away, making it convenient for our students to complete their clinical studies. We feel this is a great opportunity for both the College of Nursing and the UMass Center at Springfield.”

The partnership between the Springfield Center and the College of Nursing dates back several years and has been mutually beneficial.

“Since we opened our doors in September 2014, the College of Nursing has been a significant academic partner providing a valuable resource for training the healthcare workforce in the Pioneer Valley,” said Daniel Montagna, UMCS director of Operations. “Moving the program to Springfield benefits area businesses, including restaurants and retail shops within Tower Square and throughout downtown. We are elated to be the new home of the accelerated bachelor’s program and to have the university expand its footprint at the center and in this region.”

The 17-month accelerated program is designed for students with bachelor’s degrees in other subjects or for persons interested in a career change, and is taught by College of Nursing faculty. The number of students taking classes in the Springfield Center will double next year when a new cohort begins. Students beginning the accelerated bachelor of science in nursing option now will earn a UMass Amherst degree in December 2018.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass., the seventh annual business-to-business show produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News, will bring back some popular features on Thursday, Nov. 2, including the retail marketplace in the atrium of the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Retail vendors will include LuLaRoe, Springfield Macarons, Springfield Thunderbirds, SKM Jewelers, Sassy Mama’s Delectable Cupcakes, Lipsense, Rodan & Fields, Fork Art, the Shops at Marketplace, and more.

In addition, attendees will enjoy numerous booth demonstrations, giveaways, and specials. For example, Kitchens by Curio will offer virtual-reality demonstrations of their kitchen and bath remodels, Dani Fine Photography will offer a headshot session plus digital images for only $49, and Digrigoli Salon will return to the Expo with free haircuts and manicures, just to name a few.

The Expo will also feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast and lunch programs, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and Wild Apple Design Group (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), Elms College (information booth sponsor), Smith & Wesson (Workforce Support Center sponsor), Savage Arms (JoinedForces parking sponsor), and the Better Business Bureau (contributing sponsor). Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $800. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Company Notebook Departments

United Way, Peter Pan Team up for ‘Stuff the Bus’

The United Way of Pioneer Valley and Peter Pan Bus Lines recently delivered more than 2,000 backpacks filled with donated school supplies to six separate school districts. These backpacks were given to students who are homeless.

School supplies were collected all summer at various locations throughout the Pioneer Valley. The school supplies were  purchased using a generous donation from Health New England. Students from the Westover Job Corps in Chicopee rode on the Peter Pan Bus and delivered all 2,000 backpacks.

United Bank Reports on PATH Plus Program

GLASTONBURY, Conn. — After introducing its innovative home-ownership and financial-education program in the Connecticut and Massachusetts markets 24 months ago, United Bank reported that it enrolled 92 participants in its PATH Plus program over the past two years, graduating several participants who have achieved their dream of owning a home or are currently seeking homeownership. PATH Plus is structured to provide three keys to homeownership — education, savings, and mortgage benefits — to low- to moderate-income individuals and families. As of this month, 92 individuals from Connecticut and Massachusetts have participated in the program, 36 are currently enrolled, 34 have graduated, and 11 of them are new homeowners. Other program graduates are in the process of identifying homeownership opportunities. And the bank’s foundations donated at total of $31,500 to nonprofits who have successfully referred and enrolled program participants. In Massachusetts — specifically the Springfield and Worcester regions — 52 individuals have participated, 28 have graduated, and four have closed on a new home.

BCC Launches New Education Department

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College has launched a new education department, combining and expanding the early childhood education and elementary education programming into one unified field of study. Patricia Kay, associate professor and chair of the Education Department, designed the new department. She worked closely with community partners, coalition groups, and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) to ensure the new department fit the needs of childcare providers in the Berkshires. The new education department will introduce learning as a cohort model — meaning students will all go through the same classes together as a group. The model is a hybrid, meaning it has an online and face-to-face component. The college also recently hired Barbara Kotelnicki as an assistant professor of Education to support this new department. The students will be made up of working childcare providers who will be able to discover real-world solutions to problems they are having in their classrooms and learn more than just the theory of early childhood education. They will gain experience through best practices, field work, and learning the essentials in teaching and caregiving. Students who graduate from BCC with an associate of science degree will be eligible to continue their studies in a bachelor of arts program or early childhood education licensure pathway through MCLA.

STCC, Ann Beha Architects Receive Planning Award

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and Ann Beha Architects (ABA) of Boston were honored for a renovation project which will transform a 19th-century warehouse into a modern center of campus life. The Society for College and University Planning awarded STCC and ABA the 2017 Honor Award for “Excellence in Planning for a District or Campus Component” for the Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons, which is under construction. With an estimated completion date of fall 2018, the 100,000-square-foot Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons will become the center of campus life for 8,000 students. The building, once a storehouse for gun stocks, predates the Civil War. One of the goals of the $50 million project is to honor the past while embracing state-of-the-art, energy-efficient technology. In charge of the design, ABA played a key role in transforming the historic structure into a modern space for students. Construction crews are replicating historic features to match the look and color of the original building. The 767-foot-long building will house essential student services, including advising, tutoring, career services, the library, and more. Students will have access to social spaces and a café. About 150 staff will work in the building. According to Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone, “the Baker-Polito administration is pleased to see the renovation project team recognized for its work in creating a new, energy-efficient space for STCC students while preserving a piece of the Commonwealth’s history.”

Features

Off-the-Cuff Remarks

Owner Will Brideau

Owner Will Brideau

‘Safely quirky.’ Those are two words that generally don’t come together in a sentence. But Will Brideau uses the phrase often as he describes the products — and the mindset — at the men’s clothing store Jackson & Connor. This quality, if you will, is one of the reasons why the establishment continues to flourish despite sea changes, and rough water, within this sector.

‘Circumspect.’

That was the term Will Brideau chose — after giving the matter some considerable thought — when asked to describe consumers in this region and especially those in the market for men’s clothing.

Webster lists a number of synonyms for that word — including ‘prudent,’ ‘careful,’ ‘guarded,’ and ‘wary’ — and Brideau used all or most of them as he offered his answer to that question and, while doing so, explained the basic mindset at Jackson & Connor, the men’s clothing store in Northampton he’s owned since 2013.

Actually, what he said is that people in this market are “more circumspect,” with the implication being that all or most men’s clothing buyers are somewhat careful. But there was an important caveat as well.

We are a little more cautious here, but the thing that has delighted and surprised me is that, while being cautious, people are generally veering toward the more exciting and the more lively.”

“We are a little more cautious here,” he noted. “But the thing that has delighted and surprised me is that, while being cautious, people are generally veering toward the more exciting and the more lively.”

With that, Brideau, who became owner after working at the store for several years and studying (his term) under founders Tara Tetreault and Candace Connors, hit upon his primary mission. That would be effectively serving those who are cautious about their clothing investments — and he would stress repeatedly that this is what people are making — but also looking for the exciting and more lively. And this is an inexact science, to be sure.

“We go for ‘safely quirky,’” he explained, summoning a phrase he’s no doubt used frequently to describe what he sells. “It’s outside the normal. It’s not super basic, but something outside the ordinary, but not costumey; something that’s going to get you noticed and is going to be interesting, but doesn’t prompt someone to say, ‘Halloween isn’t until October, buddy.’”

Achieving all of this, and thus mastering how to serve the circumspect customer, has been a key focal point of a learning experience that Brideau says is very much ongoing, and won’t ever end, really. That’s because change, as it is in so many other business sectors, is a constant in this realm.

“I’m still learning — I learn new stuff every single day I’m in the store, which is part of the joy of it for me,” he explained. “It always keeps me on my toes and keeps me active in trying to discover new things.”

Actually, there are a number of forces keeping Brideau on his toes these days. Indeed, this is an intriguing, and quite challenging, time to be in men’s clothing — and retail in general.

A trend toward more casual clothing in the workplace continues, and many would say it is accelerating, with even bankers and lawyers eschewing suits and especially ties for designer jeans and flannel jackets.

Meanwhile, online shopping continues to grow in popularity, especially as Amazon and other outlets make it increasingly simple to return shoes and clothes that don’t fit perfectly and swap them out for items that do.

But Brideau says he believes the pendulum is swinging back on formal attire, and the all-important Millennial generation is a big factor in that equation. Meanwhile, locally, a thinning of the herd when it comes to men’s clothing stores — Williamson’s in Chicopee was the latest of several establishments to close their doors — has created ample opportunities.

Jackson & Connor

Jackson & Connor owner Will Brideau says he believes the pendulum is starting to swing back when it comes to workplace attire, which bodes well for his venture.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with Brideau about how he intends to maximize those opportunities, while continuing to provide clothes in the category of ‘safely quirky.’

Ownership Material

As he offered BusinessWest both a quick tour of the store and some insight into how its shelves and racks are stocked, Brideau stopped at the pool table in the center of the room, a fixture since the establishment opened nearly a decade ago and an effective display area.

There, a sales associate was tying a colorfully patterned tie onto an equally colorful shirt chosen for special showcasing. There is a method to such work, noted Brideau, who’s done it for years, noting that it involves everything from effectively bringing out colors in both the shirt and the tie to spotlighting some of the 70-odd lines of clothing the store features.

“It’s a learned skill,” said Brideau. “Once you get a feel for it, it gets easier.”

The same can be said for just about every aspect of this business, he went on, adding that he can speak from experience on this topic — quite literally.

Indeed, Brideau said he knew almost nothing about the business of men’s clothing when he first walked into Jackson & Connor, the latest in a line of men’s clothing stores in that location on the second floor at Thornes Marketplace, back in 2010. And it wasn’t a long walk, to be sure.

At the time, Brideau was working just a few doors down, at Impish, where he sold strollers, children’s car seats, and related items. He said his first several visits to Jackson & Connor were purely as a customer, or window shopper, only there are no windows at this store.

“I would spend all of my time on break over at Jackson & Connor looking at all the stuff; I would drool over the pocket watches,” he recalled, adding that eventually the nature of the visits changed — or at least they took on an added dimension, one of potential employment.

“I would ask if they needed any part-time help,” he went on, adding that he lost a second job he had when the company in question closed, and he was aggressive and imaginative in his quest to replace it. “I knew absolutely nothing about men’s clothing, not the first thing. But I walked in there and said, “I love this store, I love everything in it, I don’t have any knowledge about this stuff, but if you ever wanted to hire anyone part-time, I’d love to work for you.”

“They said they’d think about it,” he continued, adding that this scenario would repeat itself several times before Tetreault and Connors finally took on Brideau as their first and only employee, thus beginning that ongoing learning experience he described earlier.

It nearly ended a few years later, when the partners pulled Brideau aside and told him they had plans to close the store — not because it wasn’t doing well, but because both of the owners essentially wanted to do something else.

The subject of the conversation eventually shifted to the prospect of Brideau buying the store from them, a proposition he initially shrugged off as unrealistic — although he was soon set straight.

“I told them I had neither the money nor the skill set to do that,” he recalled. “And they said, ‘you have the enthusiasm for menswear, and you can’t teach that; the running of the business is procedural — you learn how to do that job. The rest of it will come — if you’re passionate about it, if you care about it, if you love what you’re doing, that’s what’s most important.’”

Brideau conducted some introspection and concluded that he could check all those boxes, and so began his transformation from employee to owner.

“It was the best of all possible worlds — they wanted to get out, and I wanted to get in,” he explained. “I was just in the right place at the right time with the right opportunity and the right people to help me out and give me a chance.”

And, just as Tetreault and Connors said, the proverbial ‘rest’ as it pertains to managing the business has come. And the learning process continues as he guides the company to continued growth — sales have improved each year since he acquired the company — and new ventures such as a Jackson & Connor private label out on everything from ties to pants.

“The buying is the area where I think the learning curve keeps extending,” Brideau explained. “It’s so interesting to me. The more I buy for the store, the more I feel it becomes more complex and more interesting. That’s where I see a lot of exciting potential for the store — bringing in new lines, phasing out old ones that people are tired of, keeping things fresh, and keeping people interested.”

In other words, effectively serving customers who are, among other things, circumspect, while also dealing with the many seismic forces shaping this industry at the moment.

All this remains a labor of love for Brideau, who wears his passion on his sleeve — and on the vest and gray suit he was wearing the day he spoke with BusinessWest.

Patterns in the Market

As he talked about the art and science of buying for a shop like his these days, Brideau said the task is complicated even further by his clientele mix.

People are looking at these as investments — it’s that kind of thought process. You don’t need a suit until you need a suit, and when you need one, you don’t always have a week to 10 days to special-order one and then another week to 10 days to get it tailored.”

To say it’s broad would be an understatement, with customers ranging in age from roughly 35 to 65 (meaning mostly professionals) with a wide range of tastes and, well, persuasions, if you will. Indeed, some of his customers — in fact, a growing number of them — are not men.

“Increasingly, I’m drawing customers from the LGBTQ community who are looking to dress nicely, don’t feel comfortable wearing women’s stuff, and appreciate the construction and the quality we’re really fortunate to have in menswear,” he explained. “It’s a hallmark of the industry that this stuff is meant to be more of an investment; it’s not fast fashion. And men’s clothing was meant to be tailored — it’s not ‘here’s your medium … good luck.’ Men’s clothing gives people more control over how you present yourself to the world, which is invaluable.”

So one size doesn’t fit all, and one style doesn’t fit all, either, he went on, which makes his buying trips to New York, Las Vegas, and Boston every six months even more challenging — and fun.

As for the trend toward more casual clothes in the workplace, Brideau said that movement is definitely real and ongoing, and anecdotes abound about professionals leaving ties in the closet because they don’t need them with the golf shirts and other types of casual attire they’re wearing to the office.

Brideau had one of his own. “One of my former employees went to work in IT,” he noted. “And one of his first comments when he got that job was, ‘Will, one of these guys doesn’t even wear a belt — forget about a collared shirt or a tie or a jacket.’

“Things have changed a lot when it comes to how people dress for work, and it is what it is,” he went on, channeling his inner Bill Belichick, before offering the opinion, as well as the hope, that the pendulum is in fact swinging back in the other direction, and Millennials are a big part of the reason for that.

“People are starting to invest a little more in suits, particularly having one, two, or maybe three suits that fit you really nicely and that you can break apart and wear as a jacket,” he explained. “You can wear it to a funeral, a wedding, a graduation, a party. Also, people who are getting married now are wearing suits instead of tuxes, because they want to buy something they’re actually going to be able to wear after the fact.

“People are looking at these as investments — it’s that kind of thought process,” he went on. “You don’t need a suit until you need a suit, and when you need one, you don’t always have a week to 10 days to special-order one and then another week to 10 days to get it tailored.”

Beyond these practical sides to the equation, there is some — or more, to be more precise — thinking along the lines of the phrase ‘fashion statement,’ Brideau told BusinessWest, which he has seen anecdotally, and which bodes well for this business.

“That approach to clothing, the ‘what I wear actually does matter, and the way I dress myself really changes the way that other people interact with me in the world’ … we’re seeing a lot more of that lightbulb going off in people’s heads,” he explained. “And that’s fun for us to watch. People will come out of the dressing room, they’re wearing a nicely tailored suit and crisp white shirt that fits them properly, and a tie with a more modern width, and they say, ‘cool, I look great.’

“Witnessing those moments, seeing those faces, is where we get our enjoyment in this job,” he went on. “Seeing that transformation is rewarding, and we’re seeing it a lot more.

Vested Interests

As he wrapped up his tour of the store, Brideau referenced some new lines of ties and how well they were doing from a sales-performance perspective.

This success makes Jackson & Connor somewhat of an outlier within the industry, he explained, because the tie has really taken a hit in the workplace and almost everywhere else these days.

“I think our success stems from the fact that we carry really unusual ties, items you can’t find anywhere else,” he explained. “It’s either fabrics that literally do not exist anymore — they were made 50 or 60 years ago — or patterns you don’t come across at most other shops that have mostly solids and basics. We tend to really focus on things that are weird and outside the normal.”

But still within that category of ‘safely quirky,’ two words that go a long way toward explaining why this establishment is well-suited, in every sense of that phrase, to succeed in an ever-more-challenging marketplace.

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

Luxury Living Sections

Taking the Plunge

A poolside patio built by RJM Landscaping.

A poolside patio built by RJM Landscaping.

When inground pools were at the height of their popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, most were classic rectangles, outfitted with a diving board and maybe a twisting slide, ringed with a four-foot-wide patio and a fence. Today, inground pools aren’t as common, but a growing contingent of customers are going beyond the rectangle and using odd shapes, elaborate hardscapes and waterfalls, and other amenities to turn their backyard into something resembling a resort. These poolscapes aren’t cheap, but the quality-of-life upgrade, designers say, make the cost worthwhile.

When does a vacation not feel like a vacation?

Actually, much of the time, Rick Miller said.

“Typically, when you go away, it’s really not like a vacation — you get home, and you’re beat,” he noted. “Many people feel it’s a lot more relaxing to stay around the house and have their own privacy and not have to mingle with everyone else who’s on vacation.”

Besides, he added, “travel is so expensive these days, and some people fear it a little bit on a security level — they feel they’re more secure staying around their home. So, instead of investing in a trip and going away, they put that money in their backyard.”

And sometimes, it’s a lot of money.

Miller, president of RJM Landscaping Inc. in Westfield, is one of a handful of area landscape designers who installs high-end poolscapes — not just inground pools, but the hardscapes, water features, and other elements around them that create the feel of a resort right in the customer’s backyard.

“The price range is all over the spectrum,” he said. “It can be a simple, rectangular pool, with a four-foot-wide swath of pavement, what they used to do in the old days,” he told BusinessWest, “but for many people, it’s gotten a lot bigger. For people who want to spend more time in the backyard, it’s worthwhile to make that kind of investment, and stay at home rather than going somewhere else.”

Ted Hebert, owner of Teddy Bear Pools & Spas, said a recent emphasis on elaborate poolscapes has led to a downturn in the sale of inground pools themselves, which have long been the domain of the middle class, a group that Hebert feels is shrinking in America.

Those who do purchase inground pools, by and large, don’t want a basic 18-by-36-foot rectangle with a diving board, he noted; they’re looking for a waterfall, LED lighting, ornamental fencing, and colored, stamped concrete or rock formations. “Now that $25,000 pool may be more like $45,000 or $50,000, and when you add landscaping and other things, it can get expensive.”

Brian Campedelli says many customers want natural-looking water features around their pools.

Brian Campedelli says many customers want natural-looking water features around their pools.

Often, that means well into the six figures, said Brian Campedelli, president of Pioneer Landscapes Inc. in Easthampton. The higher-end projects — full-yard transformations that center around a resort-like poolscape — may run between $80,000 and $150,000, and Campedelli may tackle only a couple of those a year, but there are wide variations in pricing depending on what features a customer needs to have.

“We design what you want; there are custom pool houses with full running water, beautiful kitchens, outdoor showers — you can spend a quarter-million on your backyard if you want to fully transform it,” he explained. “Most people don’t know what they want; they just know they want to beautify their backyard around their inground pool. They might have some ideas, and it becomes clearer when we show them the design process and some of our ideas and materials we use.”

Those might include elements of falling water, fire, and raised plant beds, as well as pergolas, outdoor kitchens, and even, in some cases, a small extension off the house for a bar, a flat-screen TV, and lights on dimmers.

In other words, many clients don’t have a specific vision for how their poolscape will fit into their yard — or they just imagine that basic rectangle, a ring of concrete, and fence — but Campedelli, and landscape designers like him, can help them develop a vision that encompasses the entire yard, turning it, essentially, into a permanent vacation space.

“Once we’re done, they understand the concept; they see the way it flows,” he said. “We want to create an outdoor room that uses the entire space.”

Young and Old

Some customers for high-end pools are families with young children, Campedelli noted, but more are middle-aged professionals who have navigated past a mortgage and college payments for their grown children, and are looking to invest more significantly in their homes and yards.

