By Rod Lee
If a physician with a stethoscope was able to take the pulse of Church St. in Whitinsville these days, he or she would detect a strong and steady heartbeat. Merchants doing business on a thoroughfare that has seen its ups and downs in recent years don’t need such an instrument to know that Church St. is once again on the rebound. As proof, they would point to the arrival of new enterprises coupled with a full-fledged embrace by their fellow storekeepers of Year 5 of the “Shop Small 01588” extravaganza on Saturday, November 24.
Pat Moran, the exuberant and chatty owner of The Welcoming Lantern, 165 Church St., senses the heightened anticipation that is being felt for this fall’s version of Shop Small 01588. As does Michelle Desrosiers of The Green Plate, next door—at 167 Church St; and everyone else who is taking part.
In Mr. Moran’s case, his enthusiasm is tempered by the recent passing at the age of eighty-nine of Grace Hatfield. Ms. Hatfield, a fixture in the neighborhood (she lived above The Welcoming Lantern), was Mr. Moran’s landlord for all of the twenty-six years he has been on the street.
Ms. Hatfield died around the same time as Pat Moran’s wife Heather’s father, in Virginia; hence the Morans’ attention to both fronts. She was in relatively good health for all of her life. Mr. Moran likes to tell the story of driving past the empty storefront in the early 1990s, saying to Heather “we should take a look at that,” the two of them deciding that the space (which has since been expanded) was perfect and Ms. Hatfield responding “are you sure?” So began a mutually rewarding relationship that stretched across two and a half decades. Reminded that “Grace checked on you, regularly, right?” Mr. Moran said “we checked on her! I would hear if she dropped something. She was a sweetie.”
An awareness that his unique, Americana-themed gift shop has demonstrated remarkable staying power is not lost on Mr. Moran. “I don’t understand how the complexion of the street has changed” so dramatically “and I’m still here,” he says.
Between them, The Welcoming Lantern and The Green Plate are sure to be bustling the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Ms. Desrosiers, whose business’s mantra is “eating healthy has never been so easy—or delicious”—is more than ready. In fact, The Green Plate has done so well with its “heat-and-eat, catering and grab-and-go” formula in its short time in existence (it celebrated a first-year anniversary on November 6) that she is planning to introduce breakfast on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. starting November 10.
“People have been asking for it!” she said.
Christine Guanipa of Little Man Handbags, 110 Church St. (textile handbags and accessories), who has been at the forefront of Shop Small 01588 since its inception, delights in ticking off the names of businesses that are coming aboard for the first time. Among these are The Crafty Nest DIY, 116 Church St.; Magnolia, 105 Church St.; Paw Planet, 1167 Providence Rd., Suite 3; Herbs Make Scents, 76 Church St.; and Hair Studio 89 (the former Don’s), 89 Church St.
Ms. Guanipa notes that in addition to such fixture elements as coupons, discounts, a coloring contest, assorted raffles, “pop-ups” and a bus tour being offered for the third straight year by Foxy Travel Inc. (with stops at The Village Barn, The Gift Stop, Off The Common Antiques, Katalina’s Boutique, downtown Whitinsville and The Grafton Country Store), “Shop Small bucks” will be available in commemoration of Year 5—$5 good toward purchases the day of Shop Small. Twenty Shop Small Bucks will be distributed randomly to shoppers at the event. Smokey the Bear might even make an appearance.
The Foxy motor-coach experience has proven to be a popular component. “Our bus (which can accommodate up to fifty-six riders) is almost sold out, we can maybe add a second bus,” Foxy Travel’s Tiffany Cutting said.
Shop Small 01588 will give JoAnn Brooks of Magnolia and Terri Michaelson of Herbs Make Scents a chance to solidify their presence as newcomers to the street.
“We’ve had a really nice response and people love the look of the shop,” Ms. Brooks, who operates her store (“consignment, and we buy outright”) with her daughter Haley Vaudreuil, told the Blackstone Valley Xpress.
Ms. Michaelson’s quaint Herbs Makes Scents, a tea shop, represents a step in a different direction of sorts for her. “I formulated for big companies before,” she said the afternoon of Halloween. Having an actual physical site “strengthens the brand, and we cater to local. We (she, her husband Don and her mom Donna Maron) decided instead of just making the teas why not serve them? We also offer classes at night.”
Jessie Schotanus of Schotanus Design Center, 81 Church St., which has been on the street since 2011 and who “works really hard” to promote Shop Small 01588 according to Ms. Guanipa, says the event sells itself.
“It’s our fifth year,” Ms. Schotanus said. “A lot of people contact us. We don’t have to reach out as much.”
Contact Rod Lee at 774-232-2999 or [email protected].