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Bernat Mill, town on the rise, business-wise

By Rod Lee

Down by the old mill stream (Capron Falls) and indeed throughout a town that is rapidly approaching its 300th anniversary, evidence abounds that modern-day Uxbridge is an inviting place to do business.

  This should come as no surprise. Uxbridge is a community that has always taken great pride in being at the forefront. Incorporated in 1727, Uxbridge was home to the first hospital for mental illness; the first woman juror in the Commonwealth; the first chaplain of the American Revolution (Samuel Spring); and manufacturer of the first U.S. Air Force dress uniform (“Uxbridge Blue”).

  Much more recently, Jessica Jacques found the kind of welcoming embrace of enterprise that Uxbridge is known for when she moved her JTB Yoga & Wellness studio from small rented space in Douglas to an accommodating upstairs floor in the Bernat Mill on Depot St.

  JTB Yoga & Wellness is thriving and will soon be adding a “barbells fitness” component to its menu of services, Ms. Jacques said by cellphone while traveling back from the beach on July 3rd. In becoming an anchor tenant in a building that has made a strong recovery from a ravaging multi-alarm fire in 2007, she is grateful for the patronage JTB is receiving. So much so that she “got this idea,” Ms. Jacques said, of an event that would celebrate Bernat Mill’s ten years in operation since the blaze.

  In commemoration of the milestone, Bernat Mill’s merchants will host a block party from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 22nd that has quickly gained traction. It has all the makings of an annual ritual. Dubbed “Rising from the Ashes” in tribute to the mill’s Phoenix-like rebirth, the happening will be a family-friendly affair featuring food trucks, artists, yoga classes, microblading, hair demos, live music and an open house atmosphere.

  “We have forty vendors signed up!” Ms. Jacques said of the work that has gone into putting together the arrangements.

  Michele Provencal, owner of The Sassy Foxx at the Bernat Mill, a “classy consignment shop” as one customer put it, is understandably excited about the prospects for what Ms. Jacques and her fellow participants hope will be a successful event that generates a large turnout of townspeople.

  “We’ll have raffles, food and drink, dollar racks,” Ms. Provencal, who relocated The Sassy Foxx from downtown to Depot St. two years ago, said. “We’re doing great here,” she said of her shop. “People love it. It’s bright, cheery, an easy in and out.”

  Meanwhile the Main Street scene north and south of the traffic light in the center of town is bustling too, with businesses like the freshly minted Sweet Wise (an eatery offering hot dogs, ice cream and other fare), Eddie’s Classic Barbershop and A Touch of Magick having taken up residence in close companionship with fixture stores like Rita’s and nearby Koopman Lumber and Jumbo Donuts.

  Pat Benoit, the conversationally-minded owner of Rita’s (“three stores in one,” as she likes to say, and now open on Wednesdays throughout the summer), is heartened by the uptick of activity around her shop. In fact, even while touting such items as swimming pools for the kids, hat umbrellas, birdbaths and animal gifts that she carries at Rita’s—and her store’s modest prices (“you can’t overprice, people aren’t going to come to a local store and spend big bucks”)—she encouraged a visitor to check out A Touch of Magick.

  Open since February and just a couple of doors down from Rita’s on the same side of the street, A Touch of Magick is more than a consignment shop specializing in women’s clothing, Owner Debbie Kennedy said. Recently expanded, A Touch of Magick is a good place to find New Age products. Dreamcatchers, jewelry, “wiccan” (items related to the study of nature) and all-natural soaps are just some of the reasons to drop by A Touch of Magick. Area crafters are integral to the operation.

  The store is a brand-new venture for Ms. Kennedy, whose background is in banking and who was a stay-at-home mom until deciding with the departure of The Sassy Foxx from downtown that the street needed a consignment shop. Plus, she said, “I live in Uxbridge and am the mother of four kids. I needed to be close.”

  Koopman Lumber on Douglas St. is coming off what Store Manager Bill Donaldson describes as “a very successful season” driven by demand for spring flowers and vegetables and “a phenomenal year with grill sales.”

  This sterling performance is no accident, Mr. Donaldson said. “We buy from three local growers, two in Massachusetts and one in Rhode Island. Contract growers,” so customers know they are getting homegrown quality. Also, he said, “we carry three lines of grills: Weber; Big Green Egg; and Traeger, and none of them go out of here unassembled.”

  The company sells grills year-round. Its “Advantage program,” started several years ago, is going strong, Mr. Donaldson said.

  Opposite Koopman Lumber, Jumbo Donuts is one of modern-day Uxbridge’s longest-running businesses at more than twenty-five years, Marlena Mitkonis, daughter of Owners Christos and Rhoda Mitkonis, said. “Everyone who passes through town stops!” she said on a busy Saturday morning—hardly an exaggeration. Donuts, bagels, sandwiches and freshly-brewed coffee ensure steady walk-in and drive-through traffic.

  Heading out of town on South Main St., Dawn Sherry’s Bittersweet Hollow shop epitomizes “country,” she said. Hand-stenciled wooden signs by Robyn Spellman of Blackstone typfify the crafty feel of the store, which has appeal, Ms. Sherry said, because “it’s not close to Boston where it would be Ikea” that customers would probably choose.

  The Habitat for Sports on West Street is still another example of Uxbridge’s diversified business scene. The Hab’s nine-week summer camp has over 100 kids signed up. Women’s and men’s over-30 soccer leagues have begun plan, “High Hoops” basketball run by Dean Hirtle has over 30 teams registered, a “Playland” bounce house for birthday parties is coming and an “Inside Corner” baseball program in which former Red Sox-system pitcher Eric Cormier provides instruction is a smash hit, The Hab’s Jim Farrar said.

  “Variety is the spice of life here,” Mr. Farrar said.

  As it is from one end of town to another.

 

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.

Photos to come:

Lana Lovenzo and her niece Destiny Daviau on their first visit to A Touch of Magick, new in downtown Uxbridge. “The second I came in I got that vibe,” Ms. Lovenzo said, of the immediate attraction she felt for Owner Debbie Kennedy’s consignment shop.

Marlena Mitkonis, far right, with staffers (from the left) Hannah, Roz, Alyssa, Shanna and Sue at Jumbo Donuts—a popular stop day and night.

Bill Donaldson, store manager, with some of the many grills available for purchase at Koopman Lumber.

A glimpse of Michele Provencal’s The Sassy Foxx in the Bernat Mill, where the first-ever “Rising from the Ashes” block party featuring forty vendors and five bands, will take place on July 22nd.