“What they can get in a pool depends on a lot of things, but we try to work within their budget and do the best we can with what they have,” he said. “We try to give them the most we can from their landscaping dollar. It’s my passion, so I’ll usually throw a lot of things in. It’s not always the best business practice, but I’d rather give them then ultimate experience and maximize the potential of their backyard than walk away feeling like they missed out.”

Some elements, like artistic landscape lighting, aren’t on a customer’s radar until Campedelli brings up the options, and demonstrates how well-placed lights can create a soft, meditative glow. “It can change the entire feel of the backyard, as opposed to having a powerful light off the house. I’ll nudge them toward something like that, and they appreciate it.”

Such high-end poolscapes do price a wide range of people out of the market, Hebert said, and the retail pool industry has seen a decline in basic, no-frills inground pools. “Going back to the ’70s, ’80s, early ’90s, there’s no comparison. In the mid- to late ’80s, there was a lot of easy money around, and anyone could get a mortgage. You’d buy a house for $100,000, and in five years, it was worth $150,000 to $200,000.”

This Pioneer Landscapes project reflects another popular feature, the poolside bar.

This Pioneer Landscapes project reflects another popular feature, the poolside bar.

People would think nothing, he said, of spending that equity on an inground pool. In the years following the housing-market crash, however, that kind of equity is much tougher to come by, and homeowners are just as likely to find themselves upside-down on their mortgage. “That has taken money away from people, taken away their purchasing power.”

At the same time, he said, kids don’t play in their own yards as much as they used to; if they’re not tied up in organized sports, camps, and otherwise heavily structured summers, they’re indoors, communicating with virtual friends — and often comfortably air-conditioned.

People would think nothing, he said, of spending that equity on an inground pool. In the years following the housing-market crash, however, that kind of equity is much tougher to come by, and homeowners are just as likely to find themselves upside-down on their mortgage. “That has taken money away from people, taken away their purchasing power.”

“The people who are in a position to afford an inground pool may have central air,” he noted. “If you think back to the ’60s and ’70s, that wasn’t the case; it was hot, and your kids played outside and came in when the streetlights came on.” It’s a different world today, he added, one that values comfort and hypersecurity over free play.

Even families who might enjoy an inground pool but think they can’t afford it may simply be prioritizing their spending in a way that squeezes a pool out of the equation, Hebert explained.

A week-long vacation, for example, may cost $5,000 to $6,000, money that would easily cover a year’s worth of payments on a 10-year loan for a $50,000 poolscape that can be enjoyed every day, from May to September. Meanwhile, families spend hundreds of dollars each month on TV services, smartphones, and Internet — line items that could also easily be reduced and earmarked for an investment in the backyard, where a family can enjoy cooking out, hosting parties, and just relaxing in the water.

Lifestyle Adjustment

Instead, people who buy inground pools today tend to want more than the basics, said Miller, noting that customers’ average age tends to be in the 40s and up. But for landscape designers who can handle these jobs, they pose uniquely creative opportunities.

“It’s definitely a niche; I don’t think this is something that your basic landscape contractor can do,” he said. “The trend right now is very unique shapes, and water jets and waterfalls are popular items. As far as pavers go, the biggest trend is paver slabs, which are larger pieces of paving stones, with fewer joints to be seen by the customer. With each of these things, there’s a higher cost.”

But it’s worth it, he added, for people who want to turn their backyards into a true quality-of-life enhancer.

“We’re trying to get the whole mixture of elements out there — not just a pool and a patio, but maybe a fireplace, water features, and outdoor kitchens as well. When people have big get-togethers, it’s not just swimming; it’s cooking out and serving food.”

People with the means to spend plenty of money on travel — CEOs and business owners, for example — will still do that, Campedelli said, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to create a vacation-like environment at home, too.

“These are people with stressful jobs, and there’s no better feeling than to kick off the suit and tie, put on a bathing suit and flip-flops, go out back, and feel like you’re in the Bahamas,” he said. “Once people see how they can use their backyard, they want something like this.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and Ann Beha Architects (ABA) of Boston were honored for a renovation project which will transform a 19th-century warehouse into a modern center of campus life.

STCC and ABA received the 2017 Honor Award for “Excellence in Planning for a District or Campus Component” for the Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons, which is under construction. The Society for College and University Planning presented the award in July.

“The Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons is truly a unique project,” STCC President John Cook said. “Historic renovation is not always easy, but for STCC it is essential. On behalf of our students, we remain excited about the transformation of our campus.”

With an estimated completion date of fall 2018, the 100,000-square-foot Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons — now known at STCC as Building 19 — will become the center of campus life for 8,000 students. Building 19, once a storehouse for gun stocks, predates the Civil War. One of the goals of the $50 million project is to honor the past while embracing state-of-the-art, energy-efficient technology.

In charge of the design, ABA played a key role in transforming the historic structure into a modern space for students. Construction crews are replicating historic features to match the look and color of the original building.

The 767-foot-long building will house essential student services, including advising, tutoring, career services, the library, and more. Students will have access to social spaces and a café. About 150 staff will work in the building.

According to Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) Commissioner Carol Gladstone, “the Baker-Polito administration is pleased to see the renovation project team recognized for its work in creating a new, energy-efficient space for STCC students while preserving a piece of the Commonwealth’s history.”

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

By Kathleen Mellen

Ask Wilbraham Selectman Bob Russell what his town’s main business is, and he’ll tell you: quality of life.

The town of nearly 15,000, located about 12 miles northeast of Springfield, has an abundance of protected open space, parks, recreation facilities, and other features that can be enjoyed by its residents, and a small-town feel that hearkens back to its origins as a close-knit farming community.

“It’s a bedroom community,” Russell said, and townspeople revel its neighborly activities, like summertime concerts and community-wide flea markets held at Fountain Park, gatherings of moms and dads and their young charges at the popular Wilbraham Children’s Museum, coffee klatches at the newly renovated Rice Fruit Farm, or swimming and splashing at the town’s ‘backyard beach’ at Spec Pond, just off Boston Road.

But things aren’t all sunshine and smiley faces: As residents enjoy the pleasures of living in a small, at times sleepy community, he said, there are real-world concerns, many of them economic, that need to be addressed: For example, Wilbraham has seen some erosion of its economic base over the past couple of decades, as businesses have closed, leaving vacant spots in the town’s two main areas of commerce — along Boston Road and in the town center.

Russell says this is something the town is working on, and he hopes to fill in those gaps with businesses that are carefully selected to blend with the town’s character and charm.

“New businesses can be a win-win for the town: they bring in tax revenue, but generally don’t overly tax the town’s resources. They don’t put a demand on the school system, they generally don’t require police calls, and they don’t generally catch on fire,” Russell said. “It’s a good value when we bring business into town, and we’re very much aware of that.”

Although some residents say they like the relative quiet of the underused business district in the center of town, Planning Board Chairman Jeff Smith says he’d rather see the hustle and bustle there that he recalls from his youth.

“When I was a kid, growing up here, I’d ride my bicycle to the town center — my dentist was right there in a building that’s unoccupied now,” said Smith, a lifelong resident of Wilbraham. “My pediatrician, the post office, orthodontists, banks — it was all right there. But these buildings are vacant now, and it’s been quiet.”

There are projects in the works in the center of town, at the intersection of Main and Springfield streets, Russell said. Developers have purchased a number of small properties there that they propose to fill with businesses on the first floors and apartments on the second. That will necessitate a change in zoning, from strictly business to mixed use — a proposal that will be brought before a special town meeting in October. If it passes, “it will make the center of our town a lot nicer than it is right now, from a design standpoint,” said Russell, adding that property values will go up.

On Boston Road, another important business district for Wilbraham, things are also happening. While Friendly’s Ice Cream has long had its corporate headquarters there, there’s a new Balise Ford dealership, a remodeled Lia Toyota dealership, a Home Depot, and a Big Y Supermarket. Also, a new transfer station for trash is about to reopen in a spot that’s been unoccupied for some time — and that, Russell said, will be good for the town.

“There will be an improvement for the building, we’ll have a discount for our own tipping, and the town will enjoy a tipping fee. This is a revenue strain that doesn’t come from the residents’ tax bills.”

Down the Road

Even with all that, there are still vacancies on Boston Road waiting to be filled, and Smith says the Planning Board is looking at a number of ways to address them, including adjusting the zoning bylaws to accommodate some types of businesses that haven’t been allowed to open in town for several years.

“We’ve had moratoriums on certain things because the architects of the town have wanted it to look a certain way — the idyllic New England town,” Smith said. “They didn’t want gas stations, and they didn’t want used-car lots.” But now, the Planning Board is suggesting that some of those bans be lifted.

Chalk it up to changing times, he said.

“When Boston Road was laid out, it was with the mindset that there would be some service facilities and a lot of retail opportunities, but those retail opportunities are dwindling,” Smith told BusinessWest. “Look at the UPS and USPS trucks on Boston Road right now — it’s all Amazon deliveries, and that has changed the retail potential in areas like Wilbraham. We’ve had to adapt the zoning accordingly to go along with the changes.”

Wilbraham at a glance:

Year Incorporated: 1763
Population: 14,837
Area: 22.4 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $22.00
Commercial Tax Rate: $22.00
Median Household Income: $65,014
MEDIAN FAMILY Income: $73,825
Type of government: Open Town Meeting
Largest employers: Baystate Wing Wilbraham Medical Center; Friendly Ice Cream Corp.; Big Y; Home Depot
* Latest information available

As a result, he said, the Planning Board will propose that the town allow limited and restricted opportunities for gas stations in its commercial zones. The same holds true for used-car sales. But, he stressed, everything will be brought before the voters, who always have an opportunity to weigh in on the board’s proposals.

“I always tell people, ‘we’re your Planning Board, and these are your bylaws,’” Smith said.

One thing residents are not likely to see on Boston Road are big retail chain stores, because there simply isn’t enough traffic to support them.

“In our small-town way of thinking, we see it as a really busy road, but in the scheme of busy roads, it’s not that busy,” Smith told BusinessWest.

As the town continues to rethink its position vis-à-vis business, Russell says, the Select Board is considering the possibility of establishing an economic-development committee.

“We’re looking at ways to bring as much of the town’s resources to bear as possible to improve development,” he said. “It’s something we’re all focusing on.”

Indeed, the town’s economic health is something that’s long been a priority for the Planning Board, Smith said.

“We see the people who come to the town and want to locate businesses here. If we don’t have zoning for what they want to do, but if it seems like it would fit in Wilbraham, we say, ‘OK, maybe we should add a provision in our bylaws.’”

But that can be a lengthy process, he added, which can take up to a year, by the time residents vote at a town meeting and the town secures the state attorney general’s mandatory approval.

A case in point: recently, a local brewery considered relocating to Wilbraham, but the town didn’t have zoning in place that would allow it. So the Planning Board developed zoning, and it was approved at town meeting. But by that time, the company had decided to stay where it was. Smith says the effort will not be wasted — the town can move quickly the next time a brewpub or microbrewery expresses an interest.

“Others have approached us,” he said. “Now the zoning is there.”

In other cases, the town has gotten a jump on zoning changes even before interest has been expressed by potential business owners. For example, after imposing an initial moratorium on the establishment of registered medical-marijuana dispensaries (RMDs) — a time used for review of federal and state laws — voters decided to allow such establishments.

“We did put zoning in, subsequently, in an industrial zone,” Smith said. “But, to be honest, I didn’t think anyone would want to locate an RMD in the town of Wilbraham.” So far, he says, he’s been right.

And, just to be clear, he added, recreational marijuana establishments are still prohibited in town.

It’s important to note, Smith says, that the town’s elected officials rely on Town Hall experts, like Planning Director John Pearsall and Building Inspector Lance Trevallion, to help them with their duties.

“There’s a lot to learn, and our decisions have legal ramifications,” he said. “We’re guided by these town officials.”

Getting Down to Business

As Smith and Russell see it, revitalizing Wilbraham’s business base is an ongoing process — and one that must be responsive to both the changing economic realities and the wishes of its residents.

That said, Russell added, “Wilbraham is open for business.”

Company Notebook Departments

Granite City Electric Supply Relocates to Chicopee

CHICOPEE — Granite City Electric Supply Co. has opened a new, 80,000-square-foot distribution center and relocated its Springfield retail counter service to 451 Meadow St., Chicopee. This distribution center will provide service to the Western Mass., Connecticut, and New York markets. “Our new, state-of-the-art facility incorporates leading-edge innovations in material management and leverages the latest advances in automation and LEAN practices. We have implemented best practices of class-leading enterprises from several industries to give us a highly efficient and scalable platform to best serve the current and evolving needs of our customers,” said Adrian Grundy, chief operating officer at Granite City Electric. He also notes the capacity and operational efficiencies of the new facility will support expanded inventory levels to better serve all customer needs. The new location is equipped with many innovations and customer-centric enhancements. The new indoor service bay allows customers to drive indoors, so that, for example, large pipe orders can now be loaded indoors, out of the elements. The enclosed storage facility prevents rust and damage to material traditionally stored outdoors. Innovative and automated picking lanes allow for faster, accurate order fulfillment to get product to customers more quickly. And the new Chicopee facility will offer greatly expanded wire inventory, including colors and pulling-head options. The company will also deliver more to more customers, as the Chicopee location affords an expanded delivery footprint for the GCE Night Train Delivery Service, which allows customers to avoid waiting at the counter or wasting time in traffic to pick up electrical supplies.

SkinCatering Opens New Spot at D. Hotel & Suites

HOLYOKE — SkinCatering recently celebrated its grand opening at D. Hotel & Suites. The spa is located on the first floor of the hotel and features two massage rooms as well as separate spaces for manicures, pedicures, and facials. The location offers luxurious treatments as well as a selection of the high-end products currently developed and created through SkinCatering’s skin-care line. “I am very excited to provide now a health and wellness option at our Boutique Hotel,” said Linda Rosskothen, proprietor of D. Hotel & Suites. “The beauty and comfort of the spa offers locals and travelers a chance to enjoy our buildings. I am especially excited to see our guests combine their spa experience with their wedding plans, business-travel stay, exceptional dining, or just making it a special treat.” Guests are welcome to begin booking services, as well as monthly membership packages.

Thunderbird Thursdays Take Flight Downtown

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Business Improvement District and the Springfield Thunderbirds announced the start of Thunderbird Thursdays, presented by TD Bank. Each of Thunderbird Thursday will feature a guest craft brewer, live music, food, fun, and games. The Thunderbirds’ promotional team will also be on site each week with an inflatable slap-shot game, ticket information, raffle prizes, and more. Thunderbird Thursdays will run from 4 to 8 p.m. each week through Oct. 12 in downtown Springfield. They will rotate between three locations: 1350 Main St., the Shops at Marketplace at the rear of 1341 Main St., and Tower Square Park. For a full schedule of dates, locations, entertainment, and brewers, visit springfielddowntown.com/thunderbirds-thursdays.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q2 Results

GLASTONBURY, Conn. — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended June 30, 2017. The company reported net income of $16.2 million, or $0.32 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 30, 2017, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $13.7 million, or $0.27 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $9.1 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, for the quarter ended June 30, 2016.

Kelley and Malmborg Celebrates First Year

NORTHAMPTON — Kelley and Malmborg Investment Consulting Group recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Motivated by their desire to offer a more client-centered and consultative approach, advisors Jean Kelley and Joe Malmborg transitioned from Florence Bank’s FSB Financial Group late last spring. With a combined 65-plus years of financial and wealth-management experience, and through their consultative approach, creating personalized solutions, and a fee-based investment process, the pair’s goal is to provide comfort and confidence regarding the decisions their individual and business clients make. Kelley & Malmborg is located in the heart of downtown Northampton at 140 Main St., Suite 400.

Berkshire Hills Reports Second-quarter Earnings

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported second-quarter 2017 net income of $19.7 million, or $0.53 per share. Core earnings totaled $21.6 million, or $0.58 per share. Net income was up 23% year-over-year, while core earnings grew 31% due to the benefit of business expansion. Net income per share increased by 2%, while core EPS increased by 7%. Net income was impacted by net non-core charges related primarily to acquisitions.

Chemetal Installs Solar PV System in Partnership with Solect Energy

EASTHAMPTON — Chemetal, a manufacturer of metal designs and laminates, has partnered with Solect Energy of Hopkinton to install a 201.6-kilowatt solar-energy system on the roof of its Easthampton manufacturing plant. The array consists of 560 photovoltaic (PV) panels, which are projected to produce 210,686 kilowatt hours of energy annually. Chemetal anticipates the array will provide up to 33% of its facility’s annual electricity use. Solect carefully examined Chemetal’s energy-usage patterns and other factors in order to design the optimum solar-energy system. Solect then worked to make sure that Chemetal would achieve maximum ROI through myriad solar incentives. Chemetal is projected to save approximately $25,000 annually on its electricity bill, and is able to take advantage of state and federal tax and financial incentives, including SRECs (solar renewable-energy certificates), which are financial incentives based on the amount of solar energy the system generates. Electrical utility providers in Massachusetts purchase SRECs to help them meet their state-mandated goals of a percentage of power coming from renewable-energy sources.

Pioneer Valley Realtors Build Playhouses for Boys and Girls Clubs

SPRINGFIELD — The Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley (RAPV) community service committee built two custom playhouses for the Boys and Girls Club of West Springfield and the Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys and Girls Club. The playhouses were built using specific designs put together with crayons and markers by the children who would be using them. The RAPV community service committee spent hours constructing these unique and inspiring structures, makings the kids’s designs come to life.

Home Health Aide Grads Honored at STCC Ceremony

SPRINGFIELD — Eighteen graduates of the Home Health Aide program at Springfield Technical Community College were honored with certificates at a ceremony on July 7. The program is administered by Training and Workforce Options (TWO), a collaboration between STCC and Holyoke Community College. The program was supported by a 2016 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Networks (TRAIN) Program. Because the grant ended this year, Skinner’s class represented the fourth and final cohort of TRAIN home health aide graduates. Sharon Grundel, director of Healthcare Training Development for TWO, said she hopes the state will revisit funding for the program. While a stand-alone course is not currently offered, anyone seeking training as a home health aide can enroll in the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Plus program at STCC. Grundel said 50 people graduated from the four cohorts, and the majority of them have landed jobs.

Creative Economy Sections

A Dream Home for the Arts

By Kathleen Mellen

An architect’s rendering of the new facility on Hawley Street in Northampton.

An architect’s rendering of the new facility on Hawley Street in Northampton.
Thomas Douglas Architects

It’s been four long years since the Northampton Center for the Arts had a place to call home. But that’s about to change.

In September, the center will become the first tenant of a building at 33 Hawley St. in Northampton, purchased in 2013 by Northampton Community Arts Trust, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve space for use by artists. It was conceived on the principle of a land trust, in which land is purchased with a particular intention, such as preservation.

“The arts trust’s mission is to preserve, in perpetuity, spaces for the use of arts,” said Penny Burke, executive director of the Center for the Arts, who has been involved in the development of the trust since its inception. “We need a multi-purpose, multi-functioning community place for the arts.”

The need for such a space became abundantly clear in 2013, when the nonprofit Center for the Arts lost its home of nearly 30 years at the former D.A. Sullivan School complex in downtown Northampton, after its non-renewable lease expired.

As Burke searched for new space that could accommodate the center’s programming of music, dance, theater, and visual arts — a process that took far longer than she had anticipated — she was forced to mothball much of its equipment and programming, and run the operation out of a small office on Strong Avenue, or, at times, from her home.

After a number of disappointing false starts, Burke said, the center entered into a collaborative search for space with interested city residents and other arts organizations, including Available Potential Enterprises, Ltd. (APE), which, in 2006, had moved out of its 10,000-square-foot home in Thornes Marketplace after the building was sold. APE has since relocated to a much smaller space on Main Street, which doesn’t accommodate many of the performances that had been a major part of its programming.

interiorstairs

The spacious interior of the new facility in Northampton provides ample space for artists.

