By Rod Lee
Even on a Monday which was the day after Veterans Day and thus celebrated as the holiday it is easy to see why Felter’s Mill on West St. in Millbury has come back to life as an incubator for dozens of small businesses.
Home to the manufacture of felt for such items as boots and hats for more than one hundred years, Felter’s Mill in the second decade of the 2000’s has taken on a whole new aura while managing to retain the ambience of a circa-1901 building that once housed carding machines, transporters, fullers, gaging tables and dryer beds.
The mill’s sprawling 250,000 square feet next to the Blackstone River and within walking distance of downtown Millbury is now divided up into offices and storefronts devoted to a wide range of enterprises including art, framing, gifts, real estate, counseling, engineering, insurance, contracting, photography, chiropractic, consignment, fitness and nutrition and skin treatment. A scratch bakery and coffee house (Cake Shop Café) is situated just to the rear of the complex at 22A West St.
It is hard to imagine any similar property having been so effectively and tastefully transformed into a comfortable functioning environment for its lease holders with historical flourishes abundant throughout the premises. Typical is a framed picture of the Gagliardi brothers—Joseph (who worked in the picker house), George (card room), John (truck driver), Frank (machinist) and Albert (shipping)—owners of the mill in 1972. A piano, a fire hydrant and a jacket under glass that belonged to the late Russ Hamilton go hand-in-hand with the high ceilings and overhead venting. Mr. Hamilton worked for Felter’s Co. in Millbury for decades before retiring in 1994 which is about the same time the mill relocated its operations to South Carolina.
Occupants of Felter’s Mill know a good thing when they see it, thanks to the hospitality of the Romeo family.
“We will have been here six years in May,” Amanda Brodeur of Salon Bie Capello said. “We were one of the first tenants. We moved from another location, over by Goretti’s (supermarket). We went from 900 square feet to 2000.” Ms. Broduer describes Salon Bie Capello’s space on the expansive first floor of the mill as ideal. The salon is owned by Dawn Fuller Lavallee and provides services related to hair styling, waxing and airbrush makeup with a specialization in bridal and formal engagements.
A reasonably priced and convenient address is what drew Mitch Delorenzo of United Materials Management to Felter’s Mill from Westborough several weeks ago. Mr. Delorenzo’s company is still settling into adjoining suites on the second floor of the mill.
“It’s fantastic,” Melissa Barton of J.E.P. Contracting, said of the firm’s new residence—also on the second floor of the mill. Owned by Patrick Perkins, J.E.P. Contracting’s forte is the design and construction of custom homes, additions and renovations. The company moved from 28 West Main St. in August and “turned that back into rental property,” Ms. Barton said.
A sandwich board on the first floor announces CPA Paul G. Dion’s move to an upstairs suite. “I arrived in mid-October,” Mr. Dion said. “This has been a great facility for me. It’s got nice visibility and it is easy to get to. I was in West Boylston. I was looking for more space and now I don’t have to drive through Worcester from my home to get to work.”
On any given day now Felter’s Mill teems with activity driven by the presence of more than thirty businesses.
Christopher’s Homemade Ice Cream, which occupies a southeast corner of the building, is the only one of these not active at the moment. Fans of Christopher’s will have to wait until spring for their old-fashioned maple walnut cone or banana split.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.