By Rod Lee
On the television show “Jeopardy” one night, recently, Chapel Hill, North Carolina was referred to as “the southern part of Heaven.”
It is human nature to assign nicknames—slogans—to places, as a way to further solidify their identity. Sometimes more than one, so that New York is “the Big Apple” or “the city that never sleeps” and Boston is “Beantown” or “the Athens of America.” St. Louis is “the gateway to the West.” Until achieving metro status in 2017, Framingham, with more than 68,000 people, was unofficially known as “the largest town in America.”
When Dudley Town Administrator Greg L. Balukonis declared at a forum several weeks ago that “the grass is greener” in Dudley, he was expressing a variation of the mantra displayed prominently on the municipality’s website, which is “Experience Life in a Special Place.” Nor was he exaggerating, it seems.
It is not just the small-town feel of Dudley, accented by such resident-friendly happenings as a Strawberry Festival, a Polish Festival, an active senior center and library, book sales and yard sales.
It is the favorable workplace environment as well, an atmosphere that the town helps foster in a host of ways. Such as, for instance: an EDIP (Economic Development Incentive Program); credit for multi-state organizations; one-one-one site financing assistance for office space, industrial and R&D businesses; business development and relocation support; funds for businesses that are unable to obtain traditional financing; and an emerging technology fund for manufacturing.
Dudley businesspersons notice; and are appreciative.
“Webster Five has been a part of the Dudley community since 1973, providing financial products and solutions to both consumers and businesses,” bank Assistant Vice President/Marketing Manager Holly Deslauriers said. “Dudley attracts a few different customer segments: the consumer, college students and businesses of all sizes. The location (on W. Main St.) is great because there is also commuter traffic for those heading to Sturbridge/West and into Connecticut.”
Mary Ann Fontaine of Empire Travel on W. Main St. (her business used to be located in Webster) described Dudley as “a good place to live and work without the big-city problems” but wishes the town was “better connected” with other towns in the region; which is something, she said, that “the (Webster-Dudley-Oxford) Chamber tries to effect.” Nichols College, Ms. Fontaine said, “is a big asset. I’ve had three Nichols interns work for me and they’ve done fine.”
“Absolutely,” Steve Duszlak of Horton’s, a store on Schofield Ave. that has sold classic and contemporary furniture for more than thirty years, said last Wednesday after returning from a coffee run. “A good place to live too. Boston has too many Ubers, too many Lifts. Dudley still maintains its rural character and there’s a new fire station in the works.”
At Sully’s Dog Shack on W. Main St., Owner Laurie Sullivan, who acquired the former Matty’s Dog Shack with her husband John nine and a half years ago, said without so much as blinking an eye that “my product” is the reason for the restaurant’s popularity. Sully’s, after all, is home to “the passion dog,” chili dogs, cole slaw, ice cream and much more.
“Doing business in Dudley is easy,” Ms. Sullivan said. “The town is very accommodating, very helpful, for licensing and for paperwork.”
Mark Stuart, sales consultant with McGee Toyota, said the dealership has been in the same building on W. Main St. for over two decades and is “under new management for the last four months” in the person of GM Mikey Boccanfuso. Mr. Stuart, who lives in Oxford, says that Dudley offers a climate that is conducive for success in business. In McGee Toyota’s case, it is “the best it’s been” in the past twenty years, thanks to Mr. Boccanfuso. “He won’t lose deals to the big dealers,” Mr. Stuart said. “We have people who can deal with the language barrier too.”
Travis Blair, VP of project development for his family’s Graphics Unlimited, which has a shop on W. Main St., said “the town of Dudley is easy to work with for signs. There is not a lot of resistance on permitting. Dudley is forward-thinking, very willing to work with new people coming into town, even someone wanting to put a shed up.”
Dudley, Mr. Blair said, “has a good community feel. Local business does a lot for nonprofits” (Graphics Unlimited, for example, for the Dudley Little League). “Things people feel good about are happening here.”
Mr. Blair’s father Joel Perry started Graphics Unlimited in Putnam with just “a paint brush, some chisels and a vision,” relocated to Pomfret and is now back home in Putnam with a state-of-the-art 6000-square-foot facility devoted to sign manufacturing. The family, which includes his wife Ruth and son Aaron, owns the Dudley property, where Mr. Blair operates as a sign and vehicle designer, certified wrap technician and installer. The only reason Graphics Unlimited would give up its Dudley site is for an address “with a higher population,” Mr. Blair said, and that is unlikely.
At present Mr. Blair is crafting a “monument-style sign” to replace one in front of the building that was damaged by last year’s tornado.
Reflecting the near-universal sentiment of the business community in Dudley, Ms. Sullivan of Sully’s says “I can’t imagine doing business anywhere else.”
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.
Daryl and Wendy Carter enjoy lunch at Sully’s Dog Shack in Dudley, a business John and Laurie Sullivan have owned since 2010.