The spacious interior of the new facility in Northampton provides ample space for artists.

“Our interest is not in occupying the space,” said Gordon Thorne, the founding director of APE, “but we want to have input into programming in the building. We were looking for a way to replicate what we had in Thornes, to replace our performance capacity. This is really completing that goal for us.”

Northampton has long had a reputation as a premier arts town. It is home to scores of visual and performing artists who have been flocking to the city since the mid-’70s, when an economic downturn resulted in storefront vacancies and cheap rent. That was like a siren call to artists, who typically have limited economic resources.

With the resulting influx of creative individuals, by the early 2000s, the arts had become integral to the personality, character, and economic health of the city. Not only has it been dubbed one of the best small arts towns in the country, it has also been named one of the nation’s top 25 arts destinations.

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner says artists need affordable space, and the new facility created by Northampton Community Arts provides it.

But all that has come at a price to the artists, says Richard Wagner, president of the Northampton Community Arts Trust’s volunteer board of directors. As the arts have helped propel the city’s renewed economic vibrancy, vacancies have been filled, and prices for space have exploded, leaving many of the artists to discover that they have unwittingly helped price themselves right out of their artistic homes.

“The end state of any creative economy is going to be where creativity has been pressed out of the market,” Wagner said. “Artists need space, and if you want to keep artists, if you want to keep the creativity, you’ve got to lock in affordability, or they go somewhere else. That’s what’s happening in Northampton.”

The Northampton Community Arts Trust aims to stem that tide.

Planning a Reboot

To be sure, Burke’s organization has not been dormant during the past four years, but programming has been minimal; she has continued to present the center’s annual chalk art, ice art, and en plein air painting festivals, as well as hosting Northampton’s First Night Celebration — a venture the center will turn over to the Northampton Arts Council this year after running it for 32 years.

Now, Burke says, she’s excited to have a home where she can reinstate the plethora of arts and community activities that have been the center’s hallmark. “It’s been a huge hole,” she noted.

The Center for the Arts will serve as an operational and managerial tenant of the Hawley Street building, and will facilitate much of the core programming. With that slated to begin right after Labor Day, Burke explained, she’s hustling to get her ducks in a row, reaching out to the center’s resident companies, including the Lisa Leizman Dance Co. and the Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra, and booking space for classes, rehearsals, and, eventually, performances. Other organizations are expected to follow the center into the space shortly, including Northampton Community TV, which will have an education and media center there.

We wanted to create a building with minimal operating expenses, where artists can actually afford to work, and that meant not borrowing money. I had the capital, so I paid it.”

The center’s move to Hawley Street is one step in a long journey that began in earnest with the $1.5 million purchase in 2013 of the former site of Northampton Lumber, a 25,000-square-foot building on 1.5 acres of land. Money for the purchase was initially raised through private donations and a short-term loan, but was ultimately paid in full by Thorne, who reimbursed the trust for the cost of the building.

“We wanted to create a building with minimal operating expenses, where artists can actually afford to work, and that meant not borrowing money,” Thorne said. “I had the capital, so I paid it.”

While some events were held in the building for several months after it was purchased, all that was put on hold in 2015, when construction began to build the trust’s dream home for the arts.

The $6.5 million project (which includes the purchase of the building) is being done in three phases, under the guidance of Thomas Douglas Architects. Phase one, with a cost of just over $1.86 million, is nearly complete, and has included an overall renovation of the building and indoor framing.

“We had to do basic development work because of the shape the building was in,” Wagner told BusinessWest. “We framed out the spaces, added an elevator … we took a beat-up box of a building and gave it a new skin.”

That work also included the addition of energy-efficient features, such as a highly insulated shell and roof, as well as a solar array, donated by Thorne, which should provide the building with essentially free electricity. “Our HVAC costs should be minimal,” Wagner said.

Phase 2 will be a complete build-out of the building’s interior, including a lobby and mezzanine, an 800-square-foot exhibit gallery, and space for performances, events, and workshops, as well as site work and landscaping. With an estimated cost of $2.5 million, that phase will have to wait while the trust secures further funding, but Burke and Wagner say they hope it will be completed by the end of 2018.

In the meantime, in order to accommodate an initial, limited public use of the building, the city awarded the trust a limited-occupancy permit to utilize space on the lower level of the two-story building, including a 1,200 square-foot multi-purpose studio for rehearsals, classes, and small performances, events, and meetings.

Burke has already booked some art classes and is working with local choreographer Kelly Silliman to create a dance program that will utilize a 900-square-foot dedicated dance studio that will be available for use on the upper level.

There will also be a series of outdoor events this summer, dubbed “Outside the Box,” that will feature film, music, and poetry presentations.

Looking Ahead

The current plan for phase 3 will be the creation of a 3,800-square-foot black-box theater on the lower level, capable of seating more than 200 patrons, as well as ancillary space, such as dressing rooms and a green room. That will be undertaken when the rest of the building is complete, Burke said, but only after members of the local theater community, including APE, have an opportunity to weigh in on its design.

We want to create a separate body of people who will take on the design and management of that space. We need to take into consideration not only technical aspects of theater, but to ask where that whole realm of creative work will be in the future.”

It’s a concept that still needs a lot of thought before a budget and timeline can be established, Thorne told BusinessWest.

“We want to create a separate body of people who will take on the design and management of that space,” he said. “We need to take into consideration not only technical aspects of theater, but to ask where that whole realm of creative work will be in the future.”

To date, the trust has raised roughly $4.38 million through gifts from individual donors, as well as government and institutional grants, including $50,000 from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, $35,000 from the Beveridge Family Foundation, $25,000 from C&S Wholesale Grocers, $180,000 from the state Executive Office for Administration and Finance, and $140,000 and $300,000 in separate grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The Center for the Arts contributed $400,000 — money that had been saved over the years from First Night revenue specifically to pay for a new home.

While what Wagner calls the “quiet” phase of the capital campaign continues, focusing on individual donors and other grant opportunities, he said a public capital campaign will be launched at a future date.

As those plans move ahead, Thorne said, it will be incumbent upon the trust to articulate its plans and its mission to the public. “We need to educate the community about what this is, our bigger mission.”

To that end, Wagner hopes the programming that will take place under the partial occupancy allowance will generate public awareness, and interest in supporting the space and the trust.

“One of the reasons we’re doing this is to get the building back into use,” he said. “We want to open it up to the public, so they can feel and taste the possibilities.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — SkinCatering has scheduled its grand opening D. Hotel & Suites for Tuesday, Aug. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and Pat Duffy, legislative aide to state Rep. Aaron Vega, will be in attendance for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to take place at 5:15 p.m.

The spa is located on the first floor of the hotel and features two massage rooms as well as separate spaces for manicures, pedicures, and facials. The location offers luxurious treatments as well as a selection of the high-end products currently developed and created through SkinCatering’s skin-care line.

The menu for the spa includes packages such as “Nature, to Nurture You” and “Farm to Facial.” These services utilize elements, plants, and other ingredients found locally and throughout Massachusetts. The spa has a modern New England farmhouse aesthetic, featuring neutral colors and reclaimed natural woods.

“I am very excited to provide now a health and wellness option at our Boutique Hotel,” said Linda Rosskothen, proprietor of D. Hotel & Suites. “The beauty and comfort of the spa offers locals and travelers a chance to enjoy our buildings. I am especially excited to see our guests combine their spa experience with their wedding plans, business-travel stay, exceptional dining, or just making it a special treat.”

Guests are welcome to begin booking services, as well as monthly membership packages. D. Hotel & Suites offers complimentary breakfast, access to conference and meeting spaces, and two on-site restaurants, as well as local shuttle services to wedding parties.

“The entire Delaney Log Cabin family has been very welcoming to us,” said Leanne Sedlak, chief visionary officer of SkinCatering. “We look forward to treating their guests and the local public to a wonderful spa experience with locally sourced and natural ingredients.”

Daily News

BLANDFORD — Members of the Springfield Ski Club voted Tuesday to advance serious discussions about selling the 132-acre Blindfold Ski Area property to Ski Butternut and its owner Jeff Murdock, the Republican reported. The price is still being negotiated, and no formal purchase-and-sale agreement is in place yet.

As part of the planned purchase, Murdoch intends to upgrade the snow-making and snow-grooming equipment at Blandford, which features 25 trails, three double chair lifts, and two lodges.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

By Kathleen Mellen

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz says the city has a solid foundation, but it is not about to rest on its laurels.

You could say Northampton has “good bones.”

Once dubbed “the paradise of America” by opera singer Jenny Lind, it is home to one of the nation’s premier colleges, it boasts a regional general hospital as well as one for military veterans, its population of nearly 30,000 is diverse and well-educated, its labor force is highly skilled and mostly employed, it has a crime rate that is lower than the state average, and it’s one of the hottest locales in the region for shopping, dining, and partaking of a multitude of performance and visual arts.

That’s a strong foundation, said Mayor David Narkewicz, that the city can seize upon to nurture and grow its economy. And, indeed, after weathering economic recessions and a housing bubble that burst, he noted, economic indicators, such as property taxes, meals-tax revenue, and the number of visitors to the city, show a sturdy economy.

But the city is not resting on its laurels.

One of its main engines for economic success, Narkewicz says, is its vibrant downtown area, home to an array of unique retailers, eclectic dining choices, and active arts organizations.

“The success of downtown businesses affects our property taxes and our tax base, which then affects the kinds of services we can provide, the schools we can provide. We all have an investment in it.”

The mayor said the city is making a number of strategic investments that take advantage of that strength.

Indeed, if you drive into Northampton from the south these days, you’re likely to join a long line of traffic as it makes its way slowly along Pleasant Street toward the city’s center. Think of it as a good thing.

The heavy traffic is the result of Northampton’s investment in its downtown infrastructure, which includes roadwork and utility upgrades. Funded by a $2.5 million MassWorks economic-development grant, the work is mainly in support of two housing developments that are going up on that street. The goal, said the city’s Economic Development director, Terry Masterson, is to make Pleasant Street an extension of Main Street and, in turn, to drive investment in that part of the city.

“If people see other people investing, they see the city investing, it creates a momentum,” he said.

The two housing developments are a 58,000-square-foot space at 155 Pleasant St., which will have 70 studio and one-bedroom apartments, as well as a 45,000-square-foot space at 256 Pleasant St., which will feature 55 living units. Both buildings will offer retail and office space, as well as a mix of market-rate and affordable housing. Narkewicz said centralized, affordable housing is an investment in the economic health of the city.

“We want to be a place where people of all income levels can live,” he noted, adding that many of the people who inhabit affordable housing are part of the city’s vital workforce. “That they can live and work in the same city is really important.”

What Makes Downtown Click?

Although its positive effects on downtown development might not be immediately evident, Narkewicz said the purchase in June of 114 acres on the outskirts of the city, which increases the amount of protected, open space to more than 25% of the city’s land, will not only bolster’s Northampton’s ongoing land-preservation and recreation programs, it will also help drive economic growth downtown.

“We want to concentrate development closer to the urban core where most people live,” he said. “So many studies show that one way to keep a downtown vibrant — to support small markets or small restaurants — is to have people living in it.”

The work along Pleasant Street will also include a small park, more parking spaces, and improved sidewalks and bike lanes.

“We’ve already created an incredible bike trail that runs through the city, which we know draws people here,” Narkewicz said. “Now the city is also looking at ways to become even more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, as a way to draw people into the downtown area.”

170 Pleasant St., erected in 2014.

One of the biggest boons to the city’s economy may well be the plan to expand the train platform at 170 Pleasant St., erected in 2014.

In order to improve the downtown district, Masterson said, it’s crucial to know what’s bringing folks in, and what keeps them coming back.

“We’re working on a complete list of every foot-traffic driver in the downtown area — hotels, train stations, arts and culture institutions, entertainment venues, special events, and regular events,” he said, which will be invaluable to the city in attracting new businesses. While the study is still ongoing, and under wraps for the time being, he says he already knows from past studies that the arts scene is a big downtown draw. For example, the Academy of Music, a live-performance, downtown venue, boasts 55,000 visitors and 116 performances a year.

“That’s like 1,000 people a week who are consistently coming into downtown,” Masterson said. “To know that you have a driver that’s bringing in people, that’s really, really impressive.”

Plans are now in the works to create an online map and calendar tool that will combine the activities of all the city’s arts organizations in one place, making it easier, Narkewicz said, for visitors to plan their outings. Beta testing is underway, and the calendar should be up and running later this summer. And, yes, there will be an app for that.

Coming Back for More

Finding ways to bring new business owners, residents, and guests to the downtown area, and keeping them happy while they’re there, is all part of the city’s master plan, Masterson said.

It’s no secret, for example, that parking in downtown Northampton can be a challenge, especially during the busiest hours. And how infuriating is it to run into a store to get change for a meter, only to return to find a ticket on your car?

That’s been taken care of, Narkewicz told BusinessWest. The city’s 25 parking kiosks were upgraded in late June with a pay-by-plate system that accepts credit cards as well as coins. So, instead of going to a kiosk, inserting money (assuming you have the correct change), then taking the ticket back to the car to be displayed on the dashboard, users can simply pay and be on their way.

Later this summer, there’ll be an app for that, too.

“These are the kinds of things people see when they go to other cities, the amenities people expect,” Narkewicz said. “It’s part of creating a customer-friendly environment for visitors.”

Another major development in downtown is the renovation of Pulaski Park in the heart of the city, which was completed last year and is already showing signs of stimulating a positive economic response; realtors and restaurateurs have told the mayor they have seen an uptick in foot traffic since the completion of the renovation.

“A realtor just sold a building across from Pulaski Park for $120,000 over asking price,” he said, adding that looking across the street at that scenic park, as opposed to what the grounds were like four years ago, made a huge difference.

Indeed, it’s crucial, Narkewicz said, for the city to maintain a clean, safe, well-lit, and attractive downtown, with prime spots like Pulaski Park; otherwise, its other efforts may be for naught.

Much of maintaining the welcoming downtown atmosphere is handled by the Downtown Northampton Assoc. (DNA), a voluntary organization open to property owners, businesses, and city residents, whose members work to improve the business and cultural strength of the downtown area through investments in programming, beautification, and advocacy.

It is associated with the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, and works in collaboration with the city, which employs a full-time worker who cleans and maintains public property in the downtown business district.

The DNA handles such things as city plantings and holiday lights, and sponsors events that bring visitors to downtown, like the first annual Holiday Stroll, held in December, which drew hundreds of visitors to Main Street for a host of family-friendly activities, even as the temperature dipped to 20 degrees. It was so popular that a Summer Stroll is planned for July.

“The Summer Stroll should be a lot warmer,” Narkewicz quipped.

Riding in on a Rail

One of the biggest boons to the city’s economy may well be the plan to expand the train platform at 170 Pleasant St., erected in 2014 when Amtrak added Northampton as a stop on its Vermonter line.

Northampton at a Glance

Year Incorporated: 1884
Population: 28,483
Area: 35.75 square miles
County: Hampshire
Residential Tax Rate: $16.69
Commercial Tax Rate: $16.69
Median Household Income: $59,274 (2015)
Type of government: Mayor; City Council
Largest Employers: Smith College; Cooley Dickinson Hospital; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System
* Latest information available

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack announced in June that her department will add to the existing, 46-foot-long boarding platform by next summer, extending it to a length of 120 feet — a response, Narkewicz said, to its use, which has exceeded all expectations. Projections had estimated that just over 10,000 passengers would use the platform in a year, but, according to the National Assoc. of Railroad Passengers, it was used by 17,197 passengers last year, making it the third-busiest stop on the Vermonter line.

The state has also agreed to a pilot program, scheduled for fall 2019, in which two morning trips and two afternoon trips will be added to Northampton’s train service.

The mayor said that activity will surely drive further growth in the city. “Having public transit that close to downtown — that’s critical.”

While the tax base is strong in Northampton, he told BusinessWest, the city’s two largest employers, Smith College and Cooley Dickinson Hospital, are nonprofit, and, therefore, tax-exempt, which has been a bone of contention.

“They consume, but don’t pay taxes for, city services,” said Narkewicz, who addressed the issue in 2015 with the institution of a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program, in which the nonprofits agree to pay a portion of what they would be taxed if their properties were taxable. As a result, both Smith and CDH made three-year commitments to make voluntary gifts to the city.

Smith has since made investments in projects around the city that support affordable housing, as well as in public-safety features along Elm Street, where the college is located. CDH continues to be an important partner with the city relative to public safety and public health, teaming up to work on such things as disease prevention and breast-cancer awareness. It is also a key partner on the county’s opioid task force, on which the city has taken a leading role.

“We’ve had some collaboration there,” Narkewicz said. “There’s still more discussion to have.”

The Flavor of Northampton

While Northampton’s economic picture is pretty rosy, the mayor noted, there are challenges, of course, including the plethora of Internet companies that are cutting into brick-and-mortar profits. But there are some things, he adds, that one can’t buy online, like Northampton’s unique flavor and one-of-a-kind products.

Narkewicz says he’s mindful of the degree to which the hard work and persistence of downtown business owners have contributed to the city’s overall economic success.

“I have incredible admiration and thankfulness for the work they do, the sacrifices they make,” he said. “People tell me they want their downtowns to be like Northampton. That’s very flattering, but we can’t lose track of the fact that we have to work consistently to maintain that and build on it. It is an important part of our economy, so we want to make sure it continues to be successful.”

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

the Morgan/Sullivan Bridge

A $31.5 million project to replace the Morgan/Sullivan Bridge would create a new and improved gateway into Agawam.

Richard Cohen is now halfway through his 16th year as mayor of Agawam — a tenure marked by four two-year terms, a two-year hiatus of sorts, and then four more terms. (And, yes, he’s seeking a ninth term this fall.)

For that duration, if you will, he’s been coping with many of the same issues impacting this community of roughly 29,000, which is technically a city (hence, it has a mayor), but in most ways considers itself a town. In fact, that’s the word you see over the front door of the municipal offices on Main Street, just a few hundred yards from where most of these ‘issues’ are clustered.

“These are complex matters … there are no easy answers, and that’s why we’ve been dealing with some of them for 15 to 20 years or more,” said the mayor, referring to concerns that include the Morgan/Sullivan Bridge over the Westfield River that forms a border with West Springfield and serves as the gateway in the community.

The bridge, built nearly 70 years ago, has long been inadequate to handle the traffic in that area — especially during the 17 days of the Big E each fall — and plans to replace it have been on the drawing board for years.

That list also includes what has long been known simply as the FoodMart Plaza, located just north of the bridge. FoodMart anchored the plaza more than a decade ago, but after it closed just after the start of this century, filling the retail area has been an ongoing challenge for the community. It also includes a stretch of road known as Walnut Street Extension (it borders the FoodMart Plaza), which is most often described with the words ‘old’ and ‘tired,’ which have been used, well, since Cohen first took office.

And there’s the so-called Lanes and Games property (on Walnut Street Extension), which has been long-closed, an eyesore, and a subject of considerable controversy for most of Cohen’s tenure in the corner office.

As he talked with BusinessWest recently, Cohen was still discussing these same issues, although, in many instances, he was relating what he considers progress and the sentiment that, sometime soon, some of these matters might just be addressed in the past tense.

This new bridge is something that’s long overdue and definitely needed. It’s going to be very complicated when it starts, but the end result will enhance all of the gateways to Agawam and West Springfield.”

Start with the bridge. Designs for a new span, complete with a unique, elevated pedestrian walkway and dedicated bicycle lanes, are now complete, said Cohen, adding that the project should go to bid in August, preliminary work will be underway later this year, and construction should begin in earnest nest spring.

