By Rod Lee
Situated just north of the border of Rhode Island and just south of the hustle and bustle of communities located near the city of Worcester, the seemingly sleepy towns of Blackstone and Millville lay claim to business districts that are surprisingly active.
Donna Latour, a decorative painter who has operated The Tole Booth, a gift shop at 129 Main St. in Blackstone, for seventeen and a half years, can attest to this.
“It’s not always easy,” Ms. Latour said recently, of running a small retail store a little off the beaten path. But, she noted, “I draw from the Blackstone Valley, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Worcester.”
It still takes some customers a while to find her.
“I live on the other side of Blackstone!” a man discovering The Tole Booth for the first time, told her, by way of apology for his tardy appearance.
Not only does Ms. Latour have a short commute to work (about one mile, give or take), her landlords live next door to the store (“they’re good to me and I’m a good tenant,” she says) and she is doing what she loves.
The Tole Booth is brimming with mostly made-in-America product including candles, towels, seasonally-themed items, florals, greeting cards, Park Designs merchandise, Meadow Brooke gourds—what you would typically find in a country store.
A pleasant and personable woman, she especially enjoys getting creative with, for instance, braided Christmas coasters, and gift baskets.
I wish my store was a little bigger,” she admits. “It’s challenging at times.”
A short distance up the road at Toni’s State Line Power Equipment, 271 Main St., Blackstone, another woman-owned business is flourishing. Toni Fiore took over the business, which sells chainsaws, lawnmowers, tractors, snow blowers and generators, one year ago this month. She is no novice, however. She worked for the previous owner “and my dad had a business like this when I was growing up,” she said.
Ms. Fiore has a small but capable team in place with the assistance provided by her son Joe Borges who runs the front and the sales side of the business, and Jay Vose, her mechanic. “He can fix anything,” she says of Mr. Vose.
Being a female in what is viewed as mostly a man’s trade does not bother her.
“Me and a girl in Manchester, New Hampshire are the only women going to dealer meetings!” she says.
So far, so good. “The first year, I’ve done more business than I expected,” she said.
As evidence that Blackstone and Millville are fertile ground for all sorts of enterprise, there is Dave Fogit’s Goodstuff Smokehouse BBQ, 97 Main St., Blackstone, with a menu as tantalizing as its name implies, featuring hickory-fired New England-style BBQ, old-fashioned homemade kettle corn cooked in a cast-iron kettle and a full bar with eighteen different draft lines and whiskey. The interior of the establishment is warm and inviting with a definite smokehouse look and feel and the inviting scent of barbecue in the air.
Mr. Fogit previously operated a food truck from a mobile location in Uxbridge. When the Blackstone building became available, he jumped at the chance to set up at a permanent address. “The town of Blackstone was waiting for someone to go into that spot with knowhow,” he said.
The Tellstone family has been part of the scene in Blackstone for three generations. Tellstone Garage, 78 Mendon St., was started by current owner Jason Tellstone’s grandfather Clayton Tellstone Sr., and continued by Jason’s dad Clayton Jr.
A fleet of school buses servicing Blackstone-Millville, Mendon, Upton and Douglas and a full-service garage function as companion businesses.
“My grandfather started with one school bus,” Mr. Tellstone said.
“I grew up in that house right there (76 Mendon St.),” he said, pointing.
Neil Rosborough said “we owe it all to Russ”—his father, Russ Rosborough of Uxbridge Auto—in describing how the Rosborough family took “a tired old rundown garage” and modernized it in establishing Millville Gas (Service), 276 Main St., in 2003. A new office, new signage and new garage doors go hand-in-hand with full service, state inspections and used-car sales.
“We service all makes and models, we do transmissions, tires,” Mr. Rosborough said.
VanderZicht Real Estate, owned and operated by broker/realtor Sue VanderZicht, is celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary with a change of address, from Church St. in Whitinsville to 119 N. Main St. in Uxbridge. Her firm services all of the Blackstone Valley region.
“We have agents with from three months to thirty years’ experience and are looking to affiliate more,” Ms. VanderZicht said.
Marty’s Fine Wines, 1 Buxton St., Millville, is an all-in-one-stop shop for competitively priced wines, a huge collection of craft beer, tobacco and fresh-cut meats. Part of a network of stores (the others are in Hopkinton, Boston and Allston), Marty’s full-service deli features Boar’s Head meats—always a favorite. “We have craft beer tastings every Friday from 4:00 to 6:00 and wine tastings every Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00,” Andrew Carmody said. Mr. Carmody is a wine specialist.
A move from the Slatersville Plaza to 706A St. Paul St. in North Smithfield has proven beneficial for Laurie Villard’s Lulu’s Krazy Daisy Fashion, an upscale women’s consignment boutique. In addition to clothing, Lulu’s carries designer handbags, shoes, boots and accessories.
The current fervor for “recycle and reuse” helps drive interest in her store, Ms. Villard said. “Dropoffs are accepted by appointment for ninety days,” she said. “We offer 25% off after thirty days, 50% off after sixty days and if it’s still here 75% off after ninety days. We carry name brands, Ann Taylor, Talbot’s, J Crew, Gap.”
Ms. Villard’s shop is participating in a Beauty Fashion Show & Brunch from noon to 3:00 p.m. on September 28th at the Woonsocket Senior Center.
Ms. Villard supports a number of local initiatives including a battered women’s shelter.
Locally owned and operated, Valley Disposal, 179 Main St., Millville, specializes in waste disposal and trash removal. John LeFrancois’ company services commercial and residential customers throughout south central Massachusetts and most of Rhode Island. Delivery and pickup of a full line of roll-off dumpsters is one of Valley Disposal’s strengths, along with 24-hour emergency service.
Merchants in the Blackstone and Millville area
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.
Toni Fiore celebrated one year as owner of Toni’s State Line Power Equipment in Blackstone on September 1st.