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Q&A with Central MA Makers & Small Shop Owners

Culture

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Posted by Xiyu Sun, guest blogger of Boston University PRLab

Following my Retro Road Trip in Central MA, I reached out to a few business owners and Central Mass lovers to get an idea of what they’re up to and why they love the region. Read the Q&A with Amy, Jessica, and Elaine below to see what inspired these amazing entrepreneurs and how they make Central Mass such a special place to visit.

Amy | Haberdash Vintage Truck

haberdashAmy Lynn Chase from Worcester, the designer and owner of Haberdash Vintage Truck

Q: What inspired you to start a vintage business and create a vintage shop in a camper?
A: My inspiration behind the mobile shop was the food trucks. After years of lugging all my merchandise to festivals, I thought there must be an easier way. Then I saw a food truck and said….I can build that. We always had vintage trailers growing up so I was familiar with them and knew exactly what I wanted.

Q: What’s your philosophy?
A: Our philosophy? I think it’s just to be yourself and wear what makes you happy!

Q: Why did you choose to start your business in Worcester and Central Mass?
A: I’m from the city (Worcester). My dad raised me to love my city and add value to your community. I was tired of having to drive to other places to find good shopping. So I was up for the challenge. My goal was to have people travel to shop in The Canal District. It didn’t hurt that Worcester is filled with talented artists. It made finding unique items to sell pretty easy.

“…be yourself and wear what makes you happy!”

Q: What do you love about being in Central Mass? Any recommendations for visitors coming?
A: My favorite thing about Central Mass is its history and New England charm. For travelers, the range of things to do in a small area is amazing. You can swim, ski, shop, hike, go antiquing, or eat at award-winning restaurants all within 30 min.

Q: What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in Worcester?
A: My perfect weekend starts with patio drinks at Lock 50, some shopping at Seed to Stem, brunch with my girlfriends at Birch Tree Bread Co and a stroll through the Canal District Farmers Market. And ends with a peaceful sunset cruise on the lake.

Jessica | Worcester Wares

worcesterwaresJessica Walsh from Worcester, the designer and owner of Worcester Wares

Q: What’s the motivation behind your work and your business?
A: My main motivation is making items that help promote the City of Worcester in a positive way – while also working with other artists and community members who share that same goal. These items start conversation about our city. That’s how change and momentum can happen – first with a conversation. I believe in being fair and honest, doing things for the greater good and taking great care of each person that comes in my door. I want people to feel a sense of pride in their city and I hope the items in my store help them express that in some way.

Q: Why did you choose to start your business in Worcester and Central Massachusetts?
A: When I moved to Worcester with my husband, we knew very little about Worcester. We very quickly fell in love with this city. It’s gritty and utilitarian and honest – with hidden gems and great people. We realized quickly that Worcester was where we wanted to call home. I knew I wanted to express that love – my love for the great City of Worcester – but there were very limited items that would allow me to do so. Other large cities have so many items to show their hometown pride and we just didn’t. I knew I couldn’t be the only one who wanted to show some Worcester love. So it started with a pin and went from there.

Q: Did the culture, atmosphere, people or the life of this area give you the inspiration for your creation to some degree? And how?
A: The art scene and work ethic of this city definitely influenced the way I went about opening my store. I knew that for this idea to work it needed to be bigger than myself and include as much of the community and its artists as possible. I was inspired by all of the different views and techniques these artists have. When starting Worcester Wares I knew I wanted to offer as many views of the city as possible. I work with many artists and each one has a different style, a different appreciation for this city, and a different story to tell. I knew that there were others that loved Worcester but also knew not everyone loves the same things as I do – this made it easier to have different designs that could be enjoyed by a larger audience. I love working with so many talented artists and hope to be working with more and more as time goes on.

“I work with many artists and each one has a different style, a different appreciation for this city, and a different story to tell.”

Q: What do you love about being in Central Mass?
A: WE ARE A SHORT DRIVE AWAY FROM ANYTHING YOU COULD WANT! I love being in Worcester of course, but I can visit so many other amazing things within an hour or less of here. Want to see the countryside, go hiking, eat great food, visit fun shops, go skiing, go to the beach, and visit Providence or Boston? All so close by – we are in the perfect location being in Central Massachusetts.

Q: What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in Worcester?
A: My idea of a perfect weekend usually includes a lot of great food and friends. Whether it is home-cooked meals with ingredients from a local CSA (we use Stillman’s Farm in New Braintree) or the Canal District Farmer’s Market or going out to breakfast/brunch at one of the many Worcester diners and restaurants. Then it will include stopping in at my favorite shops and then checking out what might be happening in Elm Park or at one of the many events happening each weekend in our awesome city. There’s always a lot going on and each weekend brings a different set of options. I love Worcester so, so much.

Jessica’s personal favorites in Worcester:
> Good food: Dead horse Hill, Birch Tree Bread, BT’s Smokehouse, Armsby Abby, Coney Island Hot Dogs, Lou Rocs Diner etc. to name a few.
> Shopping: CC Lowell Art Supply Store – American oldest art supply store, Grime, Crompton Collective, Seed to Stem, etc.
> Sightseeing/hiking: Bancroft Tower, Mount Wachusett, Tower Hill, Elm Park, Old Stone Church, Sturbridge Village, etc.
> Activities/Museums: Sprinkler Factory, Nine Dot Gallery, Worcester Art Museum, The EcoTarium
> Music/Entertainment: DCU Center, Mechanics Hall, Hanover Theatre, The Palladium, Ralphs, Nicks, Vincents, etc.
> Events: stART on the Street (my favorite day of the year!), Out to Lunch on the Worcester Common Oval, the upcoming mural fest POW! WOW! Worcester, Brimfield Fair, skating on the oval in winter, going to a Worcester Bravehearts game etc.

Elaine | The Purple Onion

purpleonionElaine Hibbard from West Brookfield, the owner of The Purple Onion

Q: Can you tell us about the inspirations and ideas behind your store?
A: All my life, I’ve had an artistic background: being a fine arts major in college and always enjoying drawing and painting. Therefore, the Purple Onion’s extensive inventory has always focused on the more creative and colorful side of country. For example, Amish furniture, arts and crafts, handmade pottery and also other popular collections including art prints, jewelry, garden art, a children’s section, and ideas for every holiday and special occasion.

Q: What made you choose an old hay barn as your store location?
A: My husband was a professional home builder before we started the business over 25 years ago. His good eye for quality design, color and style has helped to renovate the vintage hay barn with wide pine floors, fresh paint, and a complete second floor.

“…the Purple Onion’s extensive inventory has always focused on the more creative and colorful side of country.”

Q: What’s unique and special about your store?
A: We have always been happy with the strong interest in the handmade country look of the many lines we carry which has resulted in the attraction of many of our local customers, with a large percentage making us a destination from other states.

Q: Why did you choose to start your business in West Brookfield? Is there a particular place or activity you would recommend to visitors here to enjoy?
A: The historical draw of the town of West Brookfield also continues to be helpful with its annual festivities including the Asparagus and Flower Heritage Festival, summer weekly band concerts, and the White Christmas in West Brookfield. We recommend them all to our visitors! Other local attractions in west Brookfield include Lake Wickaboag for boating and swimming, and the Rock House Reservation for hiking. Popular local restaurants with a historical theme such as Salem Cross Inn and the Ye Olde Tavern are also great spots to go. Also, check out browsethebrookfields.com for more attractions and info about our town!

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