Like most infrastructure projects of this type, this $31.5 million initiative, to be funded with state and federal dollars and undertaken in conjunction with West Springfield, will bring some inconveniences during what is projected to be a three-year construction period, said the mayor. But in the end, it will generate much smoother traffic flow and a far more appealing gateway to the city.

“This new bridge is something that’s long overdue and definitely needed,” he said. “It’s going to be very complicated when it starts, but the end result will enhance all of the gateways to Agawam and West Springfield.”

The FoodMart Plaza, meanwhile, has several new tenants (more on them later), and is bringing more people and vibrancy to the community, he said.

As for the Games & Lanes property, if you’re an optimist, there is some light at the end of the tunnel there. Property owner David Peter, president of Site Redevelopment Technologies, recently informed city officials that the site, long hamstrung by environmental issues in the form of groundwater contamination, is now clean and ready for reuse.

Whether the development community has any interest in the property in its current state remains to be seen, but if it doesn’t, Peter said, he will tear down the structure and then attempt to sell the land.

But for Walnut Street Extension as a whole, it’s more a case of going back to the drawing board.

Indeed, this spring, the City Council unanimously rejected a $5.3 million streetscape-improvement project for that area. Cohen then scaled the project back somewhat, with a $3.6 million initiative, but that, too, was rejected unanimously by the council.

Following these setbacks, Cohen created something called the business modernization advisory committee, which will conduct a needs assessment of the area just over the bridge, including Walnut Street Extension, Suffield Street, and Main Street, and recommend a course of action moving forward.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest looks at how this community is finally achieving some progress with some of its long-standing issues, but still has considerable work to do.

Coming to a Crossroads

In the run-up to the vote on the Walnut Street Extension plan, Cohen put the well-worn line from Field of Dreams — “If you build it, they will come” — to work as he made his case for the initiative and what it might mean for that area, which has a number of retail establishments, but bears a look from the ’60s or ’70s, not 2017.

And in voting it down, the council, and especially its president, James Cichetti, who is now a candidate for mayor, threw it right back at him.

“This is a great movie line, but really cannot be the basis of our capital planning, can it?” Cichetti wrote in his weekly Council Corner column as he criticized the mayor’s plan for being little more than cosmetic changes, with little, if anything, in it concerning business development or revitalization of the Games & Lanes property.

But Cohen, who chalked up the council’s votes to election-year politics more than anything else, has used that movie line often over the years, and he says there is ample evidence that it is more than catchy rhetoric.

gameslanes

Redevelopment of the Games & Lanes property, top, is considered one of the keys to revitalization of the Walnut Street Extension retail corridor, above.

Redevelopment of the Games & Lanes property, top, is considered one of the keys to revitalization of the Walnut Street Extension retail corridor, above.

Indeed, he cited examples ranging from several new parks and park-restoration efforts the city has undertaken, to the now much-more-crowded parking lot at the FoodMart Plaza, to a new laundromat that opened in a spot just over the Morgan/Sullivan Bridge once occupied by Dunkin’ Donuts. Called Stay & Play, the state-of-the-art facility features play areas for children (and adults) and other amenities, and has been a popular spot since it opened.

And then, there’s the pickleball facilities at Borgatti Field. The game, described as a cross between tennis, table tennis, and badminton, and played with a wooden paddle and a plastic Wiffle ball, has caught fire in Agawam, said the mayor, who told BusinessWest that he was one of many people who needed to be told what this game was and how it was played when the courts were first proposed, and now he gives tutorials to the curious.

“Those pickleball courts are so heavily used, I had some people in here the other day looking to add more courts,” he noted. “It’s huge … people are coming from all over to play here.”

Despite these examples of facilities and businesses being built and people coming to various destinations in Agawam, Walnut Street Extension, and especially the Games & Lanes property, remains a case that will test that theory.

As noted earlier, that area has been a thorny challenge since the start of this century. There are more than two dozen businesses in that area, but, as noted, the street has a dated look and feel to it and is sorely in need of a spark.

It could come in the form of redevelopment of the Games & Lanes property, which is ready for reuse (although that appears to be a daunting proposition) or complete redevelopment.

“The building itself is stable,” the mayor said of the Quonset hut-like structure. “The outer layers are greatly deteriorated, but the site itself is now clean — it’s a viable site for resale.”

Walnut Street Extension is one of the key focal points of the most recent strategic plan for the community, drafted in 2010, said Marc Strange, Agawam’s director of Planning & Community Development.

Its location, just over the bridge and off several major thoroughfares, makes it an obvious priority, he told BusinessWest, and a likely catalyst for further developments in the city.

“The architecture is old and disjointed, and the area needs to be freshened up,” he said, adding that the engineering firm Tighe & Bond was hired to come up with a streetscape plan — the one that was rejected by the City Council.

“This was a missed opportunity — I believe our plan would have greatly enhanced that area for the businesses there,” said Cohen. “But we’re not giving up.”

The mayor said he is optimistic that the business modernization advisory committee can create a game plan for that area that will win the City Council’s approval and, more importantly, achieve desired progress, especially with the new bridge and its capacity to make that section of Agawam more accessible.

Strange agreed. “There is great inertia in that area, with the bridge project, the Colvest Group’s investment in the city, and other initiatives,” he said. “And the business modernization committee has been charged with coming up with ways to capture that inertia, and we think there’s good stuff coming.”

Another priority identified by that strategic plan is still another stubborn issue within the community — development of a large parcel off Tennis Road just off Route 57.

Mayor Richard Cohen

Mayor Richard Cohen says Agawam is generating progress with many of the challenging issues that have dominated his 16-year tenure as mayor.

This matter actually pre-dates his tenure as mayor, said Cohen, adding that a high asking price on the part of the parcel’s owner and anxiety among voters concerning its best use have kept it from being developed.

However, there remains strong interest in the property, and there is potential for progress, said Strange.

“It’s a spectacular location for a regional destination,” he told BusinessWest, adding a broker is trying to identify big-box stores that may serve as anchors on the property.

Getting Down to Business

While the community grapples with larger issues such as the bridge, Walnut Street Extension, and Tennis Road, several smaller projects are in various stages of development, and together, they represent both progress and optimism within the community, said Cohen.

He started with that aforementioned new vibrancy in the FoodMart Plaza. There have been several recent additions, including Building 451, Macho Taco, Aquarius Hydroponics, and a cigar lounge and smoke shop, he said, adding that these new arrivals are bringing more traffic to the area and filling a parking lot that has been mostly empty in recent years.

“I drove by there recently on my way to the high-school graduation, and the parking lot was just humming with people; it was packed,” said Cohen, adding that the only vacancy of note (and a large one, to be sure) is the former satellite location of the Greater Springfield YMCA. He added quickly that there is considerable interest in that location, including a few pub-like establishments.

Meanwhile, there may be more new development in the area just over the bridge. The Colvest Group, which is developing a retail and office complex just a few miles east on Memorial Drive in West Springfield, has acquired a former motel on Suffield Street and some adjacent properties.

No plans have been announced, but Cohen noted that the company has a strong track record for developing successful retail and mixed-use properties (it already developed a CVS in Agawam), and there are hopes — and expectations — that the intersection just over the bridge will be the site of the next one.

Also, an already established, and growing, retail area — the intersection of Route 187 and Springfield Street, not far from where the multi-lane section of Route 57 ends — is due for a much-needed facelift.

The intersection will be expanded to accommodate more traffic and create better traffic flow, said Cohen, adding that the work is sorely needed and should help a number of new businesses in that area.

“This will be a monumental redesign of that whole intersection, with specified turn lanes, widening, and signalization improvements,” said the mayor, noting that, while Agawam and other communities will continue to advocate for the extension of Route 57 into Southwick (something they’ve done for 40 years now), they understand that such a project is a very long shot, and will continue to find ways to live with and improve the current infrastructure.

Other recent additions and improvements, including everything from an $8.1 million track and sports complex at Agawam High School to a new dog park to those pickleball courts, are making the community more livable and attractive to people of all ages, said Cohen.

As evidence, he cited the city’s recent designation as both an AARP-friendly community and a ‘dementia-friendly community.’

“I’m excited about where we are and we’re going,” said Cohen as he summed up matters in his town. “We have something for everyone.”

Bottom Line

Referring to his frequent use of that classic quote from Field of Dreams, Cohen said it’s much more than a line from a 30-year-old movie.

It’s a mindset of sorts, he said, and a roadmap for putting some issues that have been plaguing the community for decades into the realm of the past.

It’s already happened with several parks, the FoodMart Plaza, and even the new laundromat. And it can happen, he believes, with Walnut Street Extension, the Games & Lanes property, and the larger gateway to the city.

“‘If you build it, they will come’ — it’s not just a line from a movie, it’s a fact,” said the mayor, adding that he hopes to provide the City Council, and the community as whole, with much more evidence of that in the months and years to come.

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

 

Agawam at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1761
Population: 28,976 (2016)
Area: 24.2 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $16.18
Commercial Tax Rate: $29.98
Median Household Income: $63,682
Median Family Income: $72,258
Type of Government: Mayor, City Council
Largest Employers: OMG Inc., Agawam Public Schools, Six Flags New England
* Latest information available

Sections Tourism & Hospitality

The Sounds of Summer

By Kathleen Mellen

An architect’s rendering of the how the $31 million expansion project will change the landscape at Tanglewood.

An architect’s rendering of the how the $31 million expansion project will change the landscape at Tanglewood.

Audiences have flocked to the Berkshires for Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summertime concerts since 1936, when the musicians offered a three-concert series, under the baton of then-music director Serge Koussevitzky, in a large tent at Holmwood, a storied estate in Lenox.

That first series, which would ultimately morph into the world-renowned Tanglewood Music Festival, was attended by nearly 15,000 people.

Then, in 1937, when the festival presented its first concert at Tanglewood, a gift to the BSO from the Tappan family estate, it drew the largest crowd to ever assemble under a tent, for an all-Beethoven program.

And the love affair has continued.

Last year, 350,000 guests visited the venerable annual music festival in Lenox, which offers weekly summer concerts by the BSO, performances by the Boston Pops and Tanglewood Music Center orchestras, as well as a lineup of famed guest artists in classical, contemporary, and popular music. That number has grown significantly over the past decade, and has remained fairly constant for the past five years, or so, said Anthony Fogg, the BSO’s artistic administrator and director of Tanglewood.

“It is a reflection of increasing, renewed interest in the great music that we’re offering,” Fogg told BusinessWest.

In response to these growing demands, the BSO in February announced a $30 million expansion of its music festival’s facilities and 524 acres campus in Lenox. The new complex will include a state-of-the-art, four-building complex designed to support performance and rehearsal activities at the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC), and to serve as the home of the new Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI).

The new buildings will supplement the music festival’s main performance spaces — the 5,700-seat Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed, built in 1938, and the 1,200-seat Seiji Ozawa Hall, named for BSO’s former, long-time music director (1973-2002), built in 1984.

We see this as a way of increasing the flow of visitors to the Berkshires. It will be a beautiful facility, with acoustics of the first order, dining facilities, and the possibility for recording. I’m confident it’s going to be a very attractive venue, and we hope the community will embrace it.”

“We’re very much viewing this as a long-term investment in classical music as an art form, which is essential to our lives,” Fogg said in a recent interview.

The new building complex, scheduled to open in spring 2019, has been designed by William Rawn Associates, led by William Rawn and Cliff Gayley. It will be located at the top of the lawn leading down to Ozawa Hall, which was also designed by the architectural firm. The new facilities will be climate-controlled, which Fogg says will offer an opportunity for members of the larger community to use the space during the off-season, for such things as conferences, celebrations, and musical performances.

“We see this as a way of increasing the flow of visitors to the Berkshires,” he said. “It will be a beautiful facility, with acoustics of the first order, dining facilities, and the possibility for recording. I’m confident it’s going to be a very attractive venue, and we hope the community will embrace it.”

In Concert with the Environment

The expansion is part of a multi-year fund-raising effort, which has received donations from private and corporate donors, which Fogg declined to name at this time, saying Tanglewood will make a formal announcement about fund-raising sometime this summer.

To date, enough money has been raised to cover the cost of building the complex itself, but further funds will ensure there is a well-funded endowment to cover future operating expenses and programming, he noted, adding that the ultimate fund-raising goal is in the neighborhood of $40 million.

At the heart of the four-building project will be Studio 1, a 200-seat concert space designed with Tanglewood’s signature setting in mind. The festival’s iconic, 100-foot-tall red oak tree and the landscape beyond will be visible through a wall of glass that measures 30 feet high by 50 feet wide, and which will serve as an expansive backdrop to the stage. A 50-foot-wide retractable glass wall, also part of the design, will open directly out to a porch and the surroundings.

“We wanted to keep a sense of an easy relationship between the buildings and the landscape,” Fogg said. “We were very conscious of maintaining a feeling of openness and airiness. You can’t only hear some of the greatest musicians and some of the greatest music of all time, but you do it in this transparent atmosphere.”

Studios 2 and 3 will offer rehearsal and performance space for small and medium-sized ensembles, and can accommodate audiences of 60 and 40, respectively. For flexibility, Fogg said, all the spaces can quickly and easily convert from one use to another.

In addition, the buildings are designed to take advantage of new sound and recording technology, and “are wired to the maximum,” he said. “They are decked out to embrace whatever new technology comes along. There are very exciting possibilities.”

We have a situation where our fellows are really overcrowded and working in conditions which are not the most conducive to the best work. Ozawa Hall [where the fellows rehearse and perform] is probably the most-scheduled facility on the campus. It goes from 6 in the morning until 1 in the morning, and we found that fellows are starting dress rehearsals for upcoming concerts at 10 p.m. That’s not the right sort of working environment.”

A 150-seat café housed in the complex will become a hub for visitors, TMC fellows and faculty, TLI participants, and performing artists, and a place where visitors and musicians can interact.

Among the beneficiaries of the new space will be the Tanglewood Music Center, a world-renowned summer institute created in 1940 by Koussevitzky to further the tradition of classical music, and to serve as an American center for advanced musical study for young professional instrumentalists, singers, composers, and conductors. About 1,500 musicians compete annually for roughly 150 positions, and those who are accepted receive fellowships that cover tuition, room, and board. Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, and Sarah Caldwell were among its first students.

But, frankly, Fogg said, space has become a problem for the program and its participants.

“We have a situation where our fellows are really overcrowded and working in conditions which are not the most conducive to the best work,” he noted. “Ozawa Hall [where the fellows rehearse and perform] is probably the most-scheduled facility on the campus. It goes from 6 in the morning until 1 in the morning, and we found that fellows are starting dress rehearsals for upcoming concerts at 10 p.m. That’s not the right sort of working environment.”

The new facility will address those and other needs by providing significantly more rehearsal and performance space for the TMC, and will enhance, support, and streamline activities to assure that Tanglewood continues to attract the most competitive class of fellows.

Knowing the Score

The new complex will also be home to Tanglewood Learning Center, which will offer all-new programming designed to provide the festival’s patrons with an array of educational and enrichment experiences that encourage a closer connection between artists and audiences, including seminars and panel discussions, film presentations, conversations with artists, and access to special concerts and master classes.

“An artist can come here and not only have the opportunity to give a great performance, but also spend a couple of days talking about how they got to that point — about the work they are doing … the process of creation,” Fogg said. “Those sorts of insights into the way an artist thinks, I think, will be absolutely key.”

Special offerings will include a ‘passport program,’ which will allow subscribers access to BSO and TMC closed rehearsals, TMC master classes, and backstage visits with musicians, guest artists, and conductors, among other activities.

“This will be an opportunity for those who are already aficionados of classical music, who already have some knowledge, to deepen their knowledge,” Fogg said. “It’s also an opportunity for those who are a little on the outside, who may want to find out more about classical music — why it works, why it’s important, and how it fits into our lives.”

The new buildings will be the first year-round structures at Tanglewood, with both heating and air-conditioning, and have been designed with an eye toward sustainability.

An architect’s rendering of one of the new facilities at Tanglewood.

An architect’s rendering of one of the new facilities at Tanglewood.

“We’re looking for LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] status,” Fogg said, “and we believe we will be able to achieve Gold.”

To that end, natural ventilation and abundant day lighting are designed to minimize energy use. Other notable sustainable features include rainwater harvesting for irrigation; high-efficiency mechanical systems with low-velocity ductwork, meeting acoustic requirements; efficient LED theatrical lighting; water-saving plumbing fixtures; red-cedar cladding harvested from renewable sources; and recyclable zinc roofing.

“We have been extremely mindful of all of these things,” Fogg said. “We’re doing the best we can to achieve the highest standard of responsiveness to the environment, which is so important.”

In addition to the buildings, a new horticultural initiative, designed by landscape architects at Reed Hilderbrand, will revitalize and strengthen Tanglewood’s bucolic landscape, with the planting of 144 trees, improvements to stormwater-management systems and pedestrian walkways, and the restoration of views of the 372-acre Lake Mahkeenac, also known as the Stockbridge Bowl. A new horticultural-stewardship program will create and implement uniform strategies for documenting, maintaining, preserving, and enhancing Tanglewood’s horticultural assets.

“Tanglewood’s expansive setting is both a blessing and a curse,” Fogg said. “It offers the opportunity to do fantastic things, but it’s also a great responsibility … we’re taking this as an opportunity to see how we can find a unity of approach to the grounds.”

In Harmony with History

A groundbreaking ceremony will take place later this summer, at a date to be announced. Organizers hope Tanglewood luminaries will be on hand, and are in the process of trying to accommodate the hectic schedules of some of its artistic principals, including BSO’s music director, Andris Nelsons; Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart; and the Pops’ conductor laureate, John Williams.

“Their schedules are incredibly complicated,” Fogg said. “But, it [the groundbreaking] will be toward the end of the season. The construction company needs to start work absolutely as soon as the season finishes, to try to get as much done before the winter hits. They are optimistic, confident, that we can move toward an opening in spring of 2019.”

Thus begins the start of a new chapter in the history of one of the region’s great destinations — and a summer home for music lovers of all ages.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Crestview Country Club in Agawam will be the site of the 2017 Springfield Regional Chamber Golf Tournament on Thursday, July 20.

The club features an 18-hole championship golf course designed by renowned golf course architect Geoffrey Cornish, a graduate of UMass, and featuring panoramic views of the Pioneer Valley and the Connecticut River. It has played host to the PGA Tour Travelers Championship Open Qualifier in 2015, the CT Section PGA Championship, several U.S. Amateur qualifiers and, most notably, the LPGA Friendly’s Classic.

The tournament will kick off with registration and practice greens opening at 11 a.m. A course-side lunch, sponsored by the MassMutual Center, will be served from 11 until noon, with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. The day will conclude with a reception sponsored by Florence Bank, a buffet dinner, and an awards ceremony.

Golfers will enjoy a scramble format, hole-in-one contests, longest-drive and closest-to-the-pin competitions, a putting contest sponsored by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, and an opportunity to win a wide selection of raffle prizes, including tickets, gift baskets, and gift cards. Golfers will also have the chance to win the use of a fully stocked golf cart for the tournament, complete with snacks, cigars, additional raffle tickets, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and more.

Sponsorship levels for every budget are available, from the premier presenting-sponsor level to scorecard levels, which reward sponsors with their company name showcased on each printed golfer’s scorecard, to the budget-friendly tee-sponsor level.

The tournament entry fee is $600 per foursome (individual golfers are welcome at $150) and includes greens fees, cart, lunch, reception, and souvenir photo. Non-golfers may attend just the reception for $30 per person.

For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Jeff Lomma at [email protected] or (413) 755-1313. To register for the tournament, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or e-mail Jessica Hill at [email protected].

Cover Story

A World of Imagination

seusinterior

By Kathleen Mellen

It’s called the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, and that pretty much says it all. One of Springfield’s favorite sons, the good doctor actually created dozens of amazing worlds through his timeless books. The museum that opened on June 3 pays tribute to many of them, but also to the city that inspired Theodor Geisel to dream, create, and delight generations of children and adults.

 

There’s so much to tell, and so much to see,
Put your thinking cap on and let yourself be.
Amazed by the world of the good Dr. Seuss,
Keep your eyelids up, and your brainy cells loose.

From murals to statues to wordplay and more,
There are things to delight, and stories galore.
His table, his Emmys, and his bright pencils, too,
Are there to peruse in displays just for you.

It’s all on view now, in a museum, brand-new,
For kids of all ages, and, yes, parents, too.
It’s right here in Springfield, a real downtown treat,
And to think you can see it on old Edwards Street!

Eight years ago, the president of Springfield Museums, Kay Simpson, had the germ of an idea: Why not create a permanent, indoor display featuring the work of the wildly popular Dr. Seuss, author of 44 children’s books that have sold hundreds of millions of copies, and have been translated into more than 20 languages?

After all, the Museums already unveiled an outdoor exhibit in 2002, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, to honor the Springfield native, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. The sculptures — created by Seuss’ stepdaughter, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates — proved to be so popular, Simpson said, that they helped put the Museums on the map; all of a sudden, there were cars in the parking lot from states across the U.S.

“That was really exciting,” she recalled. “It increased our visitation and changed the demographics. It made us a national attraction.”

As popular as the sculpture garden proved to be, however, 80% of the visitors surveyed indicated they’d like to see an indoor exhibit as well, Simpson said. And she agreed.

Kay Simpson

Kay Simpson says the Dr. Seuss sculpture garden raised the profile of the Springfield Museums nationally, and a full museum dedicated to all things Geisel was the next logical step.

“We began our thinking about creating a museum based on the response we got from the sculpture garden,” Simpson told BusinessWest just days before the June 3 opening of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, as workers put the finishing touches on the museum — painting walls, waxing floors, and mounting displays. “People loved the sculptures, but everyone wanted an indoor museum experience.”

So, after eight years of planning, refurbishing the former Connecticut Valley Historical Museum (its holdings were moved to the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, also part of the Springfield Museums), fund-raising to the tune of nearly $7 million, and collaborating with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, artists, educators, and members of the Seuss family, the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss opened this month as a three-story, permanent homage to one of Springfield’s icons.

The museum was funded through contributions from area investors, including MassMutual, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, as well as through a capital campaign. To date, the museum has raised $6.5 million of its $7 million goal. It was designed by artist John Simpson, Kay’s husband, who teaches art at the Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst.

The first floor uses colorful, three-dimensional displays with interactive components to explore Geisel’s childhood in Springfield, as well as the characters and stories that sprang from his imagination.

Dr. Seuss’ most famous characters

Museum planners envisioned an educational experience populated with Dr. Seuss’ most famous characters.

The second floor features the collections of Geisel’s stepdaughters, Leagrey Dimond and Lake Grey Dimond-Cates, and Ted Owens, Geisel’s grandnephew, and is curated by the family members under the guidance of Springfield Museums Vice President Heather Haskell, and curatorial staff.

On the lower level is “Cat’s Corner,” a Dr. Seuss-themed educational space for ongoing art and literacy activities, overseen by a full-time Seuss educator.

In short, the world’s only museum dedicated to the life and work of Dr. Seuss is packed with wonders to discover.

Oh, the places he’d go! At life he was winning.
His birthplace in Springfield was just the beginning.
There were points to be scored. There were games to be won.
And now he’s our fair city’s favorite son.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in 1904 on Howard Street in Springfield’s South End, the grandson of Theodor Geisel, a German immigrant who owned Springfield Brewing Co., and his wife, Christine, and George and Margaretha Seuss, also immigrants from Germany, who ran a bakery on Howard Street, where Ted’s mother, Henrietta, worked.

Ted’s father, Theodor Robert Geisel, was the superintendent of Forest Park, including the zoo, and when Ted was 2, the family moved to a three-story house at 74 Fairfield St. in the Forest Park neighborhood; he lived there until 1921, when he left to attend Dartmouth College.

“We were interested, from the beginning, in really telling the Springfield story. Ted Geisel grew up in this city, spent his boyhood here. That was something Springfield could be proud of.”

The young Geisel visited the zoo often, sometimes bringing along a sketchbook in which to draw fantastical versions of the animals he saw there (his sister Marnie teased her brother because his animal drawings had “mismatched features and were curiously exaggerated,” according to the museum’s website), some of which might well have inspired the illustrations in his 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo.

“We were interested, from the beginning, in really telling the Springfield story,” Simpson said. “Ted Geisel grew up in this city, spent his boyhood here. That was something Springfield could be proud of.”

Indeed, many of the exhibits refer to what Simpson calls “the Springfield Cycle” — books that were inspired by the sights and sounds of the city. Geisel’s first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), is based on a real street in Springfield: beer trucks used to barrel along it on their way to his grandfather’s brewery. The heavily traveled road was part of Ted’s stomping grounds, Simpson said, and might have inspired the young dreamer to imagine the likes of a “gold and blue chariot … rumbling like thunder down Mulberry Street.”

Geisel was also inspired by some of the more dramatic buildings in Springfield, like the Howard Street Armory, which resembles a castle, and the Barney Mausoleum in Forest Park, replete with its sphinxes and winding staircases, both of which show up in fantastical form in books like The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938).

“He said that growing up in Springfield had an imprint on him and his creative imagination,” Simpson said.  “He drew his impressions from growing up in a city with a lot of industrial buildings, and Victorian and post-Victorian monuments.”

If the sun starts to shine, or rain’s on the way,
The brand-new museum’s a good place to play.
It’s great to be there. You will like it a lot,
If the outside is cold, or exceedingly hot.

With its vibrant primary colors and murals depicting scenes from And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and The Cat in the Hat, the entryway sets the stage for this museum about all things Seuss. There to greet visitors just inside the front door is a life-size policeman from Mulberry Street, uniformed in bright blue, sitting astride his motorcycle, perhaps modeled on Springfield’s own Indian brand. Emblazoned on his cap are the words “Police 304, Springfield, Massachusetts.”

Kids are invited to crawl aboard. In fact, every Seussian structure in the museum, like the seven-humped Wump of Gump from 1960’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, for example, was fabricated by Symmetry International Inc. in Rhode Island, using a special foam that has been treated for strength and resilience, and is virtually indestructible. “Kids can touch them all,” said museum spokeswoman Karen Fisk. “We can just wash them at the end of the day.”

Other first-floor exhibits include Young Ted in Springfield, which features a replica of the author’s childhood home, where visitors can use a touchscreen to “draw” on the bedroom wall, as Ted famously did as a child. In the Seuss Bakery, tiny visitors can pretend to bake their own pies; at McElligot’s Pool, inspired by the 1947 book by that name, they can play a digital fishing game; and in the Moose Juice and Goose Juice Factory, with its whimsical piping and artisan glasswork, they’ll explore gears and gadgets. In a replica of the Forest Park Zoo, children are invited to construct their own fantastical creatures using Lego blocks, as Seuss’ characters from the fictional McGrew Zoo peek at them from the windows.

The sculptures inside the museum

The sculptures inside the museum are crafted from a virtually indestructible foam substance, so kids can feel free to handle and climb on them.

Also on the first floor is Readingville, devoted to developing reading skills through rhyming, the alphabet, and story games.

“We really tie the museum to literacy,” Simpson said. “Readingville is an homage to all those books he wrote that were about getting kids excited to read. Starting with The Cat in the Hat, he’s using limited vocabulary, rhymes. He’s connecting letters and words with illustrations in a way that helps kids to understand the association between pictures and the words and letters. He’s making reading fun; that’s really what it’s all about.”

From the inception, Simpson said, the museum has worked closely on the content and design of the reading-related exhibits with the Davis Foundation, whose “Read! Reading Success by 4th Grade” initiative promotes literacy in schools in Hampden County, as well as with reading specialists from Springfield schools and experts from Square One, which provides early-childhood education and support services in Springfield and Holyoke.

“We feel that’s especially important for the city of Springfield, where children have a demonstrated challenge with reading,” she said. “We want to help kids overcome that struggle and to become proficient readers, because it’s so important for them in terms of their own achievement, and for the future of Springfield.”

Related exhibits include the museum’s ABC Wall, an interactive, larger-than-life version of Dr. Seuss’s ABC (1963); when children touch a letter, they will hear its phonetic sound, and related artwork from the book will appear on the wall. In Green Eggs and Ham WordPlay, children enter the railroad cave from Green Eggs and Ham (1960) to find word-game stations, based on the rhyming vocabulary of the story. (Think: “I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere.”)

Treasures await on the second floor as well, where memorabilia, gifted to the museum by Geisel’s stepdaughters and grandnephew, are on display, including items that have never been displayed publicly, like the quirky, illustrated notes Geisel wrote to his stepdaughters, whom he nicknamed Snunny and La Groo.

Visitors can imagine the beloved author at work in his studio, recreated here with his drawing table and chair, and the red rotary telephone he used to talk daily to his publisher, Random House, in New York City.

“We even have colored pencils he actually used,” Simpson said. “When I walk in here, it sends a shiver down my spine.”

Next door, guests will see living-room furniture from Geisel’s home in La Jolla, California, where he lived for many years until his death in 1991. Displayed alongside a collection of his books and fanciful hats are his two Emmy Awards (for Halloween Is Grinch Night in 1978 and The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat in 1982) — just a couple of the many honors bestowed upon him, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for his lifetime contribution to children’s literature.

Don’t sit in the house and do nothing at all.
It’s open in winter, spring, summer, and fall.
So pack up the kids if it’s rainy or sunny.
To the museum you’ll go, for fun that is funny!

Springfield’s leaders welcomed the opening of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss with much fanfare. On May 30, Mayor Domenic Sarno read a proclamation on the steps of City Hall, declaring it Dr. Seuss Week, and the museum’s opening was heralded with a parade, called Cavalcade of Conveyances, down Mulberry Street.

Now open to the public, the museum is part of the seven-acre Springfield Museums complex at 21 Edwards St. in Springfield, which also includes the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Springfield Science Museum, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. One admission offers visitors access to all the sites. The cost is $25 for adults, $16.50 for students and seniors, $13 for ages 3 to 17, and free for children under 3.

“As a museum, we want to celebrate the artistic and literary achievements of Theodor Geisel, but we really want people to come and have a great time,” Simpson said. “It’s a joy to share all of this with our visitors.”

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

 

Doug Stefancik

Doug Stefancik says Ludlow’s status as a safe, clean, middle-income community makes it an attractive spot to live or do business.

When it comes to economic development in Ludlow, the sprawling project known as Ludlow Mills has been the lead story for several years. But it’s far from the only story, Douglas Stefancik said.

“We do need economic development, and we take it seriously,” said Ludlow’s town planner. “We look to businesses for tax revenue and jobs. And anytime we can get a new business in town, it enhances the entire area.”

A good deal of that movement has occurred at Ludlow Mills since Westmass Area Development Corp. purchased the site six years ago. Since that time, it has attracted $127 million in public and private investment.

The State Street property encompass a sprawling complex of more than 60 buildings set on 170 acres, and Westmass predicts that, over the next 15 years, more than 2,000 new jobs will be created and retained there, and more than $300 million will be spent in private investments.

The majority of buildings that make up the heart of Ludlow Mills were built between the 1870s and 1920s by Ludlow Manufacturing and Sales Co. From the 1860s through the 1970s, it made cloth, rope, and twine out of Indian-grown jute, flax, and hemp, employing about 4,000 people in its heyday.

Today, the complex is a growing mixed-use complex and home to many small businesses, including Iron Duke Brewery, which opened in a 3,000-square-foot space in December 2014, including a taproom that draws big crowds to the site.

But the jewel so far is HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts, which opened a $28 million acute-care facility on the grounds four years ago, marking the beginning of the revitalization of the largest brownfield mill-redevelopment project in New England, and keeping 75 to 100 jobs in Ludlow.

On the heels of that project, WinnDevelopment, which specializes in housing and mill redevelopment, is in the final stages of a $24.5 million adaptive reuse of Mill 10 that will include 75 apartments for seniors, most subsidized but a few market-rate. Winn is also working on a $60 million conversion of Mill 8, which features the town’s iconic clock tower to a mixed-use complex of market-rate apartments with commercial, retail, and office space on the first floor.

“Winn has been first-class professionals all the way,” Stefancik said. “We’re excited about what they’ve done with Mill 10 and what we expect them to do with Mill 8.

“We’re also finishing up a riverwalk project, with public-safety improvements, lighting, trash receptacles, historical and interpretive signage, and benches,” he went on, describing a project that has drawn well over $1 million in funding to date. “Having walked it a few times, it’s fantastic. Overall, we continue to see the evolution down there. It’s a 20-year project, and we’ll continue to see development happen in phases.”

On the Rise

Nearby, the East Street corridor has been attracting more small restaurants, mom-and-pop shops, and convenience stores. Long a fertile ground for insurance agencies, banks, hair salons, bakeries, and other small businesses, “there’s a good, healthy mix there,” Stefancik said. “We just had a lady open a cupcake bakery down in that area, and someone is looking to open a yogurt shop. We continually have interest in the storefront businesses down there.”

He said business activity has been healthy, with 33 changes of occupancy in 2016, following 37 in 2015. “We see a good amount of businesses coming in,” he noted, before taking a stab at explaining why.

“I think we’re a classic middle-income community that’s safe and clean,” he said, adding, “the process for going through permitting is simple. The permitting on the mill site is more of an expedited permit, and we have similar processes and procedures for other types of businesses.”

That’s true, he said, for both a change in ownership in a small, storefront business or a new build from the ground up. “The Planning Board has been good about working with developers to make sure the plans are as close to approvable as possible when they come before them. And I don’t think our rules and regulations make people jump through hoops; I think they’re straightforward and fair.”

Stefancik said Ludlow also approves many special permits for home-based businesses, 18 last year. “These can be anything from a landscaper to someone doing an Internet business.”

Ludlow Mills

WinnDevelopment plans to turn Mill 8 at the Ludlow Mills into a bustling mixed-use complex.

But they’re less visible than storefront businesses that continue to proliferate, such as recent East Street additions like Corner Café, BlueWater Sushi, Casa Pizzeria, Family Pawn, and Treasures of the World.

Meanwhile, the Planning Board recently approved the town’s third solar array, a 1.8-MW installation owned by Eversource on Chapin Street. That joins a town-owned, 2.6-MW photovoltaic system on a capped landfill on Holyoke Street, and a privately owned, 3.8-MW installation on Center Street.

Residential development has been steady as well, with a 13-lot subdivision on Maria’s Way, a 20-lot project on Cislak Drive, and a 35-lot subdivision at Parker Lane Extension. Meanwhile, HAPHousing is planning a 40-unit affordable-housing project on Fuller Street that has run into neighborhood opposition, but is moving through the approval process.

Out and About

Recreation is typically the third pillar of a healthy community, and Ludlow planners have their eyes on a few projects, like a dog park at Camp White on the north side of town.

“The dog park committee has finalized a design for the plan with Berkshire Design Group,” Stefancik said. “It’s one of these amenities that people in town have been asking for. So we researched our area, and Camp White allows passive recreation. A lot of other parks in town are filled to capacity with sports fields, so it’s hard to fit something like that in. For a dog park, we’re looking at one or two acres, if not more.”

The town also continues to look for open space to develop a new complex of sports fields, and is exploring the construction of a new elementary school to replace Chapin Street Elementary and also possibly Veterans Park School. For the older set, a committee is studying the potential for a brand-new senior center or retrofitting the existing center on Chestnut Street.

Finally, Ludlow officials are finalizing the design of a reconstruction of Route 21, Center Street, though the center of town, from Beachside Drive to Sewall Street. “There will be a turning lane in the middle, and pedestrian improvement, with sidewalks where there are none now,” he said. “The end result will be a big improvement to that area.”

Improvement is the name of the game for the Planning Department in any town, and Stefancik says Ludlow has plenty of reason for optimism.

“A lot of good things are going on,” he told BusinessWest. “We’re excited about the momentum, especially with the Ludlow Mills project and the impact that will have on the whole community.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

 

Ludlow at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1774
Population: 21,103 (2010)
Area: 28.2 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $18.13
Commercial Tax Rate: $18.13
Median Household Income: $53,244
MEDIAN FAMILY Income: $67,797
Type of Government: Town Council; Representative Town Meeting
Largest Employers: Hampden County House of Correction; Massachusetts Air National Guard; Kleeberg Sheet Metal Inc.; R&C Floral Inc.
* Latest information available

 

 

Company Notebook Departments

Berkshire Bank to Move HQ to Boston, Acquire Commerce Bank

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp, parent of Berkshire Bank, announced today that it plans to relocate its corporate headquarters to Boston later this year, a move to support the bank’s continued strategic growth throughout the Northeast. The company also announced a definitive agreement to acquire Commerce Bancshares Corp. and its subsidiary, Commerce Bank, in Worcester, adding 16 new branches in Eastern Mass. and a well-established commercial team to capitalize on growth opportunities and further solidify its regional presence. The combined institution will be the largest regional bank in Massachusetts and the first regional bank headquartered in Boston in decades.  “Locating our corporate headquarters in Boston will not take us away from our roots in Berkshire County; we remain committed to all of our employees, customers, and communities,” said Michael Daly, CEO of Berkshire Bank. “Boston will offer our senior executives connectivity with government leaders, regulators, and decision makers, and provide the ability to attract broader workforce talent as the bank continues to grow. With the addition of the Commerce team, we will be able to leverage the strengths of both banks and capitalize on growth opportunities in the attractive, high-growth Eastern Massachusetts markets. This is not only important to Boston, but to all our local markets, to be the first regional bank with a Boston headquarters in decades.” The proposed acquisition provides significant scale in Eastern Mass. The combined franchise will operate its corporate headquarters, four branches, and three lending offices in Greater Boston, and an additional 15 branches in and around Worcester, with $3 billion in loans and $2 billion in deposits. On completion of the deal, Berkshire Bank will have 113 branches serving customers across the Northeast. Berkshire is committed to growing its operating model, levering its platforms such as the MyBanker concierge banking service, and expects commercial, wealth-management, and private-banking businesses to be focuses of its strategy in Greater Boston. Berkshire Bank’s operational center will remain in downtown Pittsfield, and the relocation will not have any impact on its employees. Additionally, its current regional hubs serving markets in New York’s Capital and Central regions, the Hartford/Springfield region, Southern Vermont, as well as operations around Princeton, N.J., will continue to be significant contributors. “Relocating our corporate headquarters to Boston’s financial district is a well-timed move that will make us stronger by driving value and adding jobs that will benefit our employees and customers across our footprint,” said Sean Gray, chief operating officer. “As a successful regional bank, having our headquarters in a strong hub for the financial-services industry provides economic value and takes advantage of the largest New England market to fuel growth and increase our ability capitalize on our investment in all of our communities.”

UMass Center to Offer Spanish Course for Healthcare Professionals

SPRINGFIELD — A new course coming this fall to the UMass Center at Springfield will help healthcare professionals enhance their language skills. “Spanish for Healthcare Professions” will be offered at the center beginning in September. “We have a significant Latino population in Western Massachusetts, and it’s essential that healthcare professionals be able to communicate with these residents,” said Daniel Montagna, director of Operations at the UMass Center. “Through a collaboration with the UMass Amherst Spanish and Portuguese program, we’re hoping to offer this as well as other healthcare and business language courses at the center in the future.” The course is designed to meet the needs of healthcare professionals who wish to increase fluency in Spanish through written and oral practices. The class is aimed at students with an intermediate level of Spanish (the equivalent of four or five semesters of college Spanish or of four years of high-school Spanish). Heritage speakers who can communicate in Spanish but want to develop a knowledge of the professional terminology of the health professions may also benefit from the class.

Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys & Girls Club Wins Award

LUDLOW — The Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys & Girls Club was recently presented with Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s prestigious MAC (Marketing and Communications) Award for Advertising at the National Conference in Dallas. Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s MAC Awards recognize Boys & Girls Clubs that have demonstrated significant achievements in the field of marketing and communications. The Ludlow Community Center/Randall Boys & Girls Club was selected among thousands of clubs across the country for implementing the best marketing strategy for advertising. The club’s board of directors was actively engaged in developing and updating the club’s marketing and advertising materials since 2016. Board members were supported in the process by several entities, including Envisions Marketing, Off the Tusk, Ludlow Cable Access TV, and volunteers who served on the club’s marketing & communications, auction, and Fall Fest committees. The board of directors actively engaged these partners to develop and update the club’s website, Facebook page, and annual report, and create new videos, mission boards, and marketing materials. The goal was to produce quality marketing materials consistent with a theme that would be used going forward in all print, marketing, and social-media materials used by the club, including special events, the annual auction, and Fall Fest. Throughout the process, the focus was that these marketing materials center on the youth the club helps on a daily basis and its impact on them and their families.

Tru by Hilton Breaks Ground in Chicopee

CHICOPEE — Hilton recently broke ground on a new Tru by Hilton property located in Chicopee. The celebration marked the first groundbreaking of the company’s Tru by Hilton in Massachusetts. Attendees, numbering about 150, included a roster of dignitaries and executives who were instrumental in pushing the project forward, including state Sen. James Welch; state Reps. Michael Finn, Joseph Wagner, and Angelo Puppolo; and Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. The 108-room, four-story hotel is located at 440 Memorial Dr. and is owned by BK Investments. It is expected to be completed in May 2018. “Tru is a game-changing brand, as evidenced by its statement-making entrance to the midscale category and now the Chicopee market,” said Alexandra Jaritz, global head of Tru by Hilton. “We know the brand will have broad appeal to Springfield-area travelers who span generations but share a similar ‘zest for life’ mindset. At its core, Tru is value-engineered to provide guests with a contemporary, consistent, and fresh experience in an affordable way, while at the same time being operationally efficient to our owners.” Added owner and developer Hershal Patel, “today’s groundbreaking in Chicopee demonstrates Hilton’s commitment to this new brand and, importantly, its owners. Tru fills a void in the midscale category, and we’re delighted to bring this exciting new Hilton brand to life. It will add to the offerings in Chicopee and provide a new option for travelers who believe that being cost-conscious and having a great stay don’t have to be mutually exclusive.” This project will mark BK Investments’ third project in Chicopee, following the 90-room Hampton Inn and the 115-room Residence Inn Chicopee.

Bacon Wilson Opens New Northampton Office

NORTHAMPTON — Bacon Wilson announced the opening of a new facility at 57 Center St. in downtown Northampton. On May 24, the firm welcomed clients, neighbors, and friends to a grand-opening reception. Also present was Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who officiated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Bacon Wilson’s newly renovated, state-of-the-art office space at 57 Center St. features several striking design elements, including lots of natural light, an enclosed interior courtyard, and soaring ceilings. The main conference room has been christened the Fogel Room, in tribute to former partner Bruce Fogel, who passed away last year. Bacon Wilson has had a long-time presence in Hampshire County. The firm’s first Northampton office space opened in 2001, and expanded significantly with the 2005 acquisition of Morse & Sacks. In 2006, a merge with Monsein & MacConnell brought Bacon Wilson to the Amherst community. Earlier this year, the firm added another new location, on Russell Street in Hadley. The current move to 57 Center St. brings Bacon Wilson even closer to the heart of downtown Northampton, and reaffirms the firm’s commitment to the local Northampton community, and to the entire Pioneer Valley.

Mary Ann’s Dance and More to Relocate

EASTHAMPTON — Mary Ann’s Dance and More, a local dance apparel store, announced it will move to its new home on Route 10 in Easthampton on July 1. Mary Ann’s Dance and More will move to 396 Main St., the former home of Fit Body. The location offers easier parking, a more friendly shopping experience, better accessibility, and the ability to host more in-store events. Open since 2007, Mary Ann’s Dance and More offers customers dance supplies, including apparel and accessories, as well as novelty and gift items. An active business in the community, the store is recognized as a consistent sponsor of various local organizations. It was featured in Dance Retailer News as a “Retailer Spotlight,” twice on Mass Appeal on WWLP, and most recently in “Lifestyle/Balance Act” in Retail Minded.

Springfield College Career Center Wins Award

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Career Center has been named the winner of the 2017 Innovation in Program Development Award by the Eastern Assoc. of Colleges and Employers (EACE). Springfield College was chosen for its Peer Referral Program, which rewards students who are engaged with the Career Center, for serving as brand ambassadors and referring their peers. “I am exceptionally proud of the Springfield College Career Center for receiving this well-deserved recognition by EACE,” said Shannon Finning, Springfield College’s vice president for Student Affairs. “While our staff have always done and continue to do exceptional work with students who find their way to the Career Center, I am most proud of the fact that Career Center staff members are now engaging undergraduate student leaders as peer career mentors. The Peer Referral Program emerged from the partnership between our student leaders and the Career Center staff.” Finning noted that 150 new students were referred to the center this year, and now these students will also refer their peers. “I am excited by the continued innovation and evolution in the Career Center and know we will continue to well-serve our students, employers, faculty, alumni, and partners better each and every year by staying so closely connected and attuned to our student body.” By capitalizing on the idea that word of mouth and viral marketing are the best strategy for reaching this underserved demographic, the program accomplished its goals through an approach that includes utilizing two students as paid peer career ambassadors to hype services and events, rewarding engaged students for referring their friends and classmates, facilitating a raffle for first-time users, launching a T-shirt campaign, and implementing a Refer-a-Peer Day event. “We credit our wonderfully engaged Springfield College students for partaking in this exciting career-development initiative and for making the Peer Referral Program the great success it has become,” said Career Center Interim Director Scott Dranka. “From the launch of the Peer Referral program this semester, the Career Center counselors have been afforded the opportunity to work alongside newly referred students on their career-related endeavors.”

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — Bacon Wilson announced the opening of a new facility at 57 Center St. in downtown Northampton. On May 24, the firm welcomed clients, neighbors, and friends to a grand-opening reception. Also present was Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who officiated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Bacon Wilson’s newly renovated, state-of-the-art office space at 57 Center St. features several striking design elements, including lots of natural light, an enclosed interior courtyard, and soaring ceilings. The main conference room has been christened the Fogel Room, in tribute to former partner Bruce Fogel, who passed away last year.

Bacon Wilson has had a long-time presence in Hampshire County. The firm’s first Northampton office space opened in 2001, and expanded significantly with the 2005 acquisition of Morse & Sacks. In 2006, a merge with Monsein & MacConnell brought Bacon Wilson to the Amherst community. Earlier this year, the firm added another new location, on Russell Street in Hadley. The current move to 57 Center St. brings Bacon Wilson even closer to the heart of downtown Northampton, and reaffirms the firm’s commitment to the local Northampton community, and to the entire Pioneer Valley.

Education Sections

Down to a Science Center

Marcia Scanlon says the numerous simulators in the new Science and Innovation Center provide unique, hands-on learning experiences.

Marcia Scanlon says the numerous simulators in the new Science and Innovation Center provide unique, hands-on learning experiences.

John McDonald hit the pause button ever so briefly in his conversation with BusinessWest and went to the window.

He then scanned the parking lot for his pick-up truck, found it, and gestured toward it. “There … that was our other lab space — my truck,” said McDonald, an assistant professor in the Environmental Science Department at Westfield State University. “Occasionally, we’d have field labs, such as animal necropsies, and we’d have to do those on the back of the truck, parked next to Route 20. We had zero functional lab space.”

The window he pointed from is one of many in the spacious classroom/lab area dedicated to Environmental Science at the Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science and Innovation Center at WSU, which opened last fall and was officially dedicated earlier this month.

The space represents everything this department didn’t have before — especially ample room and modern facilities such as a wet lab complete with drains in the floor. And while this department represents perhaps the most dramatic ‘before-and-after,’ ‘night-and-day’ scenario when it comes to the new building, there are many such stories to be told here.

Like the one the Department of Nursing and Allied Health can tell.

Marcia Scanlon, chair of that department, said that, prior to the opening of the new center, the Nursing Department made do with some classroom space on campus and, for hands-on skills work, a room with three hospital beds and two simulators in what amounted to rented space at Baystate Noble Hospital, about a mile from the campus.

Now, Nursing has a spacious suite of facilities in the 54,000-square-foot facility, including three simulation rooms, an eight-bed health-assessment room, an eight-bed nursing-skills lab, two control rooms, four high-fidelity mannequins, and 12 additional low- and mid-fidelity mannequins representing adults, children, infants, and newborns.

All this represents quite an upgrade, not just in space and convenience (students no longer have to make their way to Baystate Noble), but in overall learning opportunities, said Scanlon.

“By having all this on campus in this center, that gives students better access,” Scanlon explained. “It gives them better visibility, better access, and more opportunities to come for extra help if they need it.”

Jennifer Hanselman, professor and chair of the Biology Department, and Christopher Masi, chair of the Department of Physical and Chemical Sciences, told somewhat similar stories.

The 54,000-square-foot Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science and Innovation Center.

The 54,000-square-foot Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science and Innovation Center.

They, like Scanlon and McDonald, said a tremendous amount of research and input gathering, including visits to many other health and science centers in this region, were undertaken before the architects and construction crews went to work.

“We affiliated very closely with Springfield Technical Community College, which is a renowned simulation center for its Nursing and Allied Health,” said Scanlon, as she discussed just one example of this process. “We went and toured there to look at their technology and their equipment, and how they integrate it  — how often do they bring students to use it, and how do they use it? We made several trips there, and they actually came here, put hard hats on, and walked through our space to give us advice.”

Those exercises have yielded a facility that takes WSU to a new, much higher level in terms of its facilities, learning opportunities, and ability to recruit top students.

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest went inside the new science center to get a feel for what it means to those departments now housed there, and the university itself.

Grade Expectations

As WSU cut the ribbon on the new center on May 5, a good amount of time was spent explaining just who Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens was. And such a discourse was needed, because most in attendance — not to mention the students now doing work in the facility — don’t know the story.

And they should.

Stevens completed four years of coursework at what was known then as the Westfield Normal School in only two years. In 1905, she published a series of papers in which she demonstrated that the sex of an offspring is determined by the chromosomes it inherits from its parents. Her discovery had an immeasurable impact on science and society; however, despite the significance of her work, Stevens’ notoriety went unheralded even as her male colleagues received recognition.

It is fitting, then, that the school named the center after her, said speakers at the ribbon cutting, especially in light of the role the facility will play in advancing a statewide strategy in promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, especially with women.

At WSU, women comprise 51% of the student population, said a spokesperson for the university, and within the school’s STEM majors, there has been 69% growth in male majors and an impressive 109% increase in female majors over the past 10 years. (Nationally, only 29% of the science and engineering workforce is female.)

The new science and innovation center should only help improve upon those numbers, said the educators who spoke with BusinessWest, noting that the facility features state-of-the-art facilities and interactive classrooms, with an emphasis on collaborative learning.

Jennifer Hanselman says the new biology facilities in the Science and Innovation Center provide educators with better opportunities to work with students and develop their skills.

Jennifer Hanselman says the new biology facilities in the Science and Innovation Center provide educators with better opportunities to work with students and develop their skills.

Translation: the Environmental Science Department has come a very long way from the back of John McDonald’s pickup truck. And the same can be said for the other departments that now call the center home.

Elaborating, McDonald said his department had a small classroom in Wilson Hall, where most science programs were housed, some counter space and cabinets, and “a hood that didn’t work and a walk-in freezer that didn’t work, and no workspace other than a collecting hallway to another classroom that was about 10 feet long.

“It was pretty meager,” he went on, adding that environmental science is a relatively new major, one that now has considerable space in which to grow.

“Getting this room, and the adjacent workroom and storeroom with a working walk-in freezer, has been a huge boon to what we’re able to do with our students,” he said of the large space now occupied by his department. “The space doubles as a teaching classroom, but we can get it as dirty as we want with soil samples, water samples, or wildlife samples.”

Meanwhile, the Nursing Department has undergone a similarly dramatic transformation through its new facilities.

Indeed, as she offered a tour of the suite, Scanlon showed off a host of amenities that were just not available to students at Baystate Noble.

These include the wide array of simulators, representing everything from newborns to a pregnant women to a senior citizen, complete with a hearing aid. These simulators can take the role of either gender — “they all come with wigs and interchangeable parts; I can make them ‘Bob,’ and I can make them ‘Dorothy,’” said Scanlon — and present students with myriad medical conditions and problems, from high blood pressure to a skin rash to heart palpitations.

There were also the control rooms guiding work with those simulators (at Noble, an educator would work from behind a curtain), as well as a ‘medication-simulation room,’ which, as that name suggests, allows students practice with retrieving and dispensing medication.

And then, there are the large, eight-bed health-assessment room and nursing-skills lab. Designed to replicate conditions in a hospital, where nurses would obviously be caring for multiple patients at a time, these facilities provide learning opportunities simply not available at Noble.

“I think this is the beginning of something big,” she said while describing what the new facility means in terms of education opportunities, using a phrase that everyone we spoke with would echo. “We’re just trying to learn the technology and see how to implement it. But in the future, this will be transforming; we’ll have inter-professional education, and we’ll be able to do things using this technology that we weren’t able to do before. And it will provide a higher degree of safety because we have the actual equipment the hospitals have.”

Masi used similar language as he talked about the facilities dedicated to the Department of Physical and Chemical Sciences, noting, as others did, that the Science and Innovation Center represents a significant upgrade.

“Our new facilities provide us with a safer space to work in,” he explained. “We can now deal with more students at a given time, and we can work with them in a safer environment.”

Elaborating, he said there were 144 students enrolled in the General Chemistry classes in the new facility and roughly 80 in Organic Chemistry, both sizable increases.

“By moving from one building to the next, we can get more students in, which is important, because other majors are requiring Organic Chemistry,” he explained, adding that, beyond sheer capacity, the new space creates a more collaborative learning environment. “We’re excited to have the space and to be able to get to some of the things we’ve been slowly working on in the past.”

Hanselman, meanwhile, said the new space brings similar improvements and new opportunities for the Biology Department, which currently has roughly 230 students enrolled in that major.

“The modernized lab facilities offer us the opportunity to certainly work and prepare our students more effectively,” she explained. “We have a goal of working with our students in the scientific process; we emphasize research experience, and we planned this space accordingly.”

As examples, she pointed to two dedicated labs and a tissue-culture facility.

“Those lab spaces are never scheduled for classes; they’re used only for student research,” she explained. “This is giving us a chance to really work with students and develop their skills.

“These labs are designed in a way to promote inquiry-based instruction for those 100- and 200-level lab courses,” she went on, adding that they provide an environment conducive to problem solving and critical thinking.

Class Acts

As noted earlier, Scanlon was speaking for everyone when she said the first year of activity at the new Science and Innovation Center was merely the beginning of something big.

Something much bigger than McDonald’s pickup truck. Something that, as many of those we spoke with said, will be transforming.

Something to which Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens would be proud to lend her name.

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

Construction Sections

Home Makers

An example of Laplante Construction’s work

An example of Laplante Construction’s work creating both indoor and outdoor spaces.

When it comes to custom homes, trends come and go, but buyers are always looking for the next big thing — or, to be more accurate, the next not-so-big thing, as one of those trends favors downsizing in favor of easier maintenance and more energy-efficient touches. But high-end homebuyers aren’t shorting themselves on the interior; they still want the best floors, trims, and technology money can buy. And many are turning to Laplante Construction to get the job done.

Ray and Bill Laplante both grew up around the construction business, so it’s not surprising they’ve made a name among the region’s top luxury home builders.

“My dad was a builder, and my older brother was a builder,” said Ray Laplante, who launched East Longmeadow-based R.E. Laplante Construction — since shortened to Laplante Construction — in the early 1970s. “I started out doing a lot of work for them, and after a few years, there wasn’t enough for me, so I went out on my own, doing remodeling and framing and building.”

At the time, duplexes were in vogue in Springfield, and he cut his teeth there, but soon started building custom homes in Longmeadow, Wilbraham, East Longmeadow, and surrounding towns. “Business just took off from there,” he said, and soon he was developing entire subdivisions of high-end residences in those communities.

His son, Bill, grew up in the business too, helping on job sites when he was only 13 years old.


SEE: List of Home Builders


“I would clean out houses, do final cleanings upon completion of houses,” he told BusinessWest. “Then I started in the framing crew, working as a mason tender and doing some finish work. I basically worked through all the way through high school and college, through the summer breaks and vacations.”

He graduated from Trinity College in 1992 with a degree in economics, but a few days after graduation, he was back out on job sites, where he worked for about five years, framing houses and performing myriad other tasks. But, though the experience was invaluable, his heart wasn’t in the field.

“So I started working in the office,” he said, “in project management and then in financial management and sales and marketing, touching virtually all aspects of contruction and understanding how everything goes together — all facets of building.”

Company founder Ray Laplante (left) and President Bill Laplante

Company founder Ray Laplante (left) and President Bill Laplante say a healthy mix of residential and commercial building and remodeling keeps their business thriving.

That’s the part of the business he enjoyed most, Bill said — working with clients on the big picture, and shepherding their vision to reality.

“Growing up, I always liked the idea of seeing something built,” he continued, “but I knew pretty early on, after getting out of college, that I didn’t want to stay in the field; I wanted to work with people, helping design and build what is, in many cases, their largest investment: a new home. That’s really what I’ve enjoyed. My passion is in working with the people and selling our services.”

Today, Bill Laplante serves as the company’s president, working alongside its founder to bring those visions to life — including, in 2014, a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s famed Monticello estate in Somers, Conn.

But luxury homes are only one staple of this family business, as it expands its reach in commercial construction as well, delivering a range of building and remodeling services with the diversity to weather economic cycles and record continued growth.

Estate of Mind

In fact, Ray said, Laplante takes on many different types of jobs, from single bathroom remodels up to large commercial buildings. “And every once in a while, you get a Monticello thrown in there.”

That’s not quite true, of course, as both he and Bill acknowledged that Monticello Somers, built at the behest of Friendly’s co-founder S. Prestley Blake, was a once-in-a-generation project. Ray and Bill Laplante designed the project themselves based on copious research into the original Virginia estate, creating a ‘modernized replica’ that’s historically accurate in the façade, yet decked out in 21st-century amenities inside.

“It was extremely interesting trying to recreate a building like that,” Bill said. “One of the most challenging aspects was trying to create a modernized interior within a very old exterior. And there were code issues that didn’t exist in the original Monticello.”

To be sure, custom finishes, modern touches, and code compliance have long been facets of Laplante Construction’s work building and renovating high-end homes in the Greater Springfield region. But, contrary to a Monticello-scale project, Bill said the trend in luxury homes today is moving away from massive floor plans and toward spaces that are smaller, but still pack all the bells and whistles.

While many homeowners are looking to downsize, Bill Laplante says, the company still puts up plenty of large homes.

While many homeowners are looking to downsize, Bill Laplante says, the company still puts up plenty of large homes.

“We’re seeing people generally downsize. There has been an increased demand for single-family living, low maintenance, and high energy efficiency. Many people are selling their 4,000-square-foot, two-story, inefficient colonial and want a 2,500-square-foot, very well-appointed, single-family house that’s very low-maintenance, which they can shut down and head to Florida over the winter and really reduce their operating expenses.”

He credits a desire for a simpler lifestyle; people are staying home more and enjoying the space they have, but don’t necessarily want to maintain a sprawling estate.

“It’s amazing — 15 years ago, we built one or two ranches. Nowadays, we’re building, six, eight, 10 ranches a year,” he went on. “That’s because of downsizing. Everyone used to want a colonial, but now focus on ranches and other things. It’s becoming desirable to buy those smaller homes and put money into them.”

And they are investing plenty of money into them, he added. “They want all the amenities — granite countertops, expensive finishes, Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances. They want those outdoor spaces, the screen porches, the outdoor kitchens, all very well-appointed.”

That goes for remodeling as well, Bill added, which has long been a critical part of the business — which was fortuitous when the market for custom homes dried up in the years following the financial crash in 2008.

“People weren’t building homes, but they were still trying to renovate their homes,” he noted. “What served us well was, we never abandoned the remodeling. Other builders at the time wouldn’t take on smaller remodeling projects; they were busy with bigger housing projects. We always maintained smaller remodeling jobs. Then, when the new-construction market dried up, we were well-positioned to respond to demand for remodeling as well.”

Those home remodels, which are often aimed at creating a getaway without actually having to get away, often include outdoor elements, particularly features that blur the lines between inside and outside living, Ray noted. “We’re starting to see a lot of outdoor-living projects — carriage houses, pool cabanas, outdoor kitchens, things of that sort.”

These can all carry hefty price tags, but, interestingly, other home costs have come down in recent years, notably whole-home technology — the devices that control heat, cooling, lights, security cameras, and irrigation remotely.

“The old ‘smart house’ was very expensive, but nowadays, with technology and with the iPhones and apps available, virtually every manufacturer has a product or an app that can be controlled on a cell phone from anywhere in the United States,” Bill explained. “That goes for heating, lighting, security cameras, you name it — and people are really embracing that. I mentioned people closing up the house and going down to Florida for the winter; they can check in with their phones, see what the temperature reading is in the house, or turn the lights on and off.”

clients want the interior well-appointed with high-end flooring, tile, trims, and technology.

No matter the size of the home, Bill and Ray Laplante say, clients want the interior well-appointed with high-end flooring, tile, trims, and technology.

Homeowners appreciate the cost reductions in that area, as they do the savings they realize from energy-efficient investments.

“Because of the spike in energy costs a few years ago, everyone became much more concerned with energy efficiency,” Bill said. “When people move from 4,000-square-foot homes into smaller, higher-energy-efficiency houses, they’re shocked by the savings in operating costs. We’re doing a lot with spray-foam insulation, energy-efficient windows, air sealing, and super-energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment. Then there are people who want to go even further, into geothermal heating as well as photovoltaic and solar.

“Some of these technologies, there’s not a great payback on, but there are some tax credits available to explore alternative energies,” he added. “And it makes people feel good to reduce their carbon footprint and be energy-conscious.”

Down to Business

Laplante Construction is widely recognized as a custom home builder, but its commercial roster is deep and far-reaching — and has been expanding over the past decade.

“Going back to the ’80s, when my father did a lot of Jiffy Lubes in the area, that type of work has always been there,” Bill said, “but I would say there’s been a resurgence over the past eight to 10 years in commercial. We’ve done a wide range of things, from banks to an eye-care office to a behavioral health clinic to Kringle Candle Country Barn in Bernardston to a school in West Springfield. We have a pretty good diversity of commercial construction.”

That mix of expertise promises to keep Laplante growing as it moves forward with what has been one of its best years in the past decade.

“Maintaining that diversity, and keeping the commercial work going as we do our residential new construction and remodeling, allows us to be flexible and weather turns in one or two sectors,” he told BusinessWest. “With the increase in commercial work, we feel very comfortable and confident moving forward.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

MassMutual Refreshes Brand to Celebrate Interdependence

SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. has unveiled a newly refreshed brand, designed to better reflect and build on its legacy and the core values that have guided the company since its founding. Celebrating the gift of interdependence, the new positioning elevates the idea that Americans today want to protect the ones they love with a company whose values align with their own. The brand refresh — marked by the launch of a new, multi-channel advertising campaign, updated logo, and dramatically revamped website — communicates the company’s long history of stability and strength. “Since 1851, MassMutual has been guided by our founding principle — we are people coming together to look out for one another,” said Gareth Ross, chief Digital and Customer Experience officer. “We know people are inherently reliant on one another, whether that’s at home, in the workplace, or in the community. Our new positioning celebrates these relationships, underscoring that, when we depend on each other, we are not only more secure, but life is also happier and more fulfilling.” He added that, based on company research and customer insights — combined with the fact that a substantial number of individuals and families across the U.S. are in need of financial guidance — MassMutual wanted to reinforce the company’s vision and identity in a new, fresh, and relatable way. The new brand recognizes that, while the world celebrates independence, true happiness comes from our reliance on one another. It also seeks to inspire people to see themselves as part of something bigger. MassMutual’s new look is being rolled out through a broad, multi-channel advertising campaign that includes prominent TV, radio, print, outdoor, digital, and social-media advertising across the nation. The company’s visual identity has also been updated to focus on its policy owners and customers. The blue chip has been replaced by a newly designed logo, featuring a bold, dynamic blue color and symbolic dots that represent the community of people that MassMutual is helping to connect. Additionally, the company’s website, massmutual.com, has been redesigned to reflect the refreshed brand, improve the user experience, and deliver new features. “This is just the beginning of the next chapter in MassMutual’s long journey of helping people secure their future and protect the ones they love,” Ross said.

Baystate Wing Hospital Breaks Ground on New ED

PALMER — Baystate Wing Hospital, public officials, community leaders, and donors held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Emergency Department this week. When it opens in September 2018, the $17.2 million project will expand the Emergency Department to better accommodate the needs of the community by supporting the current annual patient volume of 24,000 visits. “For over 100 years, Baystate Wing Hospital has played a vital role in the community by providing exceptional care for the region. The new Emergency Department will ensure that patients continue to receive outstanding emergency care close to home in an innovative and highly efficient space that will reflect the expertise and commitment of our Emergency Department team,” said Michael Moran, president and chief administrative officer for Baystate Health’s Eastern Region, which includes Baystate Wing Hospital and Baystate Mary Lane. The planning process for the Emergency Department project included input on design concepts from staff, emergency medical service providers, infection-control experts, and patients. The new space will include separate ambulance and public entryways and will feature 20 patient rooms, including trauma, behavioral health, and other dedicated specialty-care areas. In the new Emergency Department, private rooms will replace curtained bays to enhance patient privacy, and a dedicated space will be created for behavioral-health patients. Additionally, patients will have access to sophisticated medical technology, including CT scan and Radiology (X-ray) services, all located in the new, 17,800-square-foot space. While the new facility is being built, the existing emergency room will remain open for the community. “Once the new building is completed, the current Emergency Department space, which was built in 1995, will be retrofitted for other uses,” said Dr. Robert Spence, chief of Emergency Medicine for Baystate Health’s Eastern Region. “The Baystate Mary Lane Emergency Department is appropriately sized for their annual patient volumes of 12,000 emergency visits and will continue to provide 24-hour emergency care in Ware.” During the early phase of the project, Country Bank pledged ongoing investment in healthcare by donating $1 million to the new Emergency Department.

Pride Launches Campaign to Support Square One

SPRINGFIELD — First there were dice. Then came Wendy’s hamburgers, followed by Rubik’s Cube and SpongeBob. Now, Bob Bolduc and his team at Pride Stores want to add Square One to the list of famous ‘squares.’ The locally owned chain of gas stations and convenience stores is launching a campaign where customers may purchase a square for one dollar, in support of the work that Square One does with children and families throughout the region. “We are proud to be supporting the programs and services that Square One offers to ensure that children and families have the tools they need to be successful,” Bolduc said. “Selling squares and displaying them in our stores will be a very visible way to help raise funds for the organization and create greater awareness of the work they are doing.” The squares are available for purchase at the checkout registers of participating Pride locations. For every dollar donated, Pride will display a Square One square in the Pride location of purchase. All proceeds will benefit Square One’s early-learning and family-services initiatives. “We are so grateful to Bob and his team at Pride for all their very generous support of our work,” said Kristine Allard, chief Development and Communications officer for Square One. “Whether we are teaching children to read and write, inspiring an appreciation of fine arts, providing a nourishing meal, or developing a healthy love of play, everything we do is driven by our vision of a bright future for all children, despite the daunting challenges they face at home.” She added that many children in Square One programs are living in homeless shelters, struggle with food insecurity, have a parent who is in addiction recovery or post-incarcerated, or are in custody of an appointed legal guardian or foster parent. “Support from Pride and other businesses is critical to our ability to continue to serve these families.”

Porches Inn Invites Guests to Art Country

NORTH ADAMS — In the cultural hub of Northern Berkshire County, Porches Inn at MASS MoCA has debuted a new ArtCountry package that offers art lovers access to four of the area’s renowned institutions: the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), the Clark Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art, and Bennington Museum. The ArtCountry package includes one ArtCountry pass per adult per stay for complimentary admission to each museum, overnight accommodations, and buffet breakfast. Prices start at $270 per night based on double accommodations. The package is available for travel June 11 through Sept. 24. “With the location of Porches Inn literally across the street from MASS MoCA and the other museums just minutes away, our guests have a home base to experience what locals have always considered art country,” said Mel Karakaya, general manager of the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with these venues to enhance that experience.” MASS MoCA will kick off ArtCountry’s summer season with the opening of its new addition, Building 6, on May 28. The new space will add 130,000 square feet to the museum’s campus and feature work from artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Bourgeois, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson, and Gunnar Schonbeck (Bang on a Can). Located across the street from Porches Inn, MASS MoCA will be the largest contemporary-art museum in the country once the new addition is complete. Set in seven renovated Victorian-era buildings, the Porches Inn’s guest rooms and public spaces employ a clever synthesis of retro and contemporary designs. The inn features a year-round outdoor heated pool, wi-fi, hot tub, sauna, bonfire pit, fitness room, and meeting rooms for retreats and special events. For more information on the ArtCountry package, visit www.porches.com/berkshires-hotel-specials.

Agenda Departments

White Lion Wednesdays

Through Aug. 27: White Lion Wednesdays returned to Springfield on May 17 and will run through Aug. 27, presented by Berkshire Bank in partnership with the Springfield Business Improvement District (BID) and Springfield’s White Lion Brewing Co. Touted as one of last summer’s “Best Pop-up Beer Gardens” by Food & Wine magazine, Raymond Berry, president of White Lion, said this season will be even better. “White Lion is ecstatic to kick off this year’s beer garden series in May. Last year’s series had great attendance and obtained national recognition; we will look to capitalize on its success, and we are honored to be part of a collection of creative programs in the heart of downtown Springfield,” he said. “During the series, brewer Mike Yates will introduce a new beer commemorating the grand opening of Springfield’s Union Station. The honorary selection follows last year’s releases, which celebrated the Eastern States 100th anniversary, and the history of Springfield brewing in partnership with the Springfield Museums.” Again, the Springfield Business Improvement District will host White Lion Wednesdays, rotating between three locations from 4 to 8 p.m.: One Financial Plaza at 1350 Main St., Tower Square Park at 1477 Main St., and the Shops at Marketplace at the rear of 1341 Main St. More details on White Lion Wednesdays, including locations and dates, can be found at springfielddowntown.com/white-lion-wednesdays.

‘An Afternoon with Tom Ahern’

June 1: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation invites regional nonprofit staff to attend “An Afternoon with Tom Ahern,” a two-part workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. at Jane Iredale Cosmetics, 50 Church St., Great Barrington. Back by popular demand, Ahern will present two back-to-back workshops: “The Big (little) Diff: Writing for Online Readers,” a discussion of best practices in writing for web, e-mail, and social-media platforms; and “Writing a Powerful Case for Support,” which will review effective fund-raising methods. The New York Times calls Ahern “one of the country’s most sought-after creators of fund-raising messages.” This event is part of Berkshire Taconic’s popular annual Seminars in Nonprofit Excellence series. Tickets are $40 per person, and light food and beverages will be provided. To register, visit www.berkshiretaconic.org/ahern.

Discussions about Race

June 2-3, 9-10: Cooley Dickinson Health Care, the United Way of Hampshire County, and the Jandon Center for Community Engagement at Smith College are addressing the issue of racism, as well as race-related incidents that continue to occur both locally and nationally, by offering a series of community dialogues on race in Northampton and Amherst. Community members who live or work in Hampshire County are invited to attend either of the sessions. The two-part dialogue will be offered Friday, June 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jandon Center for Community Engagement at Smith College, Wright Hall, 5 Chapin Dr., Northampton. A second two-part session will be offered Friday, June 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Amherst Survival Center, 138 Sunderland Road, Amherst. Event organizers say they aim to move toward solutions rather than continue to express or analyze the problem; to reach beyond the usual boundaries, offering opportunities for new, unexpected partnerships; and to unite divided communities through a respectful, informed sharing of local racial history and its consequences for different people in today’s society. The community dialogue is free, and lunch will be provided. Attendance is limited to 30 people, and participants must attend both Friday and Saturday. When registering, people will be asked their name, the organization they represent, if any, and their race/ethnicity. Organizers are asking about race/ethnicity as they have a goal of 50% participation from people of color. To register, call (888) 554-4234 by Tuesday, May 30. You will receive confirmation on whether you have been selected to attend a session.

WGBY Asparagus Festival

June 3: The WGBY Asparagus Festival returns to the Hadley Town Common from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to once again celebrate the region’s legacy of agriculture and community. The family-friendly, outdoor event features more than 90 local food, crafts, and agricultural vendors at a Farmers’ & Makers’ Market. In addition, there will be entertainment displays, kids’ games, and a live visit from PBS Kids character Curious George. A large “Rooted in the Valley” stage will feature popular performers. Family entertainer Tyler Conroy will start off the day, followed by bands Western Den and Parsonsfield, which were selected by Northampton-based Signature Sounds. Western Den blends “compelling lush harmonies with ambient textures,” and Parsonsfield “trades instruments, shares microphones, and sings in tight multi-part harmonies,” according to each of the bands’ websites. More than a dozen Pioneer Valley culinary artisans, local brewers, and regional food vendors will offer a wide variety of snacks and meals. Taste original dishes from Mi Tierra, Esselon Café, or Spoleto. Visit the Wheelhouse Farm, UMass Dining, or Hadley Fry King food trucks. Or, go on the sweeter side and sample asparagus-flavored ice cream from Flayvours of Cook Farm, maple treats from the North Hadley Sugar Shack, or a specialty from the Florence Pie Bar. Other food vendors include North Hadley Congregational Church, Harmony Springs, and Dean’s Beans. In addition, a large craft-beer tent will provide tasting opportunities from popular local breweries (craft beer tasting tickets available at wgby.org/beer). The WGBY Asparagus Festival is open to the public and free with a recommended donation of $5 per person. It will be held rain or shine. Donations directly benefit public television and education efforts in the Western New England region. The event is sponsored by the Dennis Group, Greenfield Savings Bank, Whole Foods Hadley, and Alternative Recycling Systems. Media sponsors include the Daily Hampshire Gazette, MassLive, and Yankee magazine.

Girls on the Run 5K Celebration

June 4: Girls on the Run of Western MA will host its 5K celebration at Springfield College. The run will begin at 10:30 a.m., but festivities, including a group warm-up and talk by Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper, will begin at 10 a.m. Early arrival is suggested. There will also be food trucks and face painting. Girls on the Run is a physical, activity-based, positive youth-development program that uses fun running games and dynamic discussions to teach life skills to girls in grades 3-8. During the 10-week program, girls participate in lessons that foster confidence, build peer connections, and encourage community service while they prepare for an end-of-season, celebratory 5K event. Participation in the 5K event is open to the public. Girls on the Run drew 500 girls and 160 volunteer coaches to the program this season, more than 1,200 participants are expected at the 5K event. Last season’s event brought together more than 1,000 program participants, families, friends, and community members. The event will begin on the track and do two loops around the campus. The cost is $20 for adults and $12 for children, and includes an event shirt. To register, visit www.girlsontherunwesternma.org, or register on site the day of the event beginning at 8:30 a.m.

‘Meeting Your Mission Through Integrated Communications Strategies’

June 9: Bay Path University, partnering with the Human Service Forum, will host a free conference and workshop, “Hot Topics: Meeting Your Mission Through Integrated Communications Strategies,” for area nonprofit management and leadership. The session is being presented by Bay Path’s MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy and MS in Strategic Fundraising programs and will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Blake Student Center, where Amy Sample Ward, CEO of the Oregon-based Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), will present to attendees. The morning session and presentation by Ward will be followed by a hands-on workshop at Wright Hall that will provide building blocks for area nonprofit professionals. The program, “Community-Driven Communications,” will outline community-driven communication strategies, including the use of social media, and provide templates and plans attendees can complete and implement with their organizations. According to Sylvia de Haas-Phillips, director and assistant professor of the MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy and MS in Strategic Fundraising programs, the event will help nonprofits more effectively use digital, social, and mobile technologies in engaging supporters and in collaborating with other community organizations. Full participation in the breakfast presentation and afternoon workshop earns CFRE points towards certification or recertification. Those interested can register at bit.ly/2q4hHmv. Ward is a speaker and author; her latest book is Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money, and Engage Your Community. In addition to serving as CEO of NTEN, she educates and supports nonprofit organizations nationwide in using integrated communications strategies to create meaningful engagement.

40 Under Forty

June 22: The 11th annual 40 Under Forty award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke, honoring 40 of the region’s rising stars under 40 years old. An independent panel of judges has chosen the winners, and their stories are told in the April 17 issue and at BusinessWest.com. The event is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), Moriarty & Primack, Health New England, the Gaudreau Group, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Six-Point Creative Works, Renew.Calm, Baystate Health, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. Tickets cost $75. A limited number of standing-room-only tickets are available, but are expected to sell out quickly. To purchase tickets, call (413) 781-8600.

BFAIR Walk for Independence

June 24: Berkshire Family & Individual Resources (BFAIR) announced its second annual Walk for Independence. Last year, the inaugural walk along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail saw participation of nearly 100 walkers of all ability levels, with this year already set to exceed that number. A stroll to Cheshire and back (with or any distance in between), the walk will be a fund-raising event in which BFAIR participants, community members, and sponsors can get involved in through sponsored walking, lunch, bucket raffles, and entertainment. Starting and finishing at the Adams Visitors Center, the walk is a day of fun and helps BFAIR share its mission to enrich the lives of people of all ages and abilities by providing positive life experiences and advocacy through distinctive, individualized, quality services. As a local nonprofit, BFAIR relies on public funds to provide critically needed residential, vocational, habilitative, and clinical services for adults, adolescents, and children with developmental disabilities, autism, and acquired brain injury, as well as home-care services for the elderly. The registration fee for the walk is $25 for adults and $12.50 for children 10 and younger. Registration includes a picnic lunch and ball-cap giveaway. Interested walkers can register online at thedriven.net/bfairwalk, by calling (413) 664-9382 ext. 40, e-mailing [email protected], or visiting www.bfair.org. In addition to registering, walkers may seek individual sponsors by asking family and friends to support their walk. Donations are accepted via thedriven.net/bfairwalk, or donation envelopes can be provided for walkers. Corporate sponsorships are available for the trail, mile, bronze, silver, and gold levels, ranging from $100 to $2,500, respectively. Interested businesses should contact Jennifer Civello at [email protected] for more information. Current gold-level walk sponsors include Greylock Federal Credit Union, MountainOne, and the Print Shop Williamstown.

Nomination Deadline for Healthcare Heroes

June 29: Healthcare Heroes, an exciting recognition program involving the Western Mass. healthcare sector, was launched this spring by HCN and BusinessWest. Sponsored by American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, and Renew.Calm, with additional sponsorships available, the program was created to shed a bright light on the outstanding work being done across the broad spectrum of health and wellness services, and the institutions and individuals providing that care. Nominations are now being sought — and will be accepted until June 29 — in the following categories: Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider; Innovation in Health/Wellness; Community Health; Emerging Leader; Collaboration in Health/Wellness; Health/Wellness Administration/Administrator; and Lifetime Achievement. The nominations will be scored by a panel of judges to be announced in the coming weeks. The winners will be chosen in July and profiled in the September issue of HCN. The guidelines to consider when nominating individuals, groups, or institutions in these various categories are available at healthcarenews.com and businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes.

Brightside Golf Classic

July 24: More than 200 golfers are expected to participate in the 37th annual Brightside Golf Classic at Springfield Country Club in West Springfield. “This event raises funds to continue Brightside’s mission to support our community’s most vulnerable children and their families,” said Allison Gearing-Kalill, vice president of Fund Development for Mercy Medical Center and its affiliated services. Two tee times are available. Breakfast and registration for the morning session begins at 7 a.m. with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Lunch and registration for the second session will begin at 11:30 a.m. with a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start. The evening reception will be held immediately following the tournament from 5 to 8 p.m. Prices include green fees, golf cart, breakfast or lunch, a gift and swag bag, and reception featuring cocktails, food stations, auction, networking, and live entertainment. On-course food and beverages will be provided by event sponsors throughout the day. Golfers will also be eligible for a chance to win prizes and participate in raffles during the day. For more information on sponsorships, donations, and attending the event, contact Gearing-Kalill at (413) 748-9986 or [email protected]. Information is also available at www.mercycares.com/brightside-golf-classic.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Red and white pom-poms will be waving as the Springfield Museums celebrate the grand opening of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum — the first and only museum dedicated to beloved children’s book author and Springfield native Theodore Geisel — with a parade on Saturday, June 3, from 9 to 10 a.m.

The Cavalcade of Conveyances parade will start down the famed Mulberry Street at 9 a.m., and continue right onto Maple Street to Chestnut Street. The giant Cat in the Hat balloon will stay in Merrick Park while the parade continues up Chestnut to enter the Quadrangle at the Yertle the Turtle gate at about 10 a.m.

In addition to the giant Cat in the Hat balloon, the parade will incorporate a variety of vintage cars (including the Picknelly Rolls-Royce), the PVTA trolley, a fire engine, and the Peter Pan double-decker bus. This cavalcade of conveyances will carry dignitaries including the Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2.

As the Community Music School’s bucket drummers set the beat, a number of groups will be among the marchers bringing the Cat in the Hat home, including Community Music School, Milton Bradley School, Homer School, Springfield College, Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, Springfield Library, Link to Libraries, Reading Success by 4th Grade, Springfield Thunderbirds, Valley Blue Sox, UMass Center at Springfield, and Yankee Candle.

The parade will end with a ceremonial ribbon cutting. The parade and opening ceremonies are free and open to the public. Tickets are required for the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum.

The first floor of the new museum features family-friendly, interactive exhibits exploring Dr. Seuss’s Springfield roots and providing opportunities to experiment with new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, and invent stories. The second floor recreates Geisel’s studio and living room (with the furniture and art materials he actually used) and features never-before publicly displayed art, family photographs and letters, and the original Geisel Grove sign which used to hang in Forest Park.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Dowd Insurance Agencies announced it will bring the newly relaunched Distractology tour to Holyoke High School from May 30 through June 2. Developed and funded by the Arbella Insurance Foundation, Distractology was one of the first programs in the country to address distracted driving with young, inexperienced drivers.

The campaign features a 36-foot-long mobile classroom outfitted with two high-tech driving simulators designed to give new drivers the chance to experience the perils of distracted driving, including texting while driving. Drivers who have completed Distractology are proven to be 19% less likely to have an accident and 25% less likely to get traffic violations.

Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the U.S. A 2015 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. What’s more, 40% of teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cellphone in a way that put people in danger. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — at 55 mph — of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.

“While public awareness of distracted driving has increased in recent years, the number of distractions drivers must navigate behind the wheel are greater than ever before,” said John Donohue, chairman, president, and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group and chairman of the Arbella Insurance Foundation. “Young, inexperienced drivers are especially prone to partake in this dangerous behavior, which is why we’re committed to giving students a first-hand look at the devastating consequences of driving while distracted, whether it be changing the radio station or texting a friend.”

To date, more than 12,000 new drivers, meaning those that have been licensed less than three years or have a learner’s permit, have completed the Distractology training. During the driving simulations, teens and other new drivers face a number of updated scenarios based on real-world examples, related to smartphones, the radio, and food and drink, in residential and highway conditions. Ninety-six percent of students who participated in the program say they would recommend it to their friends.

“We realize the importance of training our youth on distracted driving. With summer approaching, Arbella and Dowd are very happy to host this very important training tool in Holyoke,” said Dowd Executive VP and Treasurer David Griffin. “The prevention of senseless accidents is certainly an issue we all support. We thank Arbella for their continued commitment to this serious issue.”

Daily News

NORTH ADAMS — In the cultural hub of Northern Berkshire County, Porches Inn at MASS MoCA has debuted a new ArtCountry package that offers art lovers access to four of the area’s renowned institutions: the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), the Clark Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art, and Bennington Museum.

The ArtCountry package includes one ArtCountry pass per adult per stay for complimentary admission to each museum, overnight accommodations, and buffet breakfast. Prices start at $270 per night based on double accommodations. The package is available for travel June 11 through Sept. 24.

“With the location of Porches Inn literally across the street from MASS MoCA and the other museums just minutes away, our guests have a home base to experience what locals have always considered art country,” said Mel Karakaya, general manager of the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with these venues to enhance that experience.”

MASS MoCA will kick off ArtCountry’s summer season with the opening of its new addition, Building 6, on May 28. The new space will add 130,000 square feet to the museum’s campus and feature work from artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Bourgeois, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson, and Gunnar Schonbeck (Bang on a Can). Located across the street from Porches Inn, MASS MoCA will be the largest contemporary-art museum in the country once the new addition is complete.

Set in seven renovated Victorian-era buildings, the Porches Inn’s guest rooms and public spaces employ a clever synthesis of retro and contemporary designs. The inn features a year-round outdoor heated pool, wi-fi, hot tub, sauna, bonfire pit, fitness room, and meeting rooms for retreats and special events.

For more information on the ArtCountry package, visit www.porches.com/berkshires-hotel-specials.

Restaurants Sections

‘Accommodating Cuisine’

By Kathleen Mellen

Sierra Grille sous chef David Moses has his eye on pleasing the customer.

Sierra Grille sous chef David Moses has his eye on pleasing the customer.

We’ve all been out to dinner with that person: you know, the one who pores over a restaurant’s menu and then tries to reinvent it on the spot.

“I’d like the tuna,” your companion might say, “but instead of the baked potato you have listed here, I’ll have mac and cheese, and rather than a salad, I’ll go with butternut squash.”

Let’s face it; the creative orderer can be a waitstaff’s nightmare. It’s why you’ll see the words “no substitutions, please” on so many menus.

But not at Sierra Grille, where diners are invited to build their meals at will, from a menu that features a dozen entrées, 18 ‘small bites,’ 10 special sauces, seven choices of salads and paninis, and nine sugary desserts — and that’s not counting the sliders, soups, and daily specials.

Say you’re craving a blood-red tenderloin steak, but you aren’t a meat-and-potatoes fan, per se, and would prefer a double order of locally grown asparagus in place of the more traditional spuds. No problem. Or, maybe it’s meatless Monday, and your mouth is screwed up for seitan or tempeh, cooked on a veggie-only grill, and paired with royal basmati rice and grilled vegetables. Sierra Grille has you covered.

SEE: List of Restaurants in Western Mass.

This place is a mix-and-matcher’s delight.

“I call it an accommodating cuisine,” said Sierra Grille owner O’Brian Tomalin, in a recent interview at his establishment at 41 Strong Ave. in Northampton. “Did you ever go to a barbecue, where you bring a six-pack, which you add to the collection of six-packs, and then you bring a side dish, and it lands on a table, and there’s something on the grill? You take what you want from the grill, you have this great selection of sides to choose from, and there’s a selection of beer and wine. This is that kind of experience, extrapolated to a restaurant. Everybody can find something they like here, and that’s what I strive for.”

Tomalin, 49, opened Sierra Grille in 2006 after working in restaurants and breweries in his home state of Maine and, later, as the first bar manager at Amherst Brewing Co. And while he says he’d never call himself a chef, he does know a thing or two about cooking. As the youngest of nine children, four boys and five girls, he learned to make himself an egg for breakfast by the time he was 6, out of necessity.

By the way, one of those nine is actress Susan Sarandon, a fellow foodie who has eaten at her brother’s establishment on several occasions, surprising diners as she’s supped on the likes of hanger steak and scallops. After a recent visit, she asked Tomalin what he had used for a marinade on the scallops. “I said, ‘nothing. They’re just beautiful, fresh scallops. A little white wine and a tiny bit of butter.’ She said they were incredible.”

For this issue and the magazine’s annual Restaurant Guide, BusinessWest visited Sierra Grille and talked at length with Tomalin about his accommodating cuisine and why it resonates with his customers.

Food for Thought

On a recent afternoon, just before the day’s 3 p.m. opening, Tomalin was seated at a two-top high table in the vintage bar area of the restaurant, dressed casually in a short-sleeved shirt, cargo shorts, and a baseball cap. Light poured into the wood-paneled room, its effects dappled in spots as it shone through stained glass embedded at the top of two grand, arched windows.

The mahogany bar top dates from 1947, and while Tomalin had it refurbished about five years ago, he said, nothing was changed — other than removing about 50 cigarette burns that harkened back to the days when smoking was allowed in eating and drinking establishments.

The building was constructed in 1880 as a hotel for railroad passengers who arrived or departed from the city’s train station, just across the street. In the 1980s and ’90s, as the Baystate Hotel, it was a popular venue for live music.

As an ode to that history, Tomalin recently revamped a long-defunct program, “Reanimate the Bay State,” which features live music every Thursday, starting at 10 p.m., with a cover charge of $3.

The dining room at Sierra Grille

The dining room at Sierra Grille in Northampton, home to what owner O’Brian Tomalin calls “accommodating cuisine.”

“The bands — most of them local — get 100% of the cover charge, and they get beers while they play,” Tomalin said. “It’s really exciting.” It has also boosted business, with the bar doing up to an additional $1,000 in sales on Thursday nights.

Tomalin leases the ground-floor space from the building’s owners, brothers Antonio and Efthimios Rizos, who also own the Opa Opa Steakhouse and Brewery in Southampton, and business partners Volkan Polatol and Petros Mirisis. The quartet runs two other restaurants in the building: Mulino’s Trattoria on the second floor, and Bishop’s Lounge on the third.

Sierra Grille is open seven days a week, from 3 p.m. to midnight, but never on holidays (it’s a policy, he says, that his staff appreciates. “The restaurant business is pretty flaky; whatever makes you a whole person — it makes it better for us.”)

An early/late menu that includes everything but the entrées is available from 3 to 5 p.m., and from 10 p.m. to closing.

In addition to the array of culinary choices, the restaurant features 24 beers on tap, as well as a selection of bottled beers. Tomalin is also the owner of Building 8 Brewery in Northampton, and he always has a couple of those brews on tap at Sierra Grille. He also serves selections from other local brewers, including Green River Ambrosia, a mead made with honey from local bees that comes from the Artisan Beverage Cooperative in Greenfield, as well beers from Germany and Belgium and elsewhere in the U.S.

Berkshire Brewing Co. is always on; we pour their Steel Rail and their Coffeehouse Porter,” he noted. They also go through a keg a week of Allagash White, from the Allagash Brewing Co. in Maine, often using it in recipes. The hoppier beers are customer favorites.

Most of his wines are available for purchase by the glass, and are priced in the mid-range (“I call the selection ‘Wine 101’”), and though there are no obvious favorites, customers invariably switch between reds and whites with the seasons.

The biggest change for imbibers is Sierra Grille’s full liquor license, awarded by the state in January after an 18-month-long process of meetings, applications, and more meetings. Tomalin is in the final stages of designing a stable of craft cocktails, with selections from boutique distillers, which will be priced in the $8 to $12 range.

“You won’t be able to get a Jack and Coke here,” he explained. “We like supporting the little guys.”

Tomalin says he’s committed to supporting smaller growers as well, and buys his food locally, or regionally, as much as possible.

“We can get wahoo from Hawaii, and it’ll be here the day after it’s caught, but do you think I want my fish flying on a plane, blasting stuff into the atmosphere? No.”

Seafood comes from the coasts of Massachusetts and Maine; burger meat comes from local sources; and, when they’re in season, he gets his veggies at local farms, like Queen’s Greens in Amherst, as well as from area foragers. During the growing season, he often stops by Northampton’s farmer’s markets to see if anything strikes his fancy. Those items might just turn up in that day’s specials.

Tomalin says his customers appreciate the local freshness. “We just switched over to local asparagus, and we’ve doubled what we’ve been selling.”

With an eye toward environmental sustainability, the restaurant also recycles plastic, glass, tin, and even cooking oil. “Until recently, an employee was using the oil in his car,” Tomalin said.

The restaurant also supports a number of causes dear to Tomalin’s heart (during the last presidential primary, he held a fund-raiser for Bernie Sanders, where he read a statement of support from Sarandon, a longtime political activist), as well as local nonprofit organizations. This month, for example, the restaurant is running a “Half Pints for Half Pints” campaign: half the cost of each pint of beer sold on Mondays is donated to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s “Cooley Cares for Kids” fund-raiser.

“The benefits stuff is pretty great,” he said. “It is nice to do something, have an issue, accomplish that, get it done, and see it work.”

Something to Chew On

Even though Tomalin quips that the restaurant business “would be great if it weren’t for the customers,” he says he’s committed to satisfying diners at his busy establishment.

On an average Saturday, the restaurant serves between 225 and 275 meals; on a bigger weekend, like at college-graduation time, the number rises to about 300.

“People always tout our consistency,“ Tomalin said. “I look at cuisines and see what’s trending, but I don’t want to be trendy. We’re still evolving a bit, but we do what we do. As the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”

Restaurants Sections

Taking a Simple Approach

By Kathleen Mellen

The view is just part of the package at the Alvah Stone.

The view is just part of the package at the Alvah Stone.

Tucked away in the tiny Franklin County town of Montague (population 8,437), is the Alvah Stone, a small-burg restaurant with a big-world sensibility — one that it comes by honestly.

Owner Howard Wein has been a major player in the hospitality business for many a year. Since receiving an MBA in hotel and restaurant administration from Cornell University in 1999, he’s built an impressive résumé, launching the W hotel chain and opening big restaurants, like Buddakan and Iron Chef Morimoto, both in New York City, as well as others across the country.

Most recently, Wein, 45, founder and president of Howard Wein Hospitality, created 10 restaurants and bars in eight months for the Diplomat Beach Resort. He finished that job in late April, when he launched establishment number 10 — Monkitail, an izakaya-style Japanese restaurant.

It’s been very exciting (and exhausting), Wein says, but all that corporate work has been for other people. He wanted to create a home where his heart is — in Montague, with his wife, Jennifer, their 8-year-old daughter, Lyla, 7-month-old son, Simon, and, for the past three years, his other baby, the Alvah Stone.

“I love this part of the world,” said Wein, who graduated in 1995 from Hampshire College, where he met Jennifer. “We wanted to come back, but, professionally, I was doing such amazing things. It was impossible to figure out how to ride the career wave from here. Finally we said, ‘we’re not going to figure it out. We’re just going to do it.’”

SEE: List of Restaurants in Western Mass.

So they moved to Montague, and Wein set up an office next door to the Night Kitchen, a restaurant at 440 Greenfield Road. When that establishment closed in 2013, he decided it was time to create a restaurant of his own. So, in 2014, he signed a lease and opened the Alvah Stone.

“This is the only restaurant I’ve ever done that’s really, truly a reflection of me,” Wein told BusinessWest. “I’m everywhere. I did the design. I hired all the people. Doing this keeps me fresh, keeps me focused on the things that really drive success in this business, which is keeping an eye on quality and building a really strong culture of excellence.”

Owner Howard Wein

Owner Howard Wein says patrons come for the local food items, creative cocktails, and spectacular view.

Wein shares the building with the Montague Bookmill, a popular bookstore whose tongue-in-cheek motto is “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.” And though the restaurant, like the bookstore, is decidedly out of the way, customers have increasingly beaten a path to its door, in search of its signature, all-local food offerings; creative, crafted cocktails; and spectacular view (the restaurant is perched high above the rushing Sawmill River).

They also find old-school hospitality.

“We have a simple approach,” Wein said. “The best thing you can do to build your business is to make sure that every single plate that goes out is great, and that every interaction is satisfying.”

The restaurant, which seats 65 inside and 40 on an a deck, weather permitting, is open seven days a week, from noon to 10 p.m., for lunch and dinner, and brunch on Sundays, year-round.

“In a destination like this,” Wein said, “you don’t want people wondering if you’re open. If you change the hours all the time, you’re going to lose people.”

Reservations are accepted, but the restaurant is never fully booked in advance, leaving room for those who stop by unannounced. “If you fully book, that’s the same as being closed to someone who just drove all the way here.”

Historical Perspective

The Alvah Stone is named for the first owner of the mill, which was constructed in 1834. It’s a name that firmly cements the restaurant in the building’s history, Wein says. “I didn’t want a trendy or hokey name —  that’s not who we are. The Alvah Stone has strength. It’s unique to the place and to the story of where we are.”

That attention to detail extends to naming cocktails, too. Each is inspired by the history of the building, the geographic location, or a literary reference. Take the Seldom Heard, for example, which features bison grass vodka, maurin quina (a French aperitif), cashew, coconut, lime, and cardamom.

“We were working with this rye vodka from Poland, infused with bison grass, so we went for a theme based on lyrics to the song “Home on the Range” (“Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam …’),” explained bar manager Lincoln Allen, one of 25 employees.

Wein says it’s important that his employees, like Allen, share in the restaurant’s creativity. “We have fun going back and forth about the cocktail names,” Wein said. “If there’s no creative process, then creative people don’t stay. And if we lose creative people, then we don’t have the product we want here.”

Wein calls his food “authentic American,” and says he puts the emphasis on quality and comfort. “We want to be known as one of the best restaurants in the Valley, but definitely not one of the most pretentious. Or serious.”

The menu, which is driven by chef Dave Schrier’s creative juices, features snacks and smaller items, like the li’l pork belly sandwich on a brioche roll with Alabama white sauce, iceberg lettuce, and a pickle; and beets with pickled shiitake mushrooms, toasted seeds, crispy wheat berry, and crème fraîche. Entrées on the menu that changes daily might include an Alvah Stone burger on an English muffin with onion marmalade, mayo, cheddar, and a pickle; and seed-crusted cod, served with a ramp condiment, coconut milk, and sorrel. Desserts and cocktails, wine, and “really local” beers are always available, too.

“The idea of the menu and the pricing is flexibility,” Wein said. “If you want to have a beer and a warm, soft pretzel, you can spend $15. Or you can eat traditionally, where you have a couple of snacks, and everyone gets their own entrée.”

 

Menu items are also determined by what’s fresh. Most vegetables come from the Kitchen Garden in Sunderland and other local farms, and there are also a number of foragers who pop in — including one who arrived on a recent afternoon carrying a tray piled high with pungent ramps.

“We don’t have a green salad with cucumbers and tomatoes unless it’s August or September,” Wein said. “You won’t get a bad tomato on a burger, ever, and we won’t give you mesclun mix from California.”

Just Desserts

The biggest challenge to owning a restaurant is reacting to things you can’t control, Wein says, like rising wages and health-insurance costs for employees. “We’re in favor of always trying to improve the quality of life for workers, at any and all levels, but it’s really difficult when you have a small business.”

And then, there’s the weather. “The deck is an incredible setting, but if it rains every Saturday, it cuts the traffic down, and you’re talking about a dramatic impact on our year.”

But there are plenty of pluses as well, he added.

Before he opened, Wein composed a list of goals: to be a place where people want to work, to be the best restaurant in the Valley, and to have an incredible commitment to hospitality.

And he thinks he’s achieved